Triathlons: Swim, Bike, and Run. Chances are good, if you are new to the sport, that you are very good at one of these three sports. Swimming and running, while both requiring some amount of force to propel you forward, also require technique. Good technique in swimming will enable you to float across or through the water with less drag. Good technique in running will allow you to move forward without losing time to braking forces. When you’re on your bike, aside from minimizing drag, about all you can do to go faster is to either pedal faster, or run a bigger gear, or both.
If you’re doing an olympic distance race, then your bike ride is 24.8 miles. If you average 15 miles per hour (mph), then you will finish in just over 1 hour and 39 minutes. But, if you can get your average mph up to 16 mph, then you will finish in 1 hour and 33 minutes! That’s 6 minutes faster! So, how do you go 1 mph faster over 24.8 miles? Well, it really depends. In general if you pedal 90 RPMs, then the next highest gear should get you there. Unfortunately, most people cannot maintain the same RPM when shifting into bigger gears. So, that should be your goal. Increase leg strength so that you can maintain the same RPM in the next highest gear. You can do this by riding your bike or hitting the gym and doing exercises like squats and step-ups, or by using the hip sled machine.
The one part of triathlon that happens twice in every race is the transition. I have done about 10 sprint distance triathlons and usually end up with a T1 or T2 time less than five minutes. Believe it or not, this is slow, but I have talked with athletes that take as much as 12 minutes!
To easily shave time off your race, look to the transitions. See what other athletes are doing or for that matter, not doing. Do you waste time putting on a gps in T1? How about your bike shoes? Do you put them on and then clomp your way out of transition before finally clipping in and hoping nobody runs you over, or do you clip them in and hold them up with rubber bands? The latter can save you time in T1, but may slow you down on the bike.
You can see there is at least one place where you can improve time (transitions), and a second where you can really shave off time (bike), but that may take 12 weeks or more, three times a week at the gym. If you have the time, it’s a worthwhile effort.
Another way to go faster is to lose weight. The easiest way to do this is to buy a lighter bicycle or remove items that will not help you in the race. Losing weight is a great way to go faster up hills too. The down side is that when you are lighter, you will go slower down hill. Many people like to coast down hill to save energy, so it’s a trade off.
Next week, I will discuss gear inches and gear development and how those calculations will let you know exactly how fast you can go with a given cadence.