Friday, March 01, 2013

Racing Your First Offroad Triathlon

This is a very specific post for the upcoming offroad triathlon aka Xterra Malaysia. I am sharing some tips based on my ONE time helping to organise Xterra Malaysia in 2009 and my years of amateur novice triathlete. One reason why I love triathlon is because the mixture in training and races. It is harder to get bored (for those of you with short attention span). However, triathlon too, can be a bore if all you do is Swim Bike and Run on the road. So, how do you get out from the rut?
Do The Offroad Triathlon known as Xterra
Yes. I am not kidding you. But let me warn you, Xterra won't be pleasant. It is dirty, hardcore and you may end up bloodied (and happy). But if you are still not put off by that statement, you are as hopeless as myself; so, keep reading.
Swim in Xterra are usually in loops with some beach run (hey wait, triathlon in Malaysia are notorious for that). But in some races (in Malaysia) , it is actually a large enough loop. One tip I can share with you (which many seasoned triathlete misses too) is that instead of diving right into the water to complete the second loop, run a bit further until you are parallel to the U-turn cone and then go in back to the water. You "swim" shorter (remember your Pythagorean theorem?) but run a bit more in the sand. This is of course not applicable if the entry and exit of the swim is a single point such as at a Jetty (read Putrajaya or Langkawi)
Cycling offroad is tough. The road is not smooth. No one expect it to be. You must be able to read the "race line" in the trail aka identify where you will be going in the next 10meters. It requires a lot of concentration and that what make or break the top position/leader. The key to good bike section in offroad races is the correct pacing. Racing Xterra is different from getting into the aero-position all the way like on a road-triathlon. The gearing on the MTB allow you to ride over everything except the steepest of hill. You have to make calculated decision if dismounting and pushing the bike over that last killer slope make more sense than to bust your heartrate to maximum, and thus making recovery (to racing heartrate) difficult. Handling MTB is a skill that you can learn. Weight balance by shifting to the front or back gives you better traction or ability to move around declines or inclines easily. If you have no confidence with your bike handling - you still have time to enrol yourself with Zero2Hero coaching. I know I benefited a lot from the 1/2 day class. Most of you that follow this blog know I recently went for the class. Read about them here.
Down a big slope, confidently
One important tip I can share for MTB is to use momentum your best friend. It allow you to ride over bumps, small inclines, sketchy loose corners and also roots. 
Running in the trail requires a lot of concentration and attention to what lies ahead of you. Unlike running on the road where it can be done with one eye-closed (provided you know the road very really superbly well, I won't recommend that), trail running requires you to change your cadence and strides based on the surface and terrain. If you signed up for the Xterra, I really suggest that you hit the trail more often and start learning to run up hills and downhill. Learn to accept that the route is not always smooth and changes in direction happens possibly at the very last minute either to avoid a loose rock or to jump over ruts and roots. 
Just don't roll all the way down the slope
The trail run on the Xterra route will be a long 10km. It is almost like running a 15km distance on road. You will have to learn to keep moving and fuel yourself appropriately. I have recently received a pack of starter pack from Hammer Nutrition - and will give you all an honest review of them. Bear in mind that I do not race with these nutrition for the past 6 years.

Next Week: 6 Essential Tips To Your First Xterra


  1. Hi Tristupe!
    It's Syikin..thanx for all the tips,dude.
    Can U recommend some food while doing a triathlon? I'm not a big fan of bars and far i've tried bananas and peanut butter sandwiches..but how the heck am i going to eat those on a MTB, in a trail??!!
    Also, I'm breastfeeding which means my calorie intake has to be higher..please advice. thanx !

    1. You don't need to take food all the time while racing. You take one serving (of anything that gives you energy) every hour of racing and that is the rule of thumb. Alternatively if you are not a fan of gel or bars (like me, i am also not a fan), you can always stop and eat. Just don't sit down too long and picnic ;-)

      Contarary to popular belief, a BF mum don't need higher kcal. :) Well at least not significantly higher. While I can't say I am qualified to give advice on this (as i never need to breastfeed, ever), my logic and knowledge says that unless you are already underweight, you might need to do (eat) so. But if you are within your healthy weight, you don't need it. More so if you eat healthily.

      Do not make the mistakes all BF mother does by reducing (significantly) their food intake and stop lactation. My advice? Eat normally (up between 1800kcal to 2000kcal) and a bit more if you are active (aka exercise).

      Just don't use BF as a tool to eat ;-)