Triathlon Series Part One – Tips From the Pros

Triathlon season is here! Whether you are jumping into your first triathlon or are looking to take your talents to the highest level, Team Wilpers is here to guide you.

Our triathlon coaches are literally pros; between them claiming hundreds of professional wins and podium finishes from around the world. But, they will be the first to point out that they started out just like many of you: overwhelmed, not knowing how to clip in and out of bike shoes, unsure about gear, nutrition and what workouts to do and when. 

We put together this series to address your concerns and to help you envision yourself participating and enjoying triathlon. Our coaches, Bec Wassner, Laurel Wassner and Jenny Fletcher are excited to share their very own real-life experiences and helpful tips they’ve picked up along the way. In this first series, we will share practical advice for schedule management, learning to love swimming and choosing your bike gear.

Coach Bec: Weekly Scheduling

One of the biggest challenges triathletes face is how to fit in training for 3 sports on top of a job, a family, and a life! That’s where Team Wilpers comes in to help balance things out, and of course, make it fun!

The key to planning a schedule for a busy athlete is to emphasize QUALITY and CONSISTENCY. Make the most of your time with well-planned workouts designed for efficiency and results. Indoor riding/running and coach Matt’s classes are perfect for this.⁣

As for consistency, keep the big picture in mind. Try not to get overwhelmed about fitting everything in. Remember, the biggest gains occur when you can string together workouts not just day to day, but week to week and year to year. ⁣

Coach Laurel: Learn to Love Swimming

Swimming is new for many triathletes and it can be intimidating and frustrating.  Coach Laurel shares some tips on how to spice up your swim session and learn to love swim days.

  • Do a mix of distances, speeds, and strokes⁣. This keeps you engaged and builds a better strength profile.
  • Recruit friends to join you! This is great for accountability (this is how I first met @mattwilpers). Plus, you can incorporate partner swim drills which are both fun and effective.
  • Relax, breath consistently, and let go of any expectations and comparisons to the lane next to you. ⁣⁣⁣
  • Use swim toys like pull buoys, paddles, snorkels and kick boards to help with technique, strength and endurance. Again, fun and highly effective.
  • Have a snack waiting for you when you finish – trust me on this one 😉
  • On swim focus days, make swimming your first workout of the day. ⁣Trying to hit times after a bike ride is hard and frustrating. On the flip side, an easy swim is a great idea after a hard ride or run. ⁣⁣
  • Smile, say hi to your lane mates and come up for air. Taking short breaks at the wall to chat or take a sip of water helps bring your heart rate down and prepares you for the next interval.⁣⁣⁣
  • If your set includes intervals without much rest, stay positive, stay strong and power through. Remind yourself it will pay off in the end.

Coach Jenny: Gear

Triathlon gear can be overwhelming to say the least. With not just one, but three sports to contend with, I recommend doing your research and talking with other triathletes as much as possible. Listen to other athletes’ “must haves” and decide for yourself if you see the alleged benefits. In the beginning, borrow or rent items that you might not have. This helps you get a feel for what you like (and don’t like), so you’ll be ready when it’s time to purchase new gear.

Keep an open mind. Triathlon is unique because there is so much more that goes into it than just “who is the fastest”. Moving effortlessly through three disciplines will present new challenges and may leave you doubting your initial gear choices. Be open to trying new things and new strategies as you progress through the sport.

Make sure you train with the gear that you are planning on racing in. There’s nothing worse than a gear fail on race day, especially if it could have been avoided. Know what you’re working with and be familiar with all the components of your equipment.

Below is a list of CYCLING gear that I currently use. I’ve had the opportunity to try lots of different products, so I definitely know what I like.

  1. BIKE
    • Triathlon bike: Specialized Shiv – fast, aero and comfortable
    • Road bike: Specialized Tarmac SL7 (the same bike that Matt rides).
  2. SHOES
    • The S-Works 7 Road Shoes –  very comfortable and durable. They have a wide toe box which allows for your foot to spread out and can help with neuromas and metatarsal pain. 
    • Oakley Encoder – chic and designed for athletes. Oakley also makes great bike helmets.
    • Santini – A family owned Italian brand run by women. Very well made, luxury and durable cycling clothing.

Race Day Essentials for Triathletes

Here at Team Wilpers our goal is for athletes to arrive at the starting line armed not only with a scientifically backed training program, but also with the practical knowledge of how to execute a triathlon and the tools to do so.

As race day approaches, we want our athletes to focus on going fast and far, knowing that the race day logistics have been planned and practiced. One key element to reduce stress in those hours before the horn blows is having a rock solid race day bag, packed and ready to go. 

We’ve put together a list of essential items for race day that can be used as a starting point. It’s also helpful to create an additional checklist based on the race location, distance, and your specific needs. We recommend organizing items in 4 separate gallon-sized ziploc plastic bags: one for swim, one for bike, one for run, and one for everything else. 

Below, I’ve answered a few questions from some of our athletes based on my personal experiences.

– Coach Rebeccah Wassner

What kind of bag should I use? 

A backpack with side pockets for water bottles and some interior pockets, like the Speedo Teamster 35L.  Why a backpack? Because you might find yourself riding your bike or running to and from the race site. I once saw a fellow athlete tumble off their bike the morning of a race because they were trying to manage a duffle bag slung over their shoulder. The bag I’ve been using for years is a skateboarding backpack with velcro straps that are for attaching a skateboard to the backpack, but they are perfect for strapping on a wet wetsuit after a race. 

Why do I need nail scissors and electrical tape?

Electrical tape is one of the best ways to attach gel packets or other fuel to your bike frame. The scissors also come in handy if you need to cut your race numbers down to size if they don’t fit on your bike frame and the tape can be used if the numbers lose their stickiness and need reinforcement (this happens often!). Also, it’s just good to have these two items on hand in case you need to make a last minute repair or adjustment. I even used my nail scissors to cut a few inches off the legs of my wetsuit right before my first World Cup race because my coach was worried I wouldn’t be able to get it off fast enough. So you never know!

Why do I need throw-away shoes?

You do not always need to have throw-away shoes or clothes, but some races have long (sometimes a mile!) walks from the transition to the swim start. If you have sensitive feet or if it is cold out, you will want something on your feet. Unless you have someone with you at the race (and they can keep track of you), you will have to donate or throw away the shoes when you get to the start area. I usually save a pair of old running shoes for this cause, but if I don’t have a pair that I want to throw away, socks are a good substitution.  

Do you unpack these items between races?

No. After a race, I replenish my supplies, repack my bag, and put it away until the next race. I’ve had the same plastic bags for a few years!