Racing for Triathlon Age Group Team GBR

Fay Barrington, Team Cherwell Coach, takes us through the logistics of racing for GBR

So I guess you are reading this because you’re interested in, or have set yourself the challenge, of qualifying to represent your country in Triathlon? Well anything is possible! So I thought I’d share my thoughts and experiences with you to help you understand the process.
You have two choices; The European Championships and the World Championships. Of course you can qualify to do both but in most cases you will need to do this separately.

So how do you go about it?
Take a read of this https://www.britishtriathlon.org/news/british-triathlon-confirms-2018-age-group-major-events-calendar_7829
It lists all the major events from Sprint – Middle distance. For this year only, you can qualify for both the 2018 and 2019 ITU & ETU events thereafter, you will need qualify a year ahead for both races so technically have more time to perfect your game and save up for the big event!

So what can you qualify for this coming season?

The answer is: Plenty! Duathlons, Aquathlons and Triathlons all of various distances, to take a look at all the events you can do follow the link: https://www.britishtriathlon.org/gb-teams/age-group
To make it easy I’m just going to focus on the Sprint and Standard Triathlon events. If you want to know about Duathlon I know Denise Shepherd had her maiden calling for team GBR this year and Dan Peabody is a seasoned vet at this event. For middle and longer distances, our club has a glut of Team GBR representatives so just ask around I know they’d be delighted to help.

Ok races this year:
2018 ETU (European Triathlon Union) Sprint Championships in Glasgow – the only race left to qualify now for this championship is Nottingham Triathlon, OSB Events (19th May 2018) other races have taken place last year
2018 World Championships ITU (International Triathlon Union) Grand final will be held on the Gold Coast in Australia all 3 races to be held next year see the events calendar for both the Sprint and the Standard.
AND you can also qualify for the Sprint and the Standard GBR Age Group Teams:
– 2019 IUT World Championships (Grand final) in Lausanne, Switzerland
– 2019 ETU European Championships in Pontevedra

So how do you go about it?
• You need to be a ‘British Triathlon’ member to race these major events and win the titles. This will set you back approx. £40 for the yearly membership but there are some perks you get discounts on some goods and services and avoid having to pay for any Triathlon race insurance, visit https://www.britishtriathlon.org/membership for more info.
• Register your intention to qualify with British Triathlon https://www.britishtriathlon.org/gb-teams/age-group/age-group-qualification. This will cost you £10. Don’t leave it too late and be sure that you can still enter your preferred qualification race/s too! You will receive an email to confirm your registration so be sure to register for the right event as, once committed, they will not change it! Obviously if you can’t race it or change your mind, no problem – you just need to let them know by withdrawing but consider you £10 gone!
• Enter the qualification race/s. If you are serious and want the best chance enter all 3 races if you can afford it. Get organised and enter your races early this way you may get an early bird discount on the race but be sure to check out the T&C’s to see if you can defer a race if something crops up otherwise its ‘bye bye’ cash!
• Do the training! You can get free training plans on line or you can pay a coach. Our club Team Cherwell has good links with Natural Ability Performance coaching and our very own club Head coach, Richard Stutchfield at 360 bikefit can do 1:1 as well. A coach will cost you, but it takes away the thinking and planning on your behalf and you have a ‘mentor’ to support you through the good and the bad times. Once you’ve had a seasons coaching you may be able to adapt/ repeat it for the following season yourself.
• Get to the qualification race and race well! Training done, race hard and qualify. Normally Team GBR take a squad of 25 in each age group. Automatic selection goes to the top 4 finishers in the qualification race (this may vary so do check via the link below). That leaves an additional 13 places, some of which go to those who automatically pre-qualify. • At European level, athletes must now finish within the top 10 places in their age group, and be one of the first three GBR athletes to finish at the European Champs or you can be the British Champion, both club members Rosie Weston and Kim Shaw have qualified this way recently!! If that doesn’t happen then you need to complete your qualification race in a time within 120% of the winner in your age group. You can check on the website to see where you are in terms of qualification by following the age group link, https://www.britishtriathlon.org/gb-teams/age-group/age-group-qualification. Once the qualification races are done the following weekend you should find your percentages or place displayed so you can see what your chances are of qualifying.
• If you are successful in qualifying you will receive an email which will then ask for more information and confirmation from you that you intend to race. Now for some this can be a little bit last minute because people pull out of the race so never rule yourself out until at least a month before the Championships. Be sure that you can afford it, so budget before hand and be prepared to spend some money, it’s not cheap! Rotterdam cost me £350 to enter the race alone plus Travel & Accommodation. There is a committee looking to cap the fees for future events but I’m guessing £300 will be there or thereabouts for the World Champs and £200 for the Europeans. Everyone moans about it but there’s something about earning the right to wear your GBR kit and to race for your country! The fees are a restrictive and in reality it does preclude many brilliant athletes from racing because they can’t afford it, especially when factoring in days off work too. However it’s an opportunity for those that can afford it because, usually, they will get a roll down place especially for races further away, Australia is a good example of this. The more ‘local’ races tend to be a little more competitive and have a much bigger pool registered to qualify.
• Start saving and budgeting. You will need and will want to buy the Team GBR official kit. The tri-suit is the only thing you really need to race but it’s nice to have a track top or polo to have for the team photo, the opening parade, to travel in, and let’s face it, for genuine bragging rights anywhere! So that’s another £150 or more, but you can wear it for other races thereafter if you choose. An email with the shop link and your personal identity number will be sent to you so you can purchase the kit.
• Plan ahead, you will know whether you are racing draft legal or draft illegal, so be sure your bike meets the regulations. See the rule book (link below) and practise on appropriate bike as well. https://www.britishtriathlon.org/britain/documents/events/competition-rules/british-triathlon-competition-rules-2017.pdf . You need to think about how you will ship or get your bike overseas if this is the case. Nirvana sports Travel Company usually partner with British Triathlon and offer a (very expensive but professional) package to do all this for you. You will need to buy, rent or borrow a bike box/ bag and will need to pack your bike and unpack it. There’s always a team mechanic at the race/ Team hotel who will do this for you for an additional £10-£20. I always get a bike check – worth it! Remember you can use the bike box as your suitcase too providing you travel light, but always be sure to check with your airline they may charge you extra for a bike box and weight so be prepared.
• Where to stay? The team hotel or elsewhere? For the race, logistics need to be considered. Usually the European races are in good cities with a good transport links and networks, do the research. Sometimes the team hotel has rooms available for private bookings so always compare prices. At the Team hotel you will be there right in the heart of all the action. Personally I stay outside the team hotel, it’s cheaper, I find it more relaxing and a bit more like a holiday. I always find out about the area via google maps to ensure I can get to the race easily and know the area. I’d recommend you join the ‘race Facebook group’ just useful for last min changes and connecting with others. Some athletes look for other solo athletes to travel with and share a room/ lodgings to reduce costs.
• Recce the race route beforehand, google map it and take a look on YouTube. Many people like to post a video of them riding/ occasionally running the route beforehand. This is useful to help you specify your training to the type of terrain; hills, flats, technicality etc. For the swim, it’s useful to find out where it is and, if possible, practice/ race in similar swim venues get a feel for the water. Australia will be a sea swim and, I’m guessing, a non-wetsuit swim. It’s hot out there, but don’t hold me to that!
• Packing for the ‘race’. Make a check list; or use this link below. I also take along my passport, race licence and print off any details of the race, maps etc. https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/triathlon-race-day-checklist-1/
• Team GBR – Ok so you’ve made it, you’ve got yourself to the championships so what happens next? Depending on how many days you have to enjoy yourself, some have the luxury of a week, others just a few days. Our very own club chairman Ben Heaney, did Chicago World Champs 2015 in 4 days! He still smashed it with a great race. In my experience, if you stay at the team hotel you will benefit logistically if not, the process can be a bit of a fatiguing! The day before your race usually goes something like this;

Pre-race day procedure (rough guide):
• 8am-onwards Register (can do the day before) Get your race pack, check you have it all as listed in your notes
• 12pm Team Briefing (must) and photo (optional it’s like ‘where’s willy’! the GBR team is huge approx.500 people) be sure you attend your briefing, there’s one for the Sprint and a separate one for Standard
• Bike check (make sure you bike rides well, if booked with mechanic even better but try it!) label your kit and gear with your race number like other races
• 2pm Kit check and bike racking in Transition. (Your Bike is held securely usually overnight so you may want to take a bike bag to keep it dry? Don’t leave any Garmin’s on it! Leave that until race day)
• Practise and visualise transition know how far, where and what and have a strategy for this. Run in and exits, know where the dismount lines are. Know where you are racked, spot clues to help you identify this like you have done in all your other races. Transitions will be very long at any European or World tri events for Age Groupers, so a bit of barefoot running won’t go amiss beforehand!! Rotterdam was approx. 800m T1 and T2 about 300m!
• 4pm Race swim familiarisation? It’s your choice, are you happy to get your wetsuit wet pre-race? It could be none or optional wet suit swim of course!
• 3pm Watch the elites (optional but?? Why wouldn’t you want to see the world stars of Triathlon racing one of their biggest races of the year, the World Grand Final? More points up for grabs thus better ITU World Series ranking. The ETU race is still exciting but not quite as highbrow!
• 7pm Pasta Party and Opening Ceremony, take along a GBR flag (the bigger the better even if it is just for a photo). I’d recommend you do this if it’s your first time as a GBR Age Grouper but if it’s the night before you race?
• Pack your kit ready for the race, check your course notes, race strategy and be prepared.
• Eat
• Sleep? You’ll be lucky, so take some music/ read whatever to relax!! If possible sleep on your own it just gives you less to worry about. And know that if you lie down, then you are resting at least.
• Set the alarm clock
• Race day:
• Eat (2hrs before)
• Get into race mode wet wipes are good today so get a small pack and take them with you!! Get your nutrition and race bag
• Go to the race venue
• Set up and check Transition; check tyre pressure (usually there’s a track pump there but check with your team manager beforehand). Set up your bike shoes and run stuff as you have practised, add nutrition to your bike. Remember to take out your swim gear. Nothing else allowed in transition, no towels or bags etc. However, you will get a transition box or bag to put your gear in to keep transition tidy and safe and if you don’t, penalties will be given!
• Recap and visualize your transition strategies and keep hydrated
• Warm up – to be honest, I’m not sure how useful this is given that you get held for up to ½ hr in race pens, but it’s always recommended to loosen up and prep yourself. Usually there is no swim warm up on race day you just get in and go!
• Wet suit on – routine as usual, gel/lube up then go to the start pen. This is usually ½ hour before your race so be prepared to hang around and control your nerves. Other waves have started racing so you can watch the swim to confirm your swim strategy.
• The swim start. Keep calm and be prepared for a smash up in the swim!! You will probably have about 80+ people in your wave most of whom are good swimmers! Know how you will start, deep water from holding onto a pontoon (in most cases).We never dive in at Age Group level thankfully.
• Enjoy the race this is what you choose to do. Celebrate, don’t beat yourself up you made it and did your best. If you get a penalty you will be shown a card with your number on it, it’s your responsibility to serve this at the penalty box, don’t argue just get on and do it.
• The finish. There’s always a live stream video of you finishing at the finish gantry. This can be viewed on line at http://www.triathlon.org/live . Be sure to tell your family and friends at home you’re ‘ETA’ so they can watch you come over the finish line. This footage is not always available thereafter, so ask them to video it for you if they can. Obviously there are pro photographers taking photos of you in every discipline which you can order thereafter if you have any money left over!!
• Collect you medal if there isn’t one query it! Dusseldorf forgot to award them! Have a few photos in your kit with your flag and tweet/ Facebook. You can show off you’re a GBR World/ European Triathlon Age Grouper. If on the odd, amazing chance you finished 1st, 2nd or 3rd (Kim, Rosie and Reuben Trotter very familiar with this!!) you have to go to the evening medal ceremony to collect your bling this will automatically prequalify you for the champs the following year, (meaning you don’t need to pay for qualification races!) so be sure you don’t miss it with a flight home! At Rotterdam, I’m pleased to say and at last, there was doping control so you may now also be called to give a sample in the specified area.
• Race over as usual get your stuff when allowed, back to hotel wash and get out for the closing party/ Medal Ceremony if you are not too knackered and are not flying back home that same evening! If so compression socks all the way
• Get home peruse the results? (Come on we all do it, I even witnessed V80-85 checking out his times and planning to improve for next year, good for him!!)
I hope this rather detailed ‘blog’ helps you decide if racing ITU, ETU, Sprint or Olympic distance for Team GBR will be for you.
Having never got a podium finish, I still dream of it and will follow my dream until I can no longer achieve it! The AG 80-84 always inspire me!!! And you know, it’s still competitive then, there were 8 men and 2 women in the sprint category how good is that! In the standard distance, 4 men but sadly no women, there’s my chance , however, by the time I reach 80 and here’s hoping I do, the women’s numbers will I guess be at least on par with the men’s!! So if you’re new to the club and are in your 70’s or 80’s get yourself to the Gold Coast next year a medal awaits you even if it does cost around £4000) to get it!

HAPPY RACING!

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