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Getting triathlon ready

How to prepare for triathlon race day

Preparing for a triathlon takes a little bit more forethought than, say, doing a 5km fun run. Even if you’re doing an Enticer, there is still quite a bit to consider before and on race day. Here are some tips from Free Radicals Tri Club’s experienced triathlete Graham Pemberton to get you tri-ready.

Considering you have done a bit of training, maybe joined a club, or even taken it to the next level and got yourself a coach, and you have arrived at race day, what do you do next? Let’s look at the most popular races: Sprint Distance and Standard Distance (used to be called Olympic).

When racing these events, proper transition set-up and warm-up are essential to having a successful race. Just by following the few simple steps below, you can position yourself better to succeed and enjoy yourself.

“Remember: Preparing yourself both mentally and physically is half the battle”

Get clued-up

It all starts with the foreign language: T1 and T2 – what’s all that about? So if it’s your first triathlon it’s a good idea to get a bit cluey on the terminology – it stops any confusion. Also, make sure you read the athlete guide before race day so you know exactly what to expect and aren’t put-off by any unexpected surprises.

Arrive early

Make sure to arrive early on race morning. This will give you time to register, stretch, get numbered, and get to the bathroom – generally you will do this a lot pre-race! When you get into transition area, figure out where the swim exit and entrance to the transition area is, and then position your bike in the best rack possible. Some events will have pre-numbered racks so you may not have a choice. I would suggest, if you can, get closer to the bike exit so you don’t have to run very far with your bike. Walk this once or twice to get orientated and visualise it in your mind.


You’re never too experienced to prepare properly (Graham’s mum – aged 80).

Warm up and mentally prepare

Next, get in a short workout in each sport before the race. I like to work my way backwards, from run to swim. I suggest a run of about five to 10 minutes and with a few strides (surges) of 15-20 seconds. There have been many times I have seen athletes start out too fast without properly warming up. Starting the race without a proper warm-up can ruin your whole race. I know this from experience! Remember: Preparing yourself both mentally and physically is half the battle.

At the end of the warm-up run, run into the transition like you are coming from the swim; run to your rack; put on your helmet, sunglasses, bike shoes (unless they are clipped in on the bike – but that’s a bit advanced); and then stop. Visualise you’re running out of transition with your bike (walk it if you need to – some transition areas can be quite large), and then visualise coming back in to transition as if you were actually in the race, reversing the procedure. Put on your running shoes on and head out towards the Run exit. Just like in the race.

Get set-up correctly

Lastly, set up the swim-bike and bike-run transitions the way you like them. I prefer shoes on the ground, helmet up with glasses inside, but there is no right or wrong way. After you set this up, put your sun block on and head to the swim start. As you enter, look at where you want to start the race and do a bottom check to make sure it’s free of debris: this can save you a broken ankle or worse.

Here Graham Pemberton explains about the bottom check (and no, it doesn’t involve checking out other competitors!):

Get involved

Free Radicals Tri Club has squad training every Sunday that’s open to all, and if you need any coaching advice they are more than happy to help. The club has a number of accredited development coaches, or give Graham a call on 0477 728 781 for a free coaching assessment.


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Graham Pemberton

Graham Pemberton

Graham Pemberton has a long service history with both the British Army and the Australian Army, serving in many areas across the globe in his 25 years service to both countries. Graham is an accomplished pilot, parachutist (over 3000 military and civilian skydives), scuba diver and climber (including ice). Graham has led many overseas expeditions including one to Mt Everest in 2004. He is one of the founding members of the Free Radicals Tribe Family Triathlon Club, and believes in being fit for life. Graham is an accredited IRONMAN coach as well as being and Australian Development coach (Triathlon) He has competed and completed IM and many 70.3 events, and is constantly coaching within the club.

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