Where’s the money at?


I was driving home from my swim workout today and a thought occurred.  I’ve pondered this before.  Which discipline in triathlon should one devote the most time, training,  and effort on race day?  The answer would likely differ if one asked different athletes.

It would seem a counterproductive argument, I thought, given the fact that I’m working so hard to improve my swim stroke.  Before I even delve into the math, the saying “ride for show, run for dough” seems to sum up this point.  Nevertheless, I’d still like to do the math.  I suspect that the formula may change depending upon many factors.  Distance, terrain, weather, and # of participants may all be variables.

So, here we go:

  • Generally, the swim is the shortest segment of a triathlon.  Killing yourself here will not win you the race.  We all know this.  One exception is a draft-legal triathlon.  You miss the lead swim pack and you have to work very hard on the bike to catch-up for the run.  This is also true to some extent for competitive age-groupers.  You want to finish up in the standings, you can’t slog the swim.  Want to make Kona, you better be able to swim unless you have elite bike and run prowess.
  • The bike is an interesting discipline.  It’s the longest segment usually.  You can make up a lot of time with a good bike split.  Conversely, you hammer the bike without proper pacing and your run split will suffer unless you are a very strong runner.  I do believe an athlete with strong cycling legs can both have a fast bike split and leave the most in the tank to run.  This is especially true for very challenging bike courses.  This unfortunately doesn’t always hold true.  Take pro triathlete, Chris Lieto; he often has the fastest bike split but doesn’t run the fastest.  Triathlon winners frequently are the fastest runners too.
  • So, there it is. “Run for dough”.  Just look at race results.  Podium finishers usually run the fastest.  Yes…I looked at the results.  Those men and women also swim/bike the fastest too.  It’s a private pet peeve of mine to lose an age-group podium after swimming and biking very well, only to be passed on the run by a gazelle.  This is more common in shorter races.  You can bank some time on longer courses.

Ok, let me run some numbers.  I’m going to pick 2 of my upcoming races: a Sprint (Wet Dog), and an Olympic distance (Rocketman).  Lastly I’ll look at a Half-Iron Distance race (Gulf Coast…I competed in 2011).  I want to pick races that I can look back at old results to compare.  This will not be put into a spreadsheet and analyzed with any statistical theorems.  I just want to look at general trends to confirm what I have already theorized above.

Look for Sprint Tri Race review tomorrow….

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