ITU Cross Tri World Championships – Crackenback Course Training Tips
By Kim Beckinsale (X-terra Age Group World Champion 2013)
Hopefully most people who are planning to qualify for the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships in November this year were able to get to Crackenback and race on the course. I thought it was absolutely fantastic to see so many athletes there supporting this event, especially some who had never done an off road triathlon before. If you weren’t able to get down there it may be worth reading some of these tips as well, as honestly, the course is really tame, but racing it hard is where some athletes are caught off-guard. It is certainly not too late to have a crack at qualifying for this event, as there is still one more qualifying race in April in Queensland, and still plenty of time to improve your performance leading up the World Championships.
Tip 1 – Prepare to be out there a long time.
Ben Allen the winner of at the Australian Champs was 2hrs 28mins and the female winner Renata Bucher 2hrs 50mins, so a good 40-50mins longer than an Olympic Distance Road Triathlon. Approximately 75% of the extra time is on the mountain bike, and about 25% on the run. So there is a message there, if you have a weakness and its mountain biking, this is where you can make the most improvements.
Tip 2 – Fuel Up and DON’T LITTER
As you are out there longer you will need more fuel as well, and this may mean a higher concentration of electrolyte on the bike. If you choose to use a camelbak, it is a wise move to put your nutrition in that as it will mean you have the capacity to carry a bit more. On the run you may need 1 or 2 gels depending on how long you are out there, but the challenge is getting them down….so it is definitely worth trying this in training. If you are using GELS, PLEASE don’t just drop them on the ground, practice putting the wrapper in your suit (I just put it in my leg, or in the pocket). Throwing GEL wrappers into the bush is disgraceful and if this is what you do, you may need to change your attitude if you are going to continue with Cross Triathlon.
Tip 3 – Swim in Fresh Open Water – with a wetsuit.
Although it will be summer in November for the World Championships, the water will be from melted snow, so the temperatures are likely to be significantly cooler. So over winter I recommend you do as much open water swimming in FRESH water with a wetsuit as you can. Make sure you practice swimming in small groups, sighting markers as well as making turns, as there are 4 turns each lap and a short run between laps. Also practice your running starts and exits with your training buddies, so you become comfortable getting bumped around a little. Oh and every time you use your wetsuit, practice getting out of it as fast as you can, you will be amazed at how much time you can save.
Tip 4 – Ride Flat Winding Trails – FAST.
The course is not hilly at all, but is very, very windy, so if you keep braking hard all the time, you will lose all the speed you have spent so much energy on generating. So work on trying to minimise braking and shifting your body weight to get you around the corners safely and efficiently. Turn your head to look where you are going, so you are ready for the next corner, keep those eyes rolling forward to allow you to flow along the trails.
Tip 5 – Practise your passing skills on the bike, and practise being passed.
Yes, the reality is that you will want to pass someone, and someone will want to pass you, so it is worth putting this into some of your training sessions. If you are the faster rider, go at the back, and practice passing others, you will then help your training mates learn how to feel safe while being passed as well. Whether you are passing or being passed, practise moving off the single track, and looking ahead for a gap, so preparing whether to call ‘Track Left’ or ‘Track Right’. Change of pace riding and some rough riding never hurts anyone, and it’s a good fun so make it part of your Cross Triathlon preparation, you don’t have to wait till race day.
Tip 6 – Skill Testers – Practise Rocks, Rollovers & Bridges
There a few technical skills testers on the Crackenback bike course, and if you can ride them you can save time, but if you try them on race day and stuff it up, you may lose valuable time. In the first 500m of the course there are 5 skill testers, and further along there are another 3 tricky rock sections and a few bridges as well. The art to these is speed, timing, balance and confidence. You need enough speed to get up/over the obstacle and then stop pedalling at the exactly the right time to allow the bike to roll over/through the obstacle, this requires a bit of balance and shifting of body weight, and rolling the eyes forwards. Big gears and aggression will NOT help, so relax be confident and spin, spin, spin!
Tip 7 – Practise your Transitions.
I have already mentioned something about getting the wetsuit off quickly, so that is number 1. If you are wearing a camelbak put this on first, so you don’t forget it. If you choose socks for the race, you may as well do your practice with socks for the bike and run as you only have to put them on once anyway. If you choose NO SOCKS, you are truly hard core, but please don’t forget to practice mountain biking and running off road ‘sockless’ in training, just so you get used to all those little sharp stones digging into your feet and toes especially on the run – you just need to know what you are in for!
Tip 8 – Train in WET shoes and practice running in knee deep water.
Yes in this race, you will get wet feet and they will not dry out. So you should do some training in wet shoes. Some shoes hold water and others drain really well, so don’t wait till race day to find out. You will end up with stones in your shoes, so get used to running with them in there too, after all this is Off Road Triathlon. The Crackenback course has 3 x 200m of running through a creek, so why not do some practice. This is more about continuing running on a rough surface, after you have just run 200m through water, a really challenging but fun training session.
Tip 9 – Trail Run off the bike.
Most triathletes are pretty familiar with running off the bike, but trail running after high intensity mountain biking is really tough. Mountain biking really smashes the quads and this is the type of course that never lets up, so you just have to prepare the legs to just do their best. So some MTB/Trail Run short interval training sessions will really help the muscles adapt.
Tip 10 – Quality not Quantity.
Training for cross triathlon is going to use more energy and take more out of you physically than training for road triathlon, just because of the environment in which you need to train. So if you are balancing road and off-road sessions don’t try to add – incorporate instead. Take the time to work on the skills you need to improve on and remember these are just as important as the high intensity sessions.
Written by Kim Beckinsale for Tri Adventure 12/03/16 [email protected]