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Patience, planning: Keys to a successful triathlon

Nick Brodnicki

July 8, 2014 9:54am
A successful triathlon requires much preparation.

A successful triathlon requires much preparation.

So you want to race a triathlon or maybe you want to race a triathlon better. There are more moving parts to think about while you compete than you have fingers and toes. Trying to keep on top of everything can seem like a daunting task, even to the seasoned veteran (or pro triathlete).

I’ve been racing for a few years now and am in my second season of racing as a professional triathlete. I have made my fair share of mistakes leading up to races and on the race course. I would like to share a few of my stories with you so that you can avoid my bone-head mistakes and enjoy a more stress-free race experience!

When you think about the most important gear you need for training and racing you might include goggles, a bike, running shoes, and a helmet. But how do you transport all of this essential gear with you? Maybe you’re driving and have a few duffel bags and you break down your bike so everything can fit in your car. Yeah, well, when you break down your bike you should think to include the front wheel when packing the car. Or you could drive 10 hours to your destination, begin the unpacking process only to have your heart sink to your toes once you’ve realized you have no front wheel and need a Plan B very fast!

In that same vein, you might have some electronics on your bike. Maybe you use a bike computer or power meter. How long has it been since you’ve charged those or replaced the battery? If one of those pieces of awesome technology goes dead on you the day before the race or even race morning, you’ve got real problems. Did you remember to bring extra batteries or the wall charger?

How well have you planned your transition area?

How well have you planned your transition area?

I’ve forgotten both. I’ve even found my electronic shifting system dead before a race, forgotten the charger, and had to scramble around town for hours trying to find someone to charge up my new-fangled bike!

Maybe remembering a wheel is easy enough, and you don’t use all the widgets and gadgets when you train and race. But, did you decide race morning it will be faster to transition with shoes on your bike because someone in the port-o-john line was talking about saving a few seconds? Or maybe you brought new nutrition to the race because you read online the week before about trying an all honey-and-water nutrition strategy will help you get the carbs in that you need. Yes, oh yes. I’ve done these both. I’ve tried flying mounts on my bike with no practice in a race and watched as my bike shoes flew off 20 feet off the road. I have tried an all-honey-and-water nutrition strategy without ever attempting it in training before. Neither situation worked out well for me.

Here is an easy one I’ve ignored on a dozen occasions… not checking my brakes before the race. Maybe something got moved around on the drive over? Nah, not my bike I thought. Then half way through the bike course everyone for a 10-mile radius could hear my super awesome race wheels screaming under the pressure of a shifted, and very stuck, brake pad.

Do you love your bike this much? You might need to.

Do you love your bike this much? You might need to.

Have I convinced you yet that I’ve made a few errors in judgment before? I’ve got an even better one. One time, the forecast called for 70 degrees and sunny, so I only packed my ‘hot’ gear. Never did I assume that the forecast would change over the next few days to become much colder, 40s and low 50s, with pouring rain and a water temperature in the same range.

Not only was I so cold that I was shaking, my fingers froze around my brakes and I was unable to let go of my bike for a few minutes, then I couldn’t use my fingers well enough to unbuckle my helmet. I had to start running with my helmet because I didn’t pack gloves and arm warmers just to be safe.

Through all of the mistakes I’ve made and continue to make while racing and training I have boiled everything down to two principles: patience and planning. You can figure everything out, in time. You will remember all of your gear if you plan ahead and make a checklist. You will know what nutrition will work when you plan for race day during your training. You will know your bike is ready to race when you plan ahead to check it over. It takes patience to plan but it’s worth it. I might mess it up a lot, but it’s learning from these mistakes that has gotten me this far.

About Nick Brodnicki

Nick is an expert coach at Endorphin Fitness where he coaches both adult and youth endurance athletes. After swimming in high school, Nick transitioned to rugby and running while in college. A season ending rugby injury led him to triathlon where he found immediate success, turning pro in 2013. To contact Nick, email him at nick@endorphinfitness.com.