The sprint distance is typically the kindest of the triathlon distances. A 750m swim, 20k bike and 5k run. It's the perfect distance to get a feel for the sport but for the most part it’s also perfectly achievable for a complete beginner. The best in the world would get around a sprint distance in just over 50 minutes. Not even long enough to bother taking a drink! That said it's the fastest and most furious of the distances, so it's a real lung buster and you can afford the energy to push harder and challenge yourself more.
In the sprint triathlon it's more important than all distances to be prepared and organised because any time wasted throughout can all add up to a large percentage of your overall race time! Try to think of all the places you can save time and then do it! It makes no sense to swim, bike and run to the best of your ability and then waste time putting on your shoes or struggling to find your bike!
Set your transition up properly
Swim to bike: For the swim to bike phase make sure you know how to take your wetsuit off fast. Leave your bike shoes open or ideally already on your bike ready to slip your feet straight in and your helmet straps laid open.
Bike to run: Ideally have elastic laces in your shoes so you don't have to tie up your laces. Also here’s another important pointer for both transitions. Often these races have hundreds or even thousands or bikes. Pick something that can be easily seen from the swim exit and make a beeline for that place once out of the swim. Usually for me it's the third tree in a row or under a sponsorship banner. Try a practice run in your warm up. You won't believe how much it helps!
Know the course
It always helps to know where you’re going! Of course you don't want to take a wrong turn and get lost, but if you know the area you can judge your efforts in the race. It means you’ll be able to use the downhill sections properly with confidence and take corners faster because you know what's round the other side. If you know where you stand during the race then you can time your efforts and judge when you have to conserve or use your energy.
Be meticulous with your packing
Always have a list of equipment you need on your phone and a day or two before, lay out all your equipment on the floor and make sure you have it all. There’s nothing worse than getting down to the race start at 7am and finding that you are missing something you can't get! I did this once at one of our World Series races. I got down to the start and discovered that I’d accidentally packed my left race shoe and my left training shoe which were both the same colour! This was just 30 minutes before the start so I had to burn it off up the hill and borrow one of spectator’s bike shoes!
In terms of the race itself it's business as usual. The swim start will probably be rough so start in a place which suits your level, which could be right in the mix with the fastest or off to the side where you can have some clear water to take your time. I'd suggest it’s worth going off quite fast with ambition because it'll be over before you know it and it helps being in the front group because you get sucked along. After a nice fast transition, try to pace your bike effort to your ability and look for slightly stronger athletes around you to ride with. However don’t be tempted to raise the intensity too much in the last 3k as in comparison to the time you'll gain, you'll also kill your legs for the run.
The run will always be the part of the race that's the hardest because it's where the race will usually be won or lost. Remember by that time you'll have been out there for a while and you’ll be getting tired. Try not to go off so fast that you put yourself in oxygen debt. The best plan is to build into it so you’re gaining confidence and finishing fast! Good luck to everyone getting ready for their first big race this year!
Suggested list of triathlon race items
- Swim skin
- Tri bike shoes
- Elastic bands
- Aero helmet
- Race Flats
- Race suit
- Race number
- Energy gels
- Number belt
- Protein shake
- Protein bar
Picture credit: Rihardzz / Shutterstock.com