Done the training? Now all you need are these last minute tips to help you slice seconds off your run splits.

(Photo credit: Human race)

When the training is done and dusted and triathlon race day looms closer, it’s easy to sit back and think there’s nothing more you can do to improve your running. It’s not true, though. With sprint racing especially, there’s always scope for shaving a few extra seconds. In such a short race the margins are extremely tight. Expect your closest rivals to be no more than a few metres in front or behind you, and know that every second counts. Here’s how to claw a few back without rewriting your training programme.

1. LIGHTEN THE LOAD

Running shoes have improved a lot in the past 10 years and these days a well cushioned, supportive pair can weigh as little as 250g, rather than the 350g they weighed previously. Famed running coach Jack Daniels says a runner expends one per cent more aerobic energy for every 100g of weight on a shoe, while Nike Sports Research Lab staff have calculated that shaving 115g can speed up marathon times by three minutes. Providing they don’t cause you problems, lightweight shoes are a must for sprint triathlons.

2. INTELLIGENT PACING

By the time race day comes around you should have an idea of a pace you can realistically run for 5km. An even pacing strategy is shown to lead to faster times – and it hurts a lot less too. To estimate your realistic race pace, run 3 x 1km hard efforts straight after a tough 30-minute bike ride. Take one-minute rests between each effort, time each repetition and, if possible, record your heart rate.

The pace you can run in a sprint triathlon will most likely be slightly slower than (or in some cases equal to) the speed you run in your test. Your heart rate will be similar in the race and the test efforts. Use this knowledge to your advantage: heart rate can often be the best method of judging how hard you run, because slight winds or variations in gradient make a significant difference to your running pace.

3. BE THE BEST AT TRANSITIONS

Forget socks, for a start – you won’t need them for 5km. Just put some BodyGlide between your toes and talc in your shoes to reduce friction. You should also use elastic laces, so you can slip your feet into your shoes in a flash. But most importantly, when you rack your bike on race morning, leave yourself enough time to practise removing your helmet and cycling shoes and slipping your trainers on 10 times. Aim to get quicker each time. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes during the race.

4. DON’T IGNORE NUTRITION

Just because it’s a sprint race doesn’t mean you can forget about nutrition. You’ll still need to munch a normal-sized, carbohydrate based dinner the evening before and a solid breakfast three hours before, such as a bowl of porridge and honey, or two slices of toast and honey. You should slurp an energy gel 15 minutes before the start. Then during the race, sip an energy drink on the bike. You might also benefit from a gel on the run – evidence suggests that even swilling your mouth out with one will give you a boost.

5. BE TOUGHER, MENTALLY

Running 5km in a triathlon hurts more than you might think, especially if you’re racing it hard. The secret is to break it down into smaller sections. During the first kilometre you should focus on holding back your pace and getting used to running steadily after the bike section. The second kilometre is about hitting your predefined race pace or heart rate and maintaining it. The third is about engaging your core stability muscles and running with a good technique. The fourth is about picking someone in the distance who you wish to catch up with gradually. The last kilometre is about chasing them all the way to the finish line.

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