The transition from sprint triathlons to longer distances like a 70.3 or 140.6 can be tougher than you might think. To make the jump successfully, you have to increase your training volume and avoid injury, which requires a delicate balance of training and rest, and often involves sacrifices weekend warriors aren't willing to make.
Professional triathlete Laurel Wassner, who recently stepped up from the Olympic to the 70.3 and 140.6 distances, offers a few of her training tips so you can make the transition a smooth one.
As you increase your race distance, you'll also want to tweak your nutrition and hydration strategy. "In a sprint, you may only need one energy gel, but in an Olympic-distance race, you'll want to take in more," says Laurel.
She recommends eating one gel or energy block before the race, one on the bike and another on the run. "It'll save you from bonking and get you to the finish line feeling strong—and fast," she says.
Keeping yourself adequately hydrated is just as important, but it's also easy to forget. In longer distances, it's even more important to begin hydrating early and consistently to avoid dehyrdrating later on in the race.
A benchmark you should aim for is at least one 750ml bottle of fluid for every hour of racing. Try to include fluids other than water, since glycogen stores will deplete after 60 to 90 minutes of exercise.
For many triathletes, the run is the most challenging part of a race. It becomes even more difficult when the distance is doubled or tripled.
Prep yourself for a better run by running a road race prior to your triathlon. "I always found that running half marathons and 10K road races got me mentally and physically prepared for running in longer triathlons," says Laurel "By the time I got into the triathlon season, I felt so much stronger."
Use the Right Equipment
When you're on the bike for twice as many miles, you don't want to be derailed by an uncomfortable ride. Laurel recommends trying a few different saddles before the big event. "You'll be doing longer rides, and it's essential to have a good saddle. It can make all the difference."
Her pick? ISM saddles for top-of-the-line comfort.
Your risk of chafing also increases the longer you're cycling, so be sure to generously apply Body Glide to sensitive areas and chamois cream to your cycling shorts.
Be Ready to Commit
The longer the race, the more time consuming your training schedule will be. Triathletes often spend as many as 20 hours per week training for an Ironman. So be sure you've got the time before you commit.
"I train all the time, and I was still surprised how much training goes into a build-up to an Ironman or 70.3," says Laurel. "Week after week, you have to be totally focused on triathlon. It's worth it in the end, but you definitely make a lot of sacrifices." (Have Ironman dreams but not sure if you're ready to go after them just yet? Take this quiz to find out.)
Before you take the plunge and sign up for that epic test of endurance, decide whether you're ready to give up your Saturdays for 4-hour bike rides or your evenings out for early bedtimes. If not, there's nothing wrong with sticking to the shorter stuff. "Sometimes, the shortest races are the hardest, because you tend to push yourself so much more," says Laurel. "Remember you're tough, no matter what."
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