Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How to do a Triathlon

A couple of friends have either shown interest in participating in a triathlon next year or have already committed to do so and wanted more information regarding prepping for their first tri. Being a novice athlete myself and have overcome the challenge of my first tri this year, I have decided to document my training story and what to do to prep for that first tri.

A Triathlon (definition) is a multi sport event consisting of swimming, biking and running. There are multiple distances and are referred to as either a sprint, an olympic or an iron man. There is also an ultra iron man and a half iron man (70.2), but I am not considering long events yet. I am sticking to the sprint distance and will describe that more fully.

A sprint tri usually has a 1/2 mile swim, a 15 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run. Some races vary from these distances and each course has a varying degree of difficulty due to location and time of event.

Training is extremely important. everyones training regiment will be different depending on skill prior to committing to an event. I was confident in the bike but scared of the swim and hated the run prior to committing to my first event. Here are some tips to overcoming these challenges.

Swimming: Find a pool and start swimming. See if there is any adult swim classes or clubs that will push your abilities such as a masters swim class. Train similar to a high school swim team and practice intervals for speed and distance for endurance. When swimming distance, try to swim longer than your event distance.

Bike: find a spin class. Classroom environments seam to push you a bit harder than riding alone. When hitting the road, find people who ride faster than you to push you to improve. Alternate your routine between hills and flats and push yourself with intervals and distance.

Running: I still hate running. There is only one way I know to train for running and that is to run. I technique is my 5 year old on his bike. I try to run with him and to keep up to the best of my ability. He is getting faster. This fall I clocked a 6 minute mile trying to follow him which is a personal best. I finished my 5k in under 22 minutes and that is close to my best time. Try alternating running fast and long.

Tips for the race:

Swim: Get a wetsuit. They are meant to keep you warm, reduce body drag and to keep you more buoyant. Using a wetsuit can reduce a couple of minutes from your time, but if you are not an excellent swimmer it can really boost your confidence. You can rent a wetsuit for around $50.

Bike: Bikes are the biggest financial investment. For your first tri, use what you have available. Unless you know you really want a new bike, the $1200+ investment can be a bit too much. A road bike or a tri bike will offer distinct advantages in speed and efficiency. If you do feel like investing in a bike come and talk to me for more ideas.

Clothing: You want to wear skin tight water wicking clothes. The best idea is to wear the same clothing through all three events. It is very difficult to put on or take off clothing after the swim when you are wet. Some people always laugh at the form fitting clothes (my wife for starters) but you will fit in fine with all the other racers and you will be more comfortable during and after the race.

Running: Get speed laces for your shoes. Speed laces are elastic shoe laces that never need to be tied. I love slip on shoes and this is a great idea. At this point in the race you are out of breath and a bit fatigued and if you stop to take the time to tie your shoes you will spend more time catching your breath. Just flip your shoes on and run. Speed laces cost less than $10.

If you have any additional questions or comments please post them and I will try to answer them prior to next spring when we are all training for that next race.