First Time Crit Racer

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My name is Andrew Sidwell; I’m a new triathlon coach with T3Multisports. My background consists of some mountain bike racing, and triathlon racing mostly consisting of half and full iron distance events. This year has been more focused on sprint distance events due to time but until September 30, I had never road raced a bicycle, hence my Crit adventure.

What is a “Crit” you ask? A Crit, (aka criterium race) is a short, fast race consisting of multiple laps on a closed section of road or a race track. The Crit I chose to participate in happened to be on the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), just outside of Austin, TX. I have never previously participated in this type of racing so I figured my learning curve would be steep. Here are a few things I did to mitigate this:

Talk to Experts
I solicited advice from experience bicycle racers and coaches (i.e. Coach Boris, Coach Arlyn and Coach Daniel) about how to train and execute a solid race. Their insights proved invaluable when race day (or in my case, night) came. Bike racing is highly nuanced; talking to this panel of experts introduced me to the language of cycling as well as appropriate conduct while cycling in a group. I think it also served to make me less of a hazard to the individuals I raced with. We all have to go to work on Monday and no one wants to be “that guy” or “that girl” that takes someone out through ignorance.

Research the Venue
I am beginning to think that bicycles are sold with GoPro cameras attached to them. Unless your race is in its first year, there will be a first-person video from a previous race on the course that will allow you to see what you’re getting yourself into. Reading reviews and watching videos will allow you to understand the direction and flow of the course as well as what other riders tend to do at particular parts of the track. There are multiple videos of the COTA race that gave differing perspectives of the same course. The advantage this provided was that I at least knew what direction the course flowed, what the turns looked like and where the group tended to bunch versus pull apart. Rather than riding into a corner and figuring out what was next I came in with a tentative plan on how to string corners together and where I wanted to be on the track. Of course, this adjusted once the reality of the race took off but it gave me a foundation to start from.

Train
If you are interested in racing your first Crit, we at T3 can help. There were a handful of “did not finish” (DNFs) due to conditioning; they simply “blew up”. Racing in general is not as easy as pro athletes make it look. Getting some solid training in prior to an event will make it more enjoyable and more likely that you’ll finish.

For me, I have a solid fitness foundation from racing triathlons so I worked on supra-threshold efforts (i.e. above functional threshold power) and sprinting. My race was five weeks out when I registered so that gave me some time to work on these aspects of my training. This type of racing is completely different from long course racing so these harder efforts are really important to get adjusted to.

My challenge was that nearly all of my training was done indoors, on a trainer. This made my bike handling skills a bit rusty. Again, not something you want to be weak in going into a Crit race. However, I was able to negotiate the pack and the turns well enough based on muscle memory and visualization, not to mentioning having spent several years road racing motorcycles on closed courses. At the same time, I know I could do better if I work more on technical bike handling skills. The value of this training cannot be overstated; if bike handling is a weakness, dedicate some time to addressing it. Doing so will make you less of a danger to yourself and others.

Arrive to the Venue Early
My race didn’t start until 8:25pm but I arrived at the track around 6:30pm. Doing so allowed me plenty of time to get my packet, put my number on the appropriate side of my jersey (race direction will tell you what side) and watch a few races with my family. It also gave me plenty of time to get some fluids in and do a solid warm up prior to heading out of the starting gate with everyone else. Lastly, arriving a bit early (but not too early) can help settle pre-race nerves for some people, allowing you to focus more on your race rather than hurrying from one place to the next.

Warm Up
Crit racing is basically full gas from the start. Make sure you take some time to get your heart rate up prior to getting to the start line. COTA has a rather large set of parking lots that made for a great warm up area. I also saw individuals with rollers and trainers. Do what you’d normally do in training. This will help get your mind and body ready to race.

Racing
Everyone is going the same direction as fast as they can. One rule of Crit racing is that the rider behind is responsible for his wheel, meaning the rider in front isn’t looking back to see what you’re doing. You have to have good spacial awareness to avoid crashing. One way of doing this is simply not thinking about crashing. Instead, focus on your position in the peloton, taking care not to overlap wheels with the rider in front of you and hold your line through a corner. Also, be aware for physical and verbal cues. If someone touches your hip it is to let you know they are near you. Likewise, you’ll hear, “on your left/right” or “inside/outside” from other riders. Using these cues keeps everyone aware and decreases the chances of an accident.

I’d read and heard about not wasting energy, staying protected from the wind and not leading if you aren’t trying to break away. Well, I can’t say that I adhered to these nuggets of wisdom as well as I should have. My wife observed that I didn’t spend as much time protected from the wind as other riders did. I’m sure this has to do with my lack of group riding time and breaking the “no drafting” mentality that comes with triathlon. It also cost me energy. Likewise, I also attempted to go ahead of the pack a few times, only to burn matches that cost me later in the race when faced with sprinting against good sprinters. All good lessons to learn for the next time.

Have Fun
The concept of fun might seem counterintuitive to some folks when we talk about racing. But in reality, that is what it is all about. I take what I do seriously but never take myself very seriously. Meaning, if I’m not having fun doing something I need to figure out why. This was my first Crit race; I did a bunch of things wrong, some of them on purpose. But, I had fun the whole way. My face had either a grimace or a smile from start to finish as did my kids. I learned a lot of valuable lessons that I can apply to my next race through trial and error. I grew a little bit as a racer and a person by doing something out of my standard comfort zone and embraced all that comes with it. Isn’t that what racing is about?

If you are interested in doing your first Crit, triathlon, 5k, trail run or swim, feel free to contact T3Multisports at info@T3Multisports.com We have experienced coaches that will tailor a program to your specific goals!

Why T3Multisports Trains on Rollers

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We ride on rollers primarily because they provide a very realistic road feel during indoor training. Since the bike is free to move around, it gives our athletes the feeling of riding on the open road. It’s much more engaging and the freedom of movement brings more benefits, such as improving balance, riding in a straight line, improving pedal stroke efficiency and no excess wear on tires like regular stationary trainers with wheel tension knobs.

Mental toughness and focus is a critical part of your athlete development. The increased concentration that rollers require make them a little less boring and easier to handle mentally for our young athletes.

Training indoors is an important part of our athletes’ development, we like to say it is the lab portion of our training program. As coaches, we have the immediate ability to make corrections to technique, skills and helping the athlete understand relaxing. Stationary trainers have a role in training but don’t require balance. Rollers provide that opportunity to improve balance and pedal efficiency as the balance on rollers is coming from the gyroscopic effect of the wheels in motion. The faster the athlete pedals the more stable they are.

In addition, the ability to really teach riding in a straight line pays huge dividends when our athletes transfer to the road for pace line drills and group rides.

Our rollers of choice are SportCrafters Cadence Rollers, they provide a smooth feel as the drums turn and are extremely durable. With multiple young athletes using them and traveling with them to races…they get a lot of abuse. SportCrafters rollers have stood up to this and continue to provide us great training and results.

-Boris Robinson, Owner & Director, T3Multisports Youth Triathlon and Junior Cycling Academy

Simple swimming tip

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So often you see numerous tips on swimming, how to swim faster, how to swim stronger, where your hand should enter the water…etc. This post is really simple. In order to swim faster and more efficiently you need to do two things: Increase your propulsion and Decrease your resistance. That simple.

In order to swim your best you should ask yourself two questions:

(1) Is this drill helping me increase my propulsion?

(2) Is this drill helping me decrease my resistance?

If any drill or swim session doesn’t address these two things, you should stop and reevaluate “why” (equals purpose) am I doing this?

Keep it simple and focus on more propulsion in the water and less resistance in the water.

Happy training,

Boris

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Triathlon is a Sport

While this statement “Triathlon is a Sport” may sound like a statement of the obvious it really isn’t. To most triathletes this is a “no brainer” but to the layman and the recreational participate and many parents it isn’t the obvious. So many folks view triathlon as an extra-curricular activity. Something done is the off season from soccer, football or basketball. The reality is Triathlon is a sport, an Olympic sport and since 2014 a Collegiate sport for women.

What’s Wrong?

Why is triathlon not as popular or mainstream as other sports? That’s the million dollar question. Triathletes train hard, race for prize money and both men and women get paid the same. Seems like this should be worthy of the title, Sport. Well, maybe it’s how the sport came about initially; as a sport of and for age groupers. Elites came a bit later in 1989, (the sport was founded in the US in 1982).

In August 1990 the United States hosted the second ITU Triathlon World Championship in Orlando, Fla. More than 1,200 athletes from 40 countries competed. The International Olympic Committee officially recognized triathlon as an Olympic sport and the ITU as the sole international governing body in 1991. In 1993 the Pan American Games approved triathlon for competition at the 1995 Pan Am Games in Mar De Plata, Argentina.

The IOC’s recognition of triathlon as an Olympic sport allowed the federation to be eligible for up to $250,000 in grants from the USOC. The first Goodwill Games Triathlon was held in St. Petersburg, Russia, on July 23, 1994. The sport finally reached its ultimate goal of being included on the Olympic program at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia. (Courtesy of USA Triathlon website)

 There are a number of youth and junior development team in the US and athlete are competing at the local, national and international level. Where does that happen in most of the other sports in America?

Suggestion for a Fix

It is important that coaches, athletes and USA Triathlon do a better job of popularizing the sport and acknowledging the fact that it is indeed a sport. Athletes young and old should communicate this, the sport needs to get into the school system and compete within school districts. Parents need to see the value of their child competing in a life sport that may lead to a professional career but more importantly it teach life skills such as commitment, dedication, consistency and the values of goal setting, organization and critical thinking.

It is time Triathlon received its long overdue respect as a viable sports’ option for youth in America. Triathlon indeed is a sport not an extracurricular activity.

Now get busy promoting the sport.

Boris Robinson,

Director/Head Coach

T3Multisports Welcome

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Welcome to the T3Multisports Blog.

This is blog was established for you and we hope you will find interesting and useful information here.  It is also an opportunity for us to communicate so please feel free to respond.  We only ask that you use good judgment in your response as we want to keep this family friendly and respectful to all.

The goal is to post weekly; however, there may be time when the posts will be more or less frequently depending on your level of involvement and interest.

Once again, welcome and we thank you for taking a look around our site.  Hope you will consider us as your triathlon and cycling training program.

Regards,

Boris

Owner/Director

T3Multisports, LLC