There are so many factors that go into preparing for the bike leg of a long distance triathlon; the training alone could cover multiple articles. Ironman triathlete Nick Baldwin looks at some of the keys to unlocking your best bike split, as well as making sure you’re ready for the run.
The first point is often overlooked, but it’s the very foundation of your performance on the bike – your position on the bike. A proper bike fit will improve comfort and power on the bike, whilst also helping to prevent the occurrence of injuries. With the growth of triathlon there will almost certainly be a number of bike fitters in your local area. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your local triathlon club and ask for a recommendation, as it’s always good to hear first hand experience from other athletes.
Another key to performing to your potential is proper pacing. Almost all athletes, myself included, have gone out much too fast early in the race, only to slow down as our energy levels start to dwindle. Going too fast too soon is a costly mistake in long distance racing and you’ll pay dearly, if not on the bike then almost certainly on the run.
During long rides is the best time to spend extended periods of time at your predicted race effort or intensity.
A power meter is an excellent tool for both training and racing, allowing you to realise the appropriate power zone (measured in watts) for your race. A heart rate monitor can also help keep you on track, as long as you use it in training and know which heart rate zone you should be racing in. Be wary of getting caught up in aiming to hold a certain speed, as this can vary hugely depending on the course and conditions.
For long distance racing the importance of a good nutrition strategy can’t be over emphasised. Some athletes will burn up to 2000 calories over a 56 mile bike leg alone, so you simply have to replace calories during the ride.
Some athletes may take as little as 100 calories/hour, whilst others may take closer to 500 calories/hour.
Wherever you fall along that scale, it’s important to practice different nutrition strategies in training and find out what works for you. Liquid nutrition has always worked well for me, with my personal favourite being HIGH5 EnergySource Plus. Experiment with liquids, gels and bars and see what suits you best. Be conscious of the weather and aware of your hydration requirements in different conditions.
Finally, there’s the bike itself. As triathletes, we incessantly lust over bikes and the latest and greatest equipment. An upgrade here and there can certainly help, but don’t forget that it’s the engine (that’s you!) that holds the key to your success. Go out there, have fun and race faster!
Nick’s top tips:
• Improve your position on the bike: “a proper bike fit will improve comfort and power”
• Pace yourself: “going too fast too soon is a costly mistake in long distance racing”
• Get a good nutrition strategy: “it’s important to practice different nutrition strategies in training and find out what works for you”
Nick Baldwin is a professional long-distance triathlete and has been racing with HIGH5 since 2013. As an age-grouper Nick was the 18-24 Ironman 70.3 World Champion in 2012 and last year he finished 3rd at Ironman 70.3 Ballarat in Australia, setting the fastest bike split of 2:07 in the process.