Preparing for Triathlon with the family
As an active family of three, two seasoned triathletes (very seasoned) and one ten-year-old Tristar it’s around this time of year that our winter training becomes a distant memory. We reminisce about the early morning trips to the pool, spending hours spinning on Zwift or taking a window of opportunity (regardless of the horizontal rain) to quickly pull on our trainers, wrap up and venture out into the bracing air. In the quieter, winter months we took advantage of offers, looking forward and booking races and competitions for the new triathlon season ahead. We’re always on the lookout for events which push me/my husband (but not too hard) as well as shorter, competitive distances that the children can get involved in. Events like the Castle Race Series are great for this as we can plan our weekend at an event, and there’s something for everyone to get involved in and it’s a great time to catch up with friends. There is a lot of fun to be had at these events and it’s great to see how people from different ages and backgrounds come together.
Now, the outdoor season is upon us, and our shiny new tri kit is ready to use and you’re ready to race; but have you thought about your event accommodation?
Accommodation for your Triathlon
Over the years, we’ve searched for reasonably priced and reasonably comfortable accommodation within close proximity of race starts. Hotels and B&Bs come with their own challenges; you’re struggling on staircases and in and out of lifts with bikes, bags and boxes, feeling tired and fed-up. Meanwhile, your companion waits with the rest of the kit – usually by the car, which is illegally parked outside the hotel, or even half a mile away down the road. After enduring this late at night, once again in a dubious area, we had a rethink of our accommodation strategy. (Granted, this was also due to the addition of a Tristar to our team).
So, going forward when it comes to races and triathlon, we’re camping! I totally understand this isn’t for everyone. However, with some planning it can be fun. You might fancy yourself as a bit of a Bear Grylls, or perhaps you prefer Glamping with a few mod cons. Either way, your comfort and convenience levels can make or break your weekend. While camping sites are much busier now owing to new fans (thanks Covid), you can still get late pitches relatively easily. But if you want a really good spot, get booked early!
Traditional camping is making a comeback and a wide range of tents is available: rooftop tents, blow-up tents, zip-in sleep cabins, trailer tents. The options seem endless. Whatever your choice, make sure you have enough room for your bike, kit and the support crew; having enough space is the key to a harmonious few days away. While the camping option ticks the more environmentally-friendly box, electric motorhomes and caravans are also increasing in popularity and performance, and can provide extra comfort!
Do your research
When booking, check for an electricity hook up (if needed – a must in my book), a water supply (definitely needed) and toilet and shower facilities (absolutely without question needed. Can you believe there are places that don’t offer this? Urgh!). Consider the proximity of these facilities to your pitching area.
While on the subject, we all know that using Porta-loos is rarely a pleasant experience – but that’s likely what you’ll be using. Bring along extra loo paper, hand sanitizer and toilet seat covers to make the best of the situation. Hand-washing stations are typically located near the portable bathrooms, take extra hand gel with you just in case.
Distance to the race start is also something to consider. How much time do you want to spend walking to and from the expo/registration/transition? (Rest those legs!). If it’s some distance away perhaps think about taking your car or van to the event. Drive away awnings are a good investment and can securely store items that you don’t need for the race.
The distance to and from your pitch is probably more important to your support team than it is to you, especially if you’re the athlete who takes everything to the race start with them. They’re the ones lugging equipment to the best spectator spots, to provide encouragement and update you on your times. Look after your Sherpa by putting their bike on the rack before you leave home, so they can quickly nip back to base camp for extra items. Or make light work of transporting the kitchen sink (sorry…your kit!) and invest in a cart trolley. Make sure it’s a foldable trolley though, as you’ll need the space when you pack up.
Our typical British summer means we must be prepared for all four seasons, even during the summer months. Wind, rain and – for some, myself included – being cold are your worst enemy. If the rain is particularly bad, remember to lift clothes and bedding off the floor. Talking of being dry, a portable washing line is a valuable addition to your equipment. Whether you’re staying in the comfort of a local 5-star B&B or you dry your smalls as they flutter next to your pitch, a sturdy and robust line won’t let you down.
If you’ll be using a tent heater for camping, it’s absolutely essential you know how to safely use it. Electric heaters are the safest option. While the best propane heaters are incredibly safe, an electric heater comes with fewer risks as you don’t have to worry about CO2. Always buy ‘Tent Safe’ heaters. These models come with built-in safety features, and are specifically designed for in-tent use.
Still on keeping warm, one of the great investments we made are the robes and we wouldn’t be without them. We are quite the tribe as the three of us bimble to the water’s edge looking like we’re attending some religious ceremony; that said they are so useful in so many ways. I’m often seen wearing mine in the evenings, sat outside our camper with a coffee or a glass of something in hand. Our son wears his to and from training and races because he really can’t be bothered to get showered and changed and wants to get home for cake as quickly as possible. But they come into their own when going to use those pesky Porta-loos or to the campsite’s showers; neither you or clothing has to touch any surface! Yonda supply a fantastic selection of robes including the Yoncho Light, Yoncho and Long sleeve Yoncho.
As bikes are often as precious as your partner (sometimes more so!), their security is paramount. The triathlon community look out for one another, but sadly there are opportunists. Be on the safe side, look at the finer details on your insurance policy, check your bike is covered and make sure you have strong bikes locks. A convenient tree can make a sturdy bike rack.
Getting to know your neighbours makes a better social environment. You can share local knowledge, stories of your race and compare how many miles you have – or haven’t – done. Even if your neighbour keenly informs you their bike spec is the same as Geraint Thomas’s Pinarello, their running is on a par with Alex Yee and they were open water swimming every morning in sub-zero water temperatures (you know who this is, don’t you??) at least you’re familiar with who is coming and going around your area. However, you may want to move down a couple of pitches!
A portable key safe is also useful. For about £25 can get you a good, strong waterproof multikey holder. They prevent the whole ‘Where are the damn keys??’ panic, especially useful when you’re separated from your team and you’re in a hurry to get back before your racer whizzes through transition. (“Yes, of course I was there darling…”)
Keep charged up
You’ll need to keep your smartphone powered up, to capture all those Instagram-worthy photos and show off the results of your performance. A car charger will suffice but if you go this route, be sure you also have a set of jump leads!
The better option is a bring a solar charger and a battery pack, pre-charged at home. You can then use the battery pack to charge your smartphone and the solar panel to recharge the battery pack. These solar panels and battery packs can also recharge lanterns, headlamps, GPS watches, wireless speakers and AA/AAA batteries.
Do you have any tips to share with us? Do let us know your family triathlon hacks, or what you’ve learned over the years.