It’s easy to think that the only way to improve your racing is to do more training.
It’s the go-to strategy for many triathletes regardless of whether they’re training for short or long course events.
While this strategy can obviously work, there are a number of other things you can implement that will have a noticeable effect on your training and racing performance.
Outside of these obvious peripheral supplements to training, there are also a number of other fundamental skills that you should be working on.
These skills alone can save you a ton of time when you invest in their development.
Get The Basics Right
While most swim training is done in the pool, almost all triathlon swims happen in open water.
That means you’re going to need to learn to sight effectively or you’re going to end up swimming a lot further than you need to and burning a lot of unnecessary energy that would be better used later in the race.
The only way to improve your sighting is to swap some of those pool swims for open water swims.
The more you have to deal with the sun and the chop of the water, the better you’ll get at swimming the shortest line on race day.
Just like drafting on the bike, drafting in the swim offers a good benefit to swimmers that can shave minutes off your time.
You can choose to draft someone by sitting on someone’s hip or on their feet.
The hip offers a better draft but takes some practise and coordination to avoid getting caught up in the other swimmer’s stroke.
The feet are usually a little easier to find but is harder to sit on.
Find a buddy and drag them down to the beach to practise your drafting. Take turns sitting on the hip and the feet. Experiment with your exact positioning and see how these change the effort level required to swim.
So many amateur athletes spend a small fortune on a bike but fail to build the skills required to ride it well and maximise performance.
This is partly due to so many athletes riding indoor trainers these days.
A great way to improve your bike handling skills is to swap the road bike and asphalt for a mountain bike and trails. The technical nature of trail riding forces you to improve your handling to avoid falling off.
If that’s not an option, get off the trainer and ride some more technical courses on the road with a nice mix of corners and hills.
Consider doing some bike racing too to further hone your skills and build confidence.
This is one part bike handling skill and one part knowing how to ride the line of a corner.
You can save a lot of time over the distance of your race (especially on a technical course) if you can take a corner just one second faster. Assuming a loop course with multiple corners, you can easily save up to 30 seconds over 40km.
Try and achieve that time gain through training, it’ll be a lot harder.
Just like on the swim and the bike, taking the shortest line through the course can save you plenty of time and energy. Aim to run the shortest line possible within the rules of the course.
It’s likely you train your swim, bike and run but do you invest the time to really dial in and practise your transition properly?
Having your equipment set up properly, your bike in the right gear and knowing how to mount and dismount your bike quickly and safely is a skill that is developed through practice.
When practised regularly and honed through race experience, you can save time and energy that will leave athletes of similar abilities (but with less skill) behind you.
Triathlon is more than just swim, bike and run.
There are many small skills that make up the disciplines and sometimes investing in the development of these skills can save you a lot of time that is hard to earn through fitness alone.