Strategic planning to do better at your next Triathlon

Anand Takale from Running Potential shares his thoughts on how to manage the bike leg in a triathlon:
A good finishing time in a triathlon race is hugely dependent on how you tackle the run leg. Many times, for the front runners, the run leg decides the eventual winner. The finishing time for the mid-packers and the back-markers are dictated by their running performance. However, the run performance is hugely driven by what you do during the bike leg, which is also the most time consuming leg of the swim, bike and run circuit. A good plan for the bike leg to optimize bike performance can help in maximizing your run performance. Following are few things to think about, to get optimal bike performance and still stay fresh and strong for the run.
  • Swim to bike transition (T1) : Ensure that chain is set in the correct gear ratio. This is especially important if there is an incline/ramp right at the mount line. Always err on the lower side, so that it is easier to pedal when you start out.
  • Cautious start : Begin with lower gear and a slightly higher cadence. Gradually build up effort until you have settled into a rhythm (this could be based on Perceived Effort/HR zones/Power zones/speed)
  • Pace yourself on the bike :
    • Monitor the right metric.
      • Speed is not an optimal metric to monitor to pace yourself on the bike, especially if the course is undulating and/or has significant climbs.
      • Monitor your effort and keep it in check. Effort can be kept under control by monitoring power and/or HR. If you use neither of them, be mindful of your perceived effort. Key is to keep your effort slightly under lactate threshold.
    • Maintain constant effort
      • Maintain constant cadence by shifting gears as per the changes in the terrain
      • Minimise slack/idle time
      • Avoid grinding high gears which leads to accumulation of muscle fatigue, even if you keep effort under control
      • Maintain momentum and avoid high intensity surges and power spikes - especially be mindful on technical courses with lots of turns and undulations
      • Avoid too much braking by judiciously regulating your effort before turns/downhills and taking the racing line through corners (if possible)
  • Nutrition/Hydration :
    • Allow time for yourself to settle on the bike and get into rhythm. Start consuming calories and hydrating at regular intervals post that. Don’t leave it too late to start consuming calories or hydrating
    • Set time alerts on your devices for consuming calories/hydrating at fixed time intervals
    • Consume complex carbohydrates early in the bike leg as they are digested slowly and provide longer-lasting energy. Shift to simple carbs towards the end of bike leg.
    • Fuel/Hydrate optimally during the bike leg as the body calorie absorption rate is higher during bike leg and drops during the run leg
  • Bike to run transition (T2) : When nearing T2, downshift and increase the cadence to loosen up your legs for the run

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