Care for a Threesome?

Let’s talk about one of the toughest competition fitness events that you can put your body and mind through. Triathlon.

It’s my belief that triathlon is the single greatest way for you to stay in the best shape of your life. Think about what this sporting event has to offer. Swimming. Biking. Running. When combined, these three activities can’t be matched for building the ultimate healthy body. If you’ve got the guts (and I do mean that), you should give this AWESOME sport a tri.

Before we start… You guys know what’s coming…

WARNING: Working out and exercise can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here (and everywhere on my blog) are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend getting a complete physical and doctor’s approval before starting any type of strenuous activity. Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to workout and/or race, you do so at your own risk. In addition, working out requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good form. Never bounce or over strain! Now stop making excuses and get in the game!!!

Many people consider a marathon to be the toughest thing you can compete in… Others say that a century bike ride is unbelievably tough… You can imagine what folks say about swimming 2.4 miles… Well… Combining all three of these into one event and pushing yourself in each of them is sick beyond any individual sport. Triathlons will push you like you never imagined possible!

Triathlon is a relatively new sport. It was technically started in the 1920’s in France… But, it is widely recognized that the first “real” triathlon occurred in 1974 in San Diego. 46 people participated in that race, including Jack Johnstone and Don Shanahan, the two guys who came up with the idea.

“Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life!”
— Commander Collins, USN (1978)

Standard Distances

  • Sprint: Swim: 750 meter (.465 mi) / Bike: 20 K (12.5 mi) / Run: 5 K (3.1 mi)
  • Olympic (AKA Intermediate): Swim: 1.5 K (.93 mi) / Bike: 40 K (25 mi) / Run: 10 K (6.2 mi)
  • Half-Ironman (AKA 70.3): Swim: 1.9 K (1.2 mi) / Bike: 90 K (56 mi) / Run: 21.1 K (13.1 mi)
  • Ironman (AKA: Ultra or 140.6): Swim: 3.8 K (2.4 mi) / Bike: 180.2 K (112 mi) / Run: full marathon – 42.2 K (26.2 mi)
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    Along with these distances there are several that differ slightly. The one that stands out the most is the “mini-sprint” or “super-sprint”; which is typically about half the distance of a standard sprint. This is the distance I would recommend doing (if it’s available in your area) for your first race.

    First Things First
    To start racing, your best bet is to get a membership at www.usatriathlon.org. This membership will get you access to join most races around the country. And, you get a magazine when you sign up.

    After joining USAT, buy a book… The Triathlete’s Training Bible by Joe Friel, who I consider the most knowledgeable and amazing coach in triathlon history!

    Next thing on your list of to-do’s is to find some local races. I’ve found that www.trifind.com is a good resource… But, you can find tons of sites by simply Googling, “local triathlon races” or checking out the USAT website. Once you find one that gives you ample time to train for it (think two or three months if you’re in reasonably good shape), sign up and commit yourself!

    Finally, TRAIN HARD!

    A Few Tips and Pointers

    On my first race I learned a few things and I made a few mistakes… Let me tell you guys about some of these in the hopes that your first race can go a tad better.

    I pushed myself hard in the swim and paid for it as I tried to put my bike shoes on. I nearly passed out… Remember to push yourself hard but then taper off near the end of the first two events; which will make your transition better.

    My swim to bike wasn’t the only problem area… I also pushed myself hard to the end of the bike and found my calves literally locking up during the start of my run. I limped out of the transition area and spent the first five minutes hobbled and hopping. When my legs finally started responding I had lost some precious minutes!

    When I started my run, I had forgotten to take my helmet off. Honestly I would have forgotten to put pants on if that was part of it. I was dazed, confused, and lost… Stay calm and stay focused and you will be fine. Enjoy those first few mistakes you make and laugh at yourself. This is about fun!

    One thing that you can do to avoid the calf problems I had is to stand up out of the saddle during your last mile or so on the bike. Ease back a hair and do the pedaling in a way that you can stretch your calves. You might lose a few seconds because of this slowing down, but it beats the minutes you’ll lose if you don’t do it!

    In your transition area, make sure that you carefully lay things out ready for you to change into them… During your race your mind will be all mixed up and the easier you make the transition station the quicker you can get past it. I like to wear socks for the bike and run (some people don’t), so I wear very short socks to make them easier to put on. When your feet are wet, socks are freaking tough to put on! One thing that helps is to turn them halfway inside-out. This way you can stuff your toes in and then simply unravel them around your moist feet.

    I also bought elastic shoe laces for my tri running shoes, so I don’t have to waste fifteen seconds tying them. It’s the little things that will speed up your transitions!

    Get a tri suit (one piece or two piece is personal preference). The bike seat pad in a tri suit is thinner and won’t absorb water during the swim.

    Practice your transitions!

    Training

    As I mentioned, you should get The Triathlete’s Training Bible. But, if you don’t I can give you a few pieces of training advice. You need to train in all three sports. And, it’s important to prepare yourself for the bike to run transition by following some of your bike rides with an immediate run. These style workouts are commonly referred to as BRICK (Bike, Run, ICK!)

    After some of my swims I like to leap out of the pool and stand immediately. This is a bit of a rush, but it gets you used to the transition to bike.

    Along with training in each sport, I think it’s very important that you do some cross-training… I prefer weight lifting for my cross-training. And, don’t forget some serious core work. The core is the key to ALL three sports and will benefit you greatly!

    I hope that this article was helpful.

    And, let me know what you think. Also, tell me about your experience with triathlons.

    See you at the starting line,
    Rip

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    About Vaughn Ripley

    Vaughn is a happily married daddy, author, and CIO. He is an HIV+ hemophiliac, and is one of the longest surviving HIV+ people in the universe.
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    Comments

    1. I’ve done my share of triathlons…all distances. The biggest mistake I made before my first race was not realizing I had to taper. I wanted to squeeze in those extra few workouts in the week before my big race. Big mistake! I showed up to the race exhausted before I even crossed the starting line. I finished — I was second to last overall, but was the only one in my division so I actually got an award!!! Starting at a small race is nice that way 🙂

      A couple other tips — if you can, try to drive the bike course, and bike (or drive) the run course prior to the race (even if it’s the night before). That way you’ll be familiar with the turns, the terrain, and anything unique about the course. I was in one race where a volunteer got confused and directed a group of cyclists the wrong way at a turn. I figured out the mistake about 5 (mostly downhill) miles later, and backtracked up the darn hill and completed the course. That turned my 25 mile ride into a 35 mile ride, and didn’t exactly help my competitive position! I was bound and determined to complete the whole course though! It’s a mistake that could have easily been avoided if I had been familiar with the route.

      The other tip I’ll give is to practice your nutrition. In your training, practice using whatever you plan to use on race day. That goes for your pre-race meal as well. Know what time your race will start, and do one or more race start simulations, where you wake up the time you will on race day, and then proceed with the timing that the day is likely to require. Depending on your race distance and training level, you can train at full or partial distance. You can also use it as an opportunity to practice transitions. For a sprint distance race, this is less important. Once you get to the longer distances, nailing your nutrition and keeping fueled with a happy stomach becomes critical to your success.

      The final tip is a mantra that I’ve heard mostly applied to IM distance, but it probably applies regardless. “Swim slow, bike for show, run for dough!!” So pace the rest of your race so you are ready for a good solid run. If you don’t feel like you went too easy on the swim and bike, you probably went too hard.

      Happy training and racing!

      – Andrea

      • Andrea,

        Those are some awesome tips! Thank for always chiming in with your comments. I enjoy them ad always get something from your insight. I love the nutrition advice. The last thing you want is to be vomiting at the start of a race.

        One more thing that I thought of is that you don’t have to size up the competition. Don’t panic looking at all of the fit racers and wonder if they are gonna smoke you. Especially on your first race the only REAL goal is to simply finish.

        Make sure you have fun!!!

        Thanks again,
        Vaughn

    2. TylerDurdinUMD says:

      When I was beginning with triathlon, the most important training tip I got was to train each event on it’s own, and make sure I was comfortable with each distance. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. You don’t have to be a well oiled machine. You don’t have to practice combination workouts and Bricks and transitions. That will come with time. But to try it out, make sure you can swim for how long you need to swim, bike enough miles in one set, and run the 5k distance. Once you can do that, the spirit of the race will pull you through to finish the whole thing.

      Once you know you can finish, then you can start to worry about the rest. Pacing, nutrition, Bricks, cyclical training. And, it also lets you see if you like it. Don’t worry about the gear. Your mountain bike or beach cruiser will get you around the course just fine. Your swim suit is perfect: you don’t need special tri shorts. Aero bars? Electrolyte replacement nutrient drinks? Those guys who did the first Ironman in Hawaii in ’76 didn’t even use goggles. Relax. Enjoy it.

      And, if it is your first time, remember to taper. Intense or extra long workouts a week or less before the race won’t make you stronger or faster. Don’t do anything for 3 days before the race. Your body doesn’t have time to react, so you’ll just make yourself tired. A couple easy workouts in the last week, then a few days off, and you’ll be foaming at the mouth to get out and run. I know you’re excited, but relax and save that chomping at the bit spirit for race day.

      • Fantastic advice! I remember hearing that I needed to do two things…

        1. Finish the event (time is not important).
        2. Have fun!

        The rest is not important during your first race.

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