Autumn begins its vast displays of beautiful colors. Perhaps you were inspired to start taking part in triathlons this summer, or you are a veteran reflecting on your a great season? Whatever your background you may be itching to do just one more (or a few more) triathlons this year. Participating in colder weather triathlons present unique challenges compared to those of summer events. In this article, we discuss these challenges and give you the tricks triathletes use to tackle cold weather so you can enjoy your autumn season of racing!
Each leg and even the transition in a triathlon becomes very different when it is cold outside. Water is one of the greatest conductors of heat. Losing a lot of core body temperature in the water can lead to cramping and breathing difficulties. In addition, transitioning from cold water to cycling can also results in large heat losses thereby impacting your performance. A drop in body temperature also stimulates your appetite and eating not only provides fuel but generates heat to help warm your body so remember to eat well pre, during and post race to keep warm.
Here are some preparation tips for each leg of cold weather triathlons.
- Practice swimming in cold water.
- Drinking hot beverages before a race raises your core temperature dramatically.
- Double cap your noggin! An extra swim cap on race day can help (under your race cap) or thermal swim caps and socks can be worth the money.
- Not just for the girls! Lip balm is far from a joke, as it will not only protect uncomfortable cracked and dry lips it will stop the cold sparking off potential cold-sores, and ward off frostiness.
- Don’t under-estimate the earplugs! They don’t just keep out the water but in turn keep your core temperature up.
- Wet suit legal. If you don’t own one it’s not too late to rent. USAT rules state that competitors may wear wetsuits if the water temperature is 78 degrees or lower. Rent or buy from your local stores T3multi-sport, and Runners Forum. Popular triathlon (not the same as scuba suits) brand of wetsuits are Xterra and Blue-Seventy.
- Acclimatize your face to the cold water. Oddly, cold water on your face triggers your lungs to gasping for air which causes a lot of discomfort at the beginning of a swim. Before you start your swim, dunk your face in the cold water.
T1 and the Bike
Deciding how much time you are willing to allow determines your strategy for T1 and the bike leg.
- Chilly extremities? Try on a pair of arm warmers/leg warmers/gloves to keep you toasty and save time.
- Chilly arms and body? Cycling jackets, wind-breakers and vest are also good for quick change time and protect your upper body if you don’t need leg protection.
- Keeping dry! Change from swim tri gear into dry tri shorts.
- Base layers are great. If you warm up quickly, try a dry-fit/wicking long-sleeved cycling jersey over your tri suit.
- The wind in your hair! Is not great when your hair is wet or it is cold outside. Air flowing through your cycling helmet will quickly drop your core temperature. Use a wicking helmet liner or cap that fits under or inside your helmet.
- Happy feet: Toe covers on your cycling shoes and slipping hand or foot warmer packets into your shoes will leave your feet thanking you along the miles ahead.
Finally, after your race, you will be wet and are going to cool down quickly in cold weather. Make sure to towel dry and cover up with a change of clothing. Put on some nice warm and comfy dry sweat pants and hoodie to keep your head warm. Again, consuming a hot beverage will quickly raise your core temperature. Anyone fancy a nice cuppa hot cocoa?
Good luck on your next race and in the meantime keep running!
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