Getting Ready Race!

With summer about to arrive it is time to start thinking about your first race of the season. A lot of athletes go into their first races a little under prepared but with some planning and practice you can make your first race much smoother and avoid a lot of the common first race pitfalls.

Here are a few ideas of some of the workouts you could include before your first race:

Open Water Swimming: There is a big difference between swimming in a pool and swimming in open water. In open water you are (usually!) wearing a wetsuit and there is no longer a black line on the bottom for you to follow and if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate it can also be quite choppy. So getting some open water practice in before your first race is very important. Here are 3 key things to focus on in your first few open water swims:

  1. Get used to your wetsuit again – A wetsuit provides a great benefit to your swim, but it does take some getting used to. One of the keys to easing this adjustment is make sure you put your wetsuit on properly. This means pulling your suit up as high as you can so that you have a little bit of extra space in the shoulders, this will help to minimize the resistance the wetsuit can place on your swim stroke.
  2. Maintaining your technique – Without the references that a pool provides and the addition of choppy water, open water swimming can adversely affect the swim stroke that you have worked so hard to develop over the winter! Focus on a good body position and a relaxed stroke, many athletes start to fight the water when it’s a little choppy and stop gliding. This can lead to extra energy expenditure without any increase in speed.
  3. Swimming straight - The fastest way to swim 1500m is to swim 1500m not 1700m because your took the scenic route! The key here is to have a balanced stroke and to practice your sighting, pick a landmark (big tree, boat house, cottage) at the other side of the lake and use that to judge if you are swimming in a straight line, and remember you can’t trust other athletes in a race to swim straight.

Brick Workouts: In order to race to your potential you need to be able to swim hard, bike hard and then run hard and the best way to get ready for this is a brick workout. The key transition is from bike to run. If you have the opportunity to swim, bike and run in training before a race then make use of it, but it is the bike to run transition that is most critical. Here are two good brick workouts you can incorporate into your program:

  1. Long ride followed by a short run – Both short course and Ironman athletes can benefit from doing a short run off of your weekly long ride. The key is not to run too hard off the bike, this can be a very fatiguing and require extended recovery time, so keep it comfortable. This is also a good opportunity to make sure you are fueling properly so you don’t bonk on the run.
  2. Multiple bike/run intervals – These are shorter intense bike/run repeats that get you used to running hard after riding hard. A great workout is to set your bike up on your indoor trainer in your garage or driveway, or even at a local track, so that you can hop off your bike and go straight into the run. After doing a proper warm up do 2-3 repeats of 10min bike/ 5min run with a couple of minutes rest in between. The optimal intensity of these workouts will vary from athlete to athlete but you should be working hard but finish feeling like you could do one more interval.

The best workout for you will depend on your level of experience, race goals and where you are in your program

Transitions: This is the part of the race that many athletes just throw away time for no good reason, you don’t need to sprint through transition like your in a World Cup race, but you don’t need to waste time either. Some of the things to consider are:

  • Know exactly what gear you need for the swim, bike and run. Make sure to consider the weather forecast for race day as well so you will know if you need any extra clothing (always take warm clothing options to the race anyway just in case!)
  • Go through what you need to do for each transition. From taking off your wetsuit to deciding if you are going to put your bike shoes on in transition or leave them on your pedals (if want to do this you need to practice it regularly in training to ensure that you can do it smoothly without messing up as it can cost you a lot of time if you make a mistake) to what you will want for the run (fresh socks, a hat, shoes)
  • Practice laying out all of your gear in training so that you know what the best way to set up your transition on race day is.
  • Do the little things that make your transitions quicker, like putting elastic laces in your running shoes, have your helmet straps undone and open, putting some baby powder in your bike and running shoes so that you can slip them on easier.

The best time to practice some of these tips is during your brick workout, this way you get to do it while your are tired and not necessarily thinking straight, similar to race day!

By incorporating these workouts into your training program prior to your first race you can really help to ensure you are properly prepared physically for the demands of the race and also help to eliminate any wasted time.

Good luck with your summer of racing!


Nigel Gray is the head coach of NRG Performance Training. Nigel is in his 13th year of racing as a Pro and has been coaching athletes of all abilities for the last 8, for more information you can contact Nigel at or visit