One of the key aspects of a Long Distance triathlon is about planning your nutrition and pacing so that you have enough energy and fuel to execute a good last leg, the run. How does this change when each leg is on a different day?
In a Half or Full Ironman Triathlon, athletes tend to deliberately take on extra nutrition during the bike leg; because it is much easier to eat on the bike compared to the run. So consuming a little bit more on the bike can help compensate for the lack of fuelling on the run. Worth taking into account if you are following a Triathlon nutrition plan; 40 to 60 grams of carbs per hour on the bike should be adequate to avoid any hunger flats, but with minimal chance of gastric distress. Like usual, something you need to practise in training.
In regards to pacing, it depends on how comfortable you are with the distances. In this year’s Hawaii Ironman, 2nd placed Sam Laidlow averaged 44 kph @ 315 watts for the 180km bike leg. I doubt he would have gone any faster if it was a 3 day event. Whereas the rest of us ‘mortals’ need to ride conservatively to protect our run legs. How you pull up the day after a long and fast ride is something you need to discover for yourself in training. I’m guessing the younger athletes will have a big advantage in this area.
A frantic 2 or 3 minute transition is very different to having a whole day, including a night’s sleep between events. Recovery and re-fuelling becomes much easier, but no less important. Post race (or hard training session), you should be looking to replenish with around 20 grams of protein. Ideally within 15 to 30 mins of the finishing. I believe ‘real’ food is always better, but sometimes things like recovery drinks are more convenient. Having a recovery drink 15 minutes after your event will be more beneficial than waiting over an hour for a real meal. Note that 40 grams of protein is not twice as good. Your digestive system can only process so much, any extra extra will be disposed of. This goes for all your meals. Don’t pile more on your plate than you are used to, otherwise you may just be creating a longer (and possibly messier) toilet stop next morning.
Also important to keep hydrated during the day. I recommend water. Avoid sugary drinks or alcohol. This is something you should be practising in the months before the race. You don’t want to suddenly surprise your body with 3 litres of water on the race weekend if you’ve never had more than a glass a water a day beforehand.
Sleep is always important, but becomes essential in a multi day event. Work out what time you’ll need to wake up during the event and try to match these times in the lead up weeks. Have a gap between your last meal and drink and going to bed. And do not look at your phone (ie. blue light) within an hour of going to bed. I know this will be impossible for some of you, but the blue light emanating from your phone screen has a detrimental effect on your sleep.
A recurring theme you will hear from most coaches is ‘practice it in training’. The format of the (2 or) 3 day event makes it easy for most people to simulate in training. Swim before work on Friday morning. Long ride on Saturday morning and run on Sunday morning. You can slowly build up the distances and intensity to give to yourself a good idea of what to expect during the event. However if you have entered one of the longer run legs, I would keep your runs shorter for these simulations. Have separate weekends with shorter, easier rides to do your ‘long’ runs.