Despite popular belief, triathlons are not only for the elite athletes. A simple internet search will prove this assumption wrong, resulting in lists upon lists of sprint triathlons, Olympic triathlons, female only triathlons, youth triathlons, themed triathlons, and more.
There is a race out there for everyone, unfortunately, the mere thought of a triathlon is enough to frighten some people. Don’t let fear and assumptions limit you, instead, use them as motivation to progress in the fitness field and in your overall life. There are few things that measure up to the feeling of crossing the finish line of a triathlon. Why shouldn’t you experience it at least once?!
How Do Triathlons Work?
Triathlons are multisport events consisting of three legs; swimming, biking, and running. The order of events is always the same with swimming first, followed by biking, and finishing with the run leg. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you, there are other races that closely resemble triathlons, such as duathlons, which replace the swim with another biking leg, aquathons, which are swimming and running only, and aquabikes, which, as the name clearly states, is swimming and biking.
There are many variations to triathlons, and no two triathlons are equal. Some swim legs take place in open water areas such as lakes and rivers, and others use traditional, indoor and outdoor lap pools. The biking leg can take place on mountain trails or road paths, with mountain bikes, road bikes, and hybrid bikes. The distances vary depending on the host and the location. Most family friendly races are short distances, and the more competitive races are longer distances. Ironman and Half Ironman triathlons are sanctioned events and typically require a qualifying time, so the chance that you will sign up for something beyond your abilities is very slim.
Indoor races usually allocate a certain amount of time for each leg. For example, 10 minute swim, 20 minute bike, 15 minute run. Volunteers keep track of your distance for each leg, and the winners are those who went the farthest distances in the same amount of time.
Indoor races also differ slightly because of the transitions between legs. All triathlons have a transition between the swim and the bike, and again between the bike and the run. Normally, athletes try to get in and out of their transition area as fast as possible. Indoor triathlons, however, use timed transitions, such as 5 minutes or 10 minutes, because the athletes are moving from the pool, to stationary bikes, to treadmills.
How to Find the Right Race.
There are many websites with nationwide triathlon schedules and information to help aid you in your search for the perfect race. Don’t forget to check locally as well. Running specialty stores, juice bars, and other related businesses usually post flyers and seasonal schedules of local events around the area. Many places have their own triathlon groups and annual races which are aimed specifically at beginner and intermediate athletes.
A few important facts to keep in mind when searching for a race are; swimming abilities, the type of bike you will be using, and the running course. If you are not a strong swimmer, or have never swam in an open water setting, be sure to find a race that allows you enough time to improve your swimming abilities and train in open water, or stick to a race that uses a pool instead. Determine the bike you will be using, or borrowing, for the race before you begin searching. This will eliminate a lot of races that might be bike specific or trail specific. Many people’s strongest point will be the running, whether it is a sprint triathlon with a 5km course, or an Olympic triathlon with a 15km course, it is important to know your running abilities. Keeping in mind you will be preluding it with a swim and kilometers of biking.
How to Train For Your First Tri.
The steps to training for your first triathlon are no different than the steps you would take when starting anything new. Determine what your goals are and what you want to gain from the experience. Commit to achieving the goals you have set for yourself, knowing the process will be difficult at times.
Training for a triathlon is more demanding and time consuming than training for other athletic events, due in large part to the different facilities and equipment needed to train for each leg. Most gyms do have equipment to emulate that of a pools, bikes, and tracks, however, if you are planning to compete in an outdoor triathlon, a lot of training should be done outside of the gym to get a feel for what to expect on race day.
The first step is getting the gear. If you don’t plan on becoming a full-fledged triathlete, then stick to the basics. Gear for any sport can be expensive, and multiplying that by three can become outrageous. So, don’t feel obligated to purchase new running shoes and a brand new bike if you already own these things and they are in working condition.
Everyone requires a little different gear, but the basics include; one piece swim suit or wet suit, goggles, swim cap, bicycle, cross-trainer shoes that can be worn biking and running, athletic clothing that is comfortable and fits well without rubbing.
If you do not own a bike, call around town to find local bike rentals. If you choose this option, make sure to have the bike fitted for your height while you are at the bike shop.
You do not need to use the same exact bike for training that you use for the race. Whether you use a road bike, a mountain bike, a stationary bike, or switch between all three throughout your training, you are targeting the right muscles. Again, if you are not preparing to be the next Ironman, don’t invest too much into what type or brand of bike you are using.
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