Here's How To Complete (And Crush!) Your First 70.3 Triathlon Race
[Editor's Note: The global COVID-19 pandemic has irreparably changed the fabric of our daily lives. And this includes all things related to triathlon—especially racing and competition. While both professional and amateur triathlon races have ceased for the time being, they will return at some point in the future. With that in mind, we present to you this particular blog post with hope in our society's ability to overcome all of life's challenges, as well as optimism that we will emerge from this challenge stronger after having been reforged in the crucible of shared struggle. Racing will return.]
We’re partnering with a few members of the Every Man Jack triathlon team to bring you a new informative series on getting into multi-sport racing, building a training plan, and balancing your athletic goals with everything else going on in your life. This edition comes courtesy of Derek Stone, and looks at performing at your peak for your first-ever half-Ironman-distance (70.3) race. (Photo: Hannah Stachowiak)
Tell us about yourself, and tell us how you got into triathlon.
My name is Derek Stone. I am 32 years old, and I live in Nashville, Tennessee. By day, I am a Senior District Manager of Asset Protection for a specialty retailer, and I am also a triathlon coach. Coming from a running background, I was looking for a new challenge and some variety after taking some time off after college. I signed up for Ironman Louisville in 2016 and have been hooked ever since.
How has being part of a triathlon team benefitted you as an athlete?
Taking on a new challenge is better with others and will certainly be more enjoyable. Your motivation will be higher, and you will feel a sense of accountability knowing that others will be there with you to tackle a workout early in the morning. Additionally, if you’re heading to the same race with your training partners or clubmates, this can help ease the stress that may come along with the hectic race weekend. You also get to celebrate your accomplishments post-race with them!
What advice would you have for someone seeking to complete their first half-Ironman race?
When preparing for your first half-Ironman distance, you want to ensure you are staying consistent with training, sleeping, and eating. With the added stress of training for a long-course triathlon, you want to aim for eight hours of sleep at night. If you are consistently getting to bed at the same hour, you can reduce the chance of illness, especially if you are trying to force workouts in the morning with inadequate sleep. I have found it is the nights I stay up too late that impact the workout the next day. I tend to be a little less motivated and this may lead to a missed workout or a reduced quality workout. By creating a habit and having a consistent schedule, you will find yourself to be more motivated. Now, you shouldn’t avoid every social event, but you want to find a healthy balance that will set you up for success!
What have you learned when it comes to nutrition for triathlon racing?
Practice race-day nutrition before race day! A lot of people respond differently to the various options of nutrition. You’ll find that long-course races will have on-course nutrition. This is a great option if it sits well with you, but make sure you test it out before race day. It is also one less thing to think about preparing on race morning. You still want to be prepared for any hiccups that may happen. Bottles launch and gels drop. Be prepared for these types of scenarios. It is also a good idea to practice taking in nutrition in conditions that will mirror race-day weather. The amount of fluid and sodium will vary based on the temperature, humidity, and the duration you are on the course.
Any advice for selecting an ideal first half-Ironman-distance race?
When stepping up to your first half-Ironman distance race, you want to reduce the amount of race-day nerves by ensuring logistics are not overly complicated. There are many great races out there with great venues. Identifying a race that is easy to get to will minimize stress and nerves before the race. This is especially true if you’re able to select a race with a familiar venue. When you know where you can go eat dinner, the distance to transition in the morning, and other key locations, it will make navigating the venue easy! If possible, I always recommend choosing lodging that is close to the race rather than driving into the venue.
What should triathletes focus on when the race kicks off?
This is not the time to see if you’re able to hold a new pace or power. When the gun goes off, the dump of adrenaline you feel will excite you and may cause you to begin the swim too fast. Hang tight and reserve this energy for the later stages of the race. It is always better to start conservative and finish strong than to go out at a pace that you’re not able to sustain. Remember, it is a long day of exercise!