Reconnaissance is the secret to a good race

By Kaye Lopez

Bataan International Triathlon is fast approaching.

With a week left before the big day, my FIT+ Academy students and I drove all the way to Las Casas de Acuzar in Bagac to check out the race course. Before riding off, I gave a short briefing to the students, reminding them that safety is always the number one priority. After dividing the group in two, based on race distance (Rapido for short and Largo for long), and assigning two SAG vehicles and a team leader for each group, we went off to ride the course.

The roads coming out of Las Casas were narrow and bumpy, with short steep hills and humps. I told my students to leave their gears on the small ring when they set up in the transition area and ride easy until they get to the National Highway. There are crosswinds and false flats along that section of the course but nothing too difficult.

The first opportunity to shift to the big ring is upon hitting the first long downhill. For an athlete with average fitness, it’s best to climb on the small ring and descend on the big ring, pedaling continuously and riding at a constant pace and cadence as much as possible.

Gradient of the hills is anywhere from three to 14 percent so you will most likely find yourself feeling out of breath on the steep sections

Although the hills going out are slightly more challenging than the ones on the way back, it would be wise to ride conservatively and save the legs for the hilly run. Gradient of the hills is anywhere from three to 14 percent so you will most likely find yourself feeling out of breath on the steep sections.

But because my students were able to try the course, they realized there were enough downhill sections that will allow them to recover. Keep moving and focus on reaching the crest then catch your breath on the downhill instead of stopping on the side of the road.

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The winding roads going downhill are technical but manageable as long as you stay in control of your speed. If your speed approaching a curve is slow enough, then you won’t have to worry about overshooting. Stay relaxed to relieve tension on your arms and alternate squeezing and releasing the brakes so your hands can recover and you don’t lose your grip.

Watch out for sand and gravel on the first and last 10 kilometers of the course. Keep your eyes peeled and slow down ahead of time so that you can either find a clear path or roll through the sand without skidding. Brake before the sandy part but not during so you don’t lose control and slip.

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Pre-race course reconnaissance is money and time well-spent because it will help you gain confidence and keep you safe on race day. Training and nutrition are vital ingredients for a successful race but knowing the course and how to approach it will not only lead to a strong performance but to a positive experience as well.