Triathlon tips

Mick Farrell is a Culture & Mental Performance Consultant to athletes, coaches, sports clubs, and business leaders. Over the last 15 years he has worked with some of the country’s top sporting clubs to develop high performance environments and mind-sets.

Mick also practices what he preaches! He’s an ex-professional rugby player and has completed numerous triathlons, including Ironman distance. Here he shares his top tips for triathlon success.

Triathlon tips

Having completed a number of triathlon events myself, I can empathise with the novice and the keen amateur. My first triathlon was a sprint distance and I have completed around a dozen since then. After a year or two of ‘sprints’ I then did the natural thing and entered Ironman UK! I know what you’re thinking … “Aren’t there a few intermediate distances that come before that length of event?” Well, the answer is obviously, yes! I knew I wanted to challenge my physical limits and aim at something that I wasn’t sure I could do. In the year I had to prepare for the IM distance, I entered a couple of middle distances, but I mostly relied on my training and a few local running events and cycle sportives.

I personally found that once you get to grips with the logistical considerations of a triathlon - such as the equipment setup, navigating your way through ‘costume changes’ and transitions - the length of the event wasn’t anything to worry about. An obvious caveat being the number and length of your physical training sessions.

I have a wide and varied sporting background, having played most sports and played rugby professionally, but it still took some mental skills to help me comfortably take part in the brand new experience of a triathlon event. Whether you are a regular sports enthusiast or this is your first foray into the sporting world, we are all in the same boat when it comes to taking on our first triathlon, so it’s key that you have a good time.

With that in mind, here are a few top tips that helped me relax and enjoy my events, and because of that I feel I did myself justice in each that I have completed:

  • Relax and do it for fun!

    Triathlon is the most welcoming and friendly sport I have had the pleasure to compete in. Sprint events welcome all levels of entrant; from absolute beginners to competitive athletes looking to dust off cobwebs for the season or just to support a local event. In my first event it was an indoor swim so the start was staggered, the elite athletes took the time to attend early and act as marshals to support the early starters (beginners). Everyone is there to do their own event and be supportive of others.

    Benefits: perspective and a realistic vision of this friendly sport.

  • Have a ‘dress rehearsal’

    Practice your start and transitions. Having introduced a number of people to triathlon myself, I have seen first-hand how people new to the events cope. The ones who are inquisitive and who forward plan tend to have the smoothest experience on the day. It’s not only about preparing for how you would like the day to play out; another consideration is how you will handle the glitches. There is no getting away from the fact that triathlon has a relatively complex structure compared to, say, that of a running event. It is an individual event so team mates aren’t there to rely on (although help from others and organisers is often not too far away). Don’t just rely on reading up on the day’s events or taking tips off others; actually have a few trial runs at home of what it feels like to change in and out of your equipment.

    Benefits: helps alleviate nerves and feel like you can enjoy the event.

  • Learn how to change a tyre!

    I can ‘smugly’ say that I have never had a flat tyre during an event, but that is largely down to pure luck and risk limitation. A good friend of mine decided it would be a good idea to replace both his inner-tubes and tyres the day before an event, even though he hadn’t had any tyre problem in his training. During the event he had two flats and didn’t finish the race. Lesson here… if it’s not broke… LEAVE IT! You risk more happening by tinkering with things too close to an event. That said… sometimes you may be unlucky in getting a flat, so a bit of practice on changing an inner tube is worth the effort; and actually doesn’t take too much time.

    Benefits: one less thing to be messing about with!

  • Be a spectator

    Prior to your own event, search to find local triathlon events and be a spectator for the day. This will help you to see how different competitors tackle the day. You may have seen many events before, but having entered your own event, you may look at different things in preparation for your own day. This can help you see some of the scenarios you will have play out in front of you, and you can decide how you will do it on the day. The encouragement you feel towards the people you are watching will help you enjoy your own event, as you will realise everyone wishes you well.

    Benefits: helps you get an accurate picture and feel for your own event and if you want to visualise your race you will be doing it based more on reality.

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