WHY PREPARATION IS ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING
Age-grouper Amy Kilpin hammers home why failing to prepare is a fast track to a bad race
kay, so we all know that for most of us, we can’t just rock up and cruise our way through a triathlon without having invested time and effort into training effectively for it. It’s probably possible to blag your way through a short distance event (and when I say blag, what I really mean is struggle), but as you step up to the longer stuff, training gets a bit more meaty.
If you want to achieve good results (and most of us do) then there’s something which everyone should do properly – and it goes without saying that it’s applicable to every distance: preparation.
The thing is a triathlon isn’t just about the swim, bike, run element. Aside from being able to compete in three sporting disciplines
O(and put them all together on race day) there are so many other factors that need to be accounted for, from nutrition, to climate, to kit, to terrain and more. Essentially it comes out of learning what works for you and by being prepared you can avoid a lot of problematic issues on race day. I’m talking about more grippy tyres if it’s wet, sunscreen if it’s sunny, electrolyte supplements if it’s hot. Sound obvious? You wouldn’t believe how many people get it wrong!
I recently had the most valuable experience I have ever had in triathlon when it comes to preparation. Sure, it’s probably “next-level” prep for some of us, but the fundamentals remain the same – clever preparation really pays off on race day.
I was getting ready to race Ironman 70.3 in Vietnam. It’s a common fact among family and friends that I like a bit of sunshine, but this was going be extreme. Although I’ve raced in hot countries before (Malaysia being the hottest, in 2015, which saw a pretty poor run time!), I have never carried out such thorough preparation before.
My new coach, Mark of Intelligent Triathlon Training, really is intelligent. He prepared the Brownlees and a host of other Olympic athletes for the Beijing Olympics. Their preparation involved heat and humidity training sessions and sodium loading tactics to cope with the conditions. This is where having a sports scientist with an elite background as a coach is really beneficial.
So there I was, setting up my turbo in my windowless bathroom, heating on full and a bathtub full of piping hot water. I had a thermometer reading 32 degrees and 80 per cent humidity. I was sweating buckets just standing in there. I had to carefully weigh myself before and after the session, monitoring liquid intake as well, so we could measure fluid loss. I had to work really hard during these sessions too, because apparently adaptation occurs faster if you work at higher intensity.
I can honestly say it’s some of the worst training I’ve ever done in my life. But I got used to it. And before I knew it, I was out training in Thailand and feeling absolutely fine in the 36 degree heat and 75 per cent humidity. A week of training in Thailand put me in an even better position for the race in Vietnam.
On race day, I was instructed to take more than 20 salt tablets before and during the race – again, something I have never done before nor been advised to do by a coach. I didn’t speak to anyone else who did this for the race. Drinks and gels which claim to provide electrolytes don’t contain even nearly enough sodium to compensate for racing in those conditions. So with my little pouch of salt tabs, I was sorted.
Out there on the course, I barely noticed the 36 degree heat. I had my fastest ever 70.3 bike split and I felt comfortable on the run, too. Everything just felt easy. It was amazing and it was my favourite race of all time because it just flowed. I ended up with a PB, 4th in my age group and 11th female age-grouper overall.
Sure, I’m not breaking any records but to PB in those conditions shows that my preparation was absolutely everything. Those horrific bathroom training sessions all served a very specific purpose and they well and truly paid off. No matter what type of preparation you need to do to race well, it’s fundamental if you want to succeed. As they say “by failing to prepare, you prepare to fail.” amykilpin.co.uk