Long-distance Triathlon tips from the Pros

Long-distance Triathlon tips from the Pros

By ZONE3 athlete, Michelle Vesterby

Triathlons aren’t straightforward and planning for one can be pretty daunting. It’s no surprise that long-distance triathlons are even less straightforward and even more daunting! Thankfully, Michelle Vesterby, one of our ZONE3 Athletes, has kindly put together the following advice to help you get ready for a long-distance triathlon.

Enjoy it

My best advice for both your training and your competition is not surprising: "Keep Smiling!" If you forget to smile and don’t enjoy the training, then it becomes something tiring. If you’re not loving the training, then it’s too easy to skip it - and why do it, if it’s not fun? I look forward to about 90% of all my training sessions, and like everyone, I have my bad days, but even on the bad days I try to focus on how lucky I am.

Plan ahead

My race preparations start around 3 months before the competition, where I typically go into the last specific training. This is also where I’ll start trying to do all the little things right - I call it "cut the crap" stage! In the final run up to a race, I’ll try and avoid that glass of wine with a friend and focus on getting lots of sleep, etc.

Train with a focus

Most days start with 4-6km of swimming, where I’ll focus either on technique, speed or endurance. If you’re nervous about the distance, then it’s a good idea to have tried to swim 4km in training, at least 3 times before the competition. If you can, try and swim 4km in your wetsuit in open water, without any breaks so you’ll know what it’s like when the race comes around.

2 weeks before I race, I try to go for a 4km swim with a friend of mine who’s faster than me. When we swim together, I aim to stay on his feet the whole way, just like I would in a real race. This also helps you get to know your wetsuit - I have swum in ZONE3 wetsuits for several years, but it’s still important to know your suit and trust that it will help you all the way to T1.

Bike is best

I train the most hours on the bike, where there is less risk of injury and because I LOVE long biking adventures. I’ll often see talented athletes on £10,000 bikes, who will get to a point in their race where they struggle to stay in an aero position. If you struggle to stay in an aero position during a long training ride, then you’ll struggle to hold this position during the race. To help this, I would recommend spending more time in an aero position in training and getting yourself a bike fit.

My weekly cycling training will typically consist of a hard workout (like 6x6 min high intensity), a long ride of 160-200km with a focus on my aero position, and the rest are 2-3hr base rides at a steady pace.

Trust your training

There is nothing that gives me more confidence before a competition than long runs. I usually have 4-5 runs over 30km in my training during the last 6-7 weeks before the race. Long distance triathlon is about who slows down the least in the run, and I always say to myself that I’m stronger than the others after 30km. So I’ll often let the other girls get ahead of me at the start, because a lot can happen in the last 10-12km. My best results have always come from a strong backend of the marathon, which comes from not swimming too hard, not over-biking and being mentally ready to suffer.

Nutrition and recovery

In the last 3-4 years, I have started to look more into my nutrition, which is now a crucial part of my training. Knowing things like ‘how many grams of carbohydrates can I take on without getting a stomach ache means that I can go harder for longer and recover better.

I'm not getting younger, so my recovery is getting more and more important. I started with 50-60g of carbohydrates per hour of training and have built up slowly to now taking on up to 90g of carbohydrates per hour. Remember to practice this at race pace so your body is used to it come race day!


I really hope that you find my advice useful and if you have any questions, please feel free to catch me on Instagram @vesterbytri to get in touch or keep up with my training!