Triathlon preparation: No goal without a plan

Swimming, cycling, and running. Three disciplines couldn’t be more different, but on day X they all have to be completed in exactly this order.

All beginnings hurt

I think I can still remember when I completed my first “Volkstriathlon” over a distance of 300 m swimming, 10 km cycling, and 5 km running. “Can’t be that hard and exhausting,” I thought to myself.

After the first swimming unit – in triathlon, it is basically up to everyone how to swim, but crawl is the most effective way to swim – I checked again whether I had not taken out cancellation insurance. Surprise! I had not taken out cancellation insurance. Already I stood also on said day X on the shore of the Faaker lake in Kärnten and the starting signal fell. Based on my much too short preparation I literally jumped into the cold water and got to feel this including some fist and leg punches.

Even though I asked myself more than once during the competition why I was actually doing this – which is also the case more often today – I was then pretty soon back at the next starting line.

Prepare the body – a trainer must come

So triathlon fever hit me after my premiere! However, in order not to get “sick”, I knew I had to prepare myself better. In April 2019, I was also just two months away from my premiere at Ironman Klagenfurt over the long distance. Long-distance means swimming 3.8 km, cycling 180 km, and running 42.2 km and you don’t just do that. What physical effort that is, I was able to experience live, so I once worked behind the finish line of the Ironman Klagenfurt a few years ago. In addition to great admiration for the athletes, some of whom were over 60 years old, I also had the desire to cross the finish line myself. The day after the Ironman Klagenfurt 2018, I put this desire into action and registered as a participant.

I have never been unathletic and with 6-7 hours of sports a week and 3 years of swimming training, I was already used to a lot. But a long-distance race should be taken very seriously. If the preparation fits, the competition is only the freestyle. So it was clear to me that I needed a coach to prepare for the competition. I found my coach or rather my trainer in Nathalie Birli from Personal Peak. Nathalie has been training me since January 1, 2019, and prepares me intensively for my competitions.

Before I started in Klagenfurt in 2019, I tested my form of course first over the half distance. This makes sense in order to see “where one stands”. Quasi a form check. After the half-distance in Zadar and a short stopover at the 70.3 Ironman in Barcelona, it was then optimized again.

How to prepare and train

Well, you’re probably wondering how I prepare. Of course, I’m happy to tell you. What I can give you as a tip from my experience is to plan rest days, take time for regeneration after a hard workout and implement the plan and each training session as consistently as possible. As hard as it may often be in training, the “easier” it will be for you in the race.

The three weeks before a triathlon are a mixture of an intensive training week and two weeks where the load is taken out of the training, but virtually still a preload before the triathlon takes place.

Week 3 before the triathlon

So in week 3 before the competition I have a total of 14 training hours, of which 2 hours are swimming, 11 hours are biking and one hour is running.

Week 2 before the triathlon

Here I train “only” more total a little more than 9 hours in the week, where running and biking are given about equal importance in the sense of about 4 hours each.

In the competition week, the intensity is then taken out of the training and only light stimuli are set. In total, 9 hours are also “trained”. But this includes the triathlon itself – which is calculated with a little more than 5 hours. Each week I have always planned a rest day.

According to my trainer, the target result for the triathlon should be as follows:

  • Swimming: 1.9 km in 32 minutes
  • Cycling: 90 km in 2:45 hours
  • Running: 21.2 km in 1:40 hours

Another tip that I think is very essential is that you do not overtax yourself. As I mentioned at the beginning, I started with a “Volkstriathlon”, which was quite manageable in scope, but still very challenging for me at that time. Really take your time. The first race should always be for orientation first. The “fourth discipline”, as they say in triathlon, is namely the transition area, where it goes after the swim on the bike and then from the bike on the run course. This should also be tested and skillful.

Triathlon combines for me my three great sporting passions, which are swimming (actually not so), cycling (oh yes totally), and running (also quite like). In addition, it is an extreme challenge for the body, but especially for the head. If you are well prepared and physically fit, in most cases the attitude in your head decides if you can not only see the proverbial goal in front of your eyes but also reach it.

As always, my motto is “Mocht’s a bissl Sport, dann bleibt’s gesund!”

By the way: If you want to test the right preparation once, the eighth Zadarhalf Triathlon (middle distance triathlon) offers itself. This will take place on October 9, 2021, with start and finish at the Falkensteiner Resort Punta Skala. In addition to the main race, the mid-distance triathlon (swimming 1900 m, cycling 90 km, and running 21.2 km), on the same day there will be a road race of 5 km (running) and aquathlon (swimming and running) for children and youth.