Category Archives: first triathlon

Enter the Washing Machine – Tips for your first open water swim

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An open water swim is the most daunting part of the race for most new triathletes. We are land animals, and jumping into the water with a washing machine of arms and legs is not natural. With some practice and some strategy you can do it.

Here’s a recap of my first open water swim:

This was my first long open water swim. My plan was to survive, any means necessary. I would use my Swiss army knife of stroke techniques to complete the course. I was surprisingly relaxed at the start, ignorance is bliss. Some concern did creep into the group, as the race officials were still pulling the buoys into position as we were start. The countdown began, I positioned my goggles, and we were off. A sea of swim caps, arms and legs overtook me. My goal was to stay smooth, and conserve energy. First buoy can relatively quickly, and I sighted toward the second. As I turned the wind and current hit me in the face. The next 20 minutes were a blur of swimming and controlled drowning. The last 20M to the buoy took about 2 minutes. (I later learned the marker was actually floating away, nice.) I will not recount the last leg of the swim, because it was very painful, and I have put it deep in my memory, along with bad first dates, Vanilla Ice, and that halloween witch that scared the crap out of me when I was 5. I emerged from the water tired and dizzy, and headed for T1.

Here are some tips to help get you through your first open water swim:

Relax – This the most important and difficult thing to do in an open water swim. The situation goes like this: The guns goes off, the athletes stampede into the the water, you start to swim and there is a sea of arms and legs all around you. With all of this stress your heart rate is going to spike. It’s your job to breath and relax. Slow things down and find your own rhythm. It’s a long race, no need to burn all of your energy in the first 5 minutes.

Practice – To be comfortable in open water, practice in open water.  Not every workout needs to be in open water, that wouldn’t be practical. A couple of practice swims with a buddy prior to your open water race will suffice. The idea is to get used to the sights, sounds and feeling of open water.

Confidence – Be sure you are comfortable completing the distance. Having confidence in your ability to swim the distance will alleviate stress. Be sure to cover the distance in the pool a couple of times.

Warm up – It is a good idea to get down to the water prior to your race start and warm up in the water. It doesn’t need to be very long, maybe five minutes of swimming. During the warm up you can feel the water temp, and practice breathing. A good warm up should leave you feeling relaxed and ready to start.

The Start – Open water swim starts are chaotic. A group of athletes entering the water turns into a sea of arms and legs thrashing about. You are already excited about the race start, and the adrenaline of the moment can cause your heart rate to spike. This is where most people run into issues. My advice is to find some clear water and swim your own race.

If you are uncomfortable with contact,  start on the side of your wave, or let the group go for moment and then start. I haven’t found a good simulation for a race start. They get much easier with experience.

Conditions – Open water conditions are always changing. The swim is affected by wind, current, temp and weather. You need to be aware of the conditions. There should be pre-race meeting that will explain the water conditions. It’s a good idea to attend so you know what to expect. Also, remember you have no control over the conditions, so there’s no need to freak out.

Sighting – Sighting is the process of picking a landmark, and using that landmark to control your swim direction. Sounds easy right? It’s not easy, and takes practice. This is another skill to work on during your open water swim practice.

Every 8-10 breaths you look up and see where you are swimming. The best landmarks are big and obvious, like water towers or a large building. There will also be buoys marking the course. During a swim buoys can be difficult to see because of chop or glare. It is best to use a combination of landmarks and buoys.

Here’s an excellent article from Triathlete Europe on swim sighting.

Relax – It is so important that I put relax in the list a second time. Swimming with a red lined heart rate, and tight muscles is counter productive and can lead to panic. The best way to combat these issues is to find a way to relax. You can fight against the water, but the water will always win. My best advice is to relax, flow through the water, and find your rhythm.

 

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Ahhh, That New Bike Smell – Tips on buying a Tri bike

Bike wall

You raced a few triathlons, and you are hooked. Its time to trade in that beater bike for a fast new time machine. Before you pay out the GDP of an island nation on a new tri bike, here are some things to consider.

*legal notice – Always inform your significant other of these large purchases. Don’t try to sneak a new bike in the garage hoping they won’t notice. Believe me it won’t work.

Commitment

Have you caught the triathlon bug? Do you see your yourself progressing in the sport, and riding consistently. A Tri bike is a big expense, so let your commitment drive your investment. Garages and Craigslist ads are filled with lonely Tri bikes bought with the best of intentions. The owners raced a couple of Tris, and in the euphoria of finishing, plopped down a wad of cash on a shiny new bike. Then life/kids/job/injury/beer got in the way, and the shiny new steed went unridden.

If you are getting consistent workouts in, and a new bike will take your racing and training to a new level, now is the time to purchase that new bike. A new bike is a great motivator to get you out there riding with great excitement. Its like getting a new car, but you don’t have to ride everyone around the block when you bring it home.

Cost

Let’s get this out of the way, Tri bikes are expensive, and in some cases ridiculously expensive. Consider your budget and weigh your options when choosing a new bike. My advice is to get the best quality bike you can afford. A well made bike that is properly maintained can last 10 years.

Here’s the main items that drive the cost of a bike:

  • Frame Material/Design – Carbon fiber bikes are the most expensive, Aluminum and steel bikes cost less.
  • Components – (Shifters, Brakes, Derailleurs, etc.) Each component manufacturer produces different groups on different price ranges. Components on entry level Tri bikes are more than adequate. The difference with the higher priced groups is normally weight.
  • Wheels – Here’s where you can save some money. Entry level tri bikes will come with decent wheels. Eventually these wheels will wear out, or you will want lighter race wheels. Save money on the front end and get standard wheels, as it is easy to upgrade later.

Many bike manufacturers offer the same frame with different components. If you are on a budget choose the cheaper components. This way you are still getting the great frame, and you can upgrade the parts as you want.

Base Model Triathlon Bikes:

 

Fit

This is the most overlooked, but most important factor of choosing a new bike. You can max out your credit card with a $10k carbon dream machine, but if it doesn’t fit, you won’t go any faster.

My advice is to go and test ride some bikes. Have a person from the shop spend time with you seeing how the bike fits your body. A good shop will put you on a trainer and make adjustments to see if the bike will fit you. This is time well spent. If the shop to go to is not willing to take this time, then run away. It is not the shop for you.

Feel

We are all a little vain. If I am throwing out a wad of cash on a new bike, I want to feel like a bad ass on my new rig. Some bikes are just plain sexy. They have great lines, a killer paint job and scream to be ridden. The more sexiness the higher the price. Be sure the bike you choose works for your eye, and makes you feel fast.

Bonus – Purchasing

When purchasing a new tri bike, I always recommend going to your local bike shop. If it is a good shop, they will get you fitted, and provide you maintenance and service. You may save a some money going online, but the value provided by a good shop will far outweigh those savings.

Used – If you are on a really tight budget a used bike might be great option. this is a buyer beware situation. I would recommend purchasing a bike that you can actually see in person. Take someone with you that knows bikes, and can help you out.

Used resources:

Misery Loves Company – Tips on Finding a Group Ride

 

group irde

Triathlon is an individual sport, and training can get lonely. Group rides are a great way to get in some miles, and meet some new people. Also, riding with others slightly faster than you will improve your fitness.

Here are some tips on finding a group ride:

Finding a Group

Do a quick Google search for bike shops, and clubs in your area. Most bike shops have weekly group rides that leave from the shop. On their website, there is usually a section that shows ride times, and routes. Also, local bike/tri clubs will have weekly rides. Send the club an email and ask about rides, and express your interest. Most groups are happy to have new riders.

Group Paces

When you find a group ride listing there will be a pace posted with it, usually denoted by a letter. Here’s a quick breakdown of the letters and paces:

  • C Pace – 16 mph – Usually no one will be left behind
  • B Pace – 16 – 20 mph
  • A Pace – 18 – 22 mph
  • A+ Pace 22+ mph

Groups may vary from these paces. Check with the group leader before the ride to determine the pace. Also, be sure you are comfortable with the pace they are riding. If you can’t hold the pace, and start to ride erratically, it can cause issues for the rest of the group.

Know the Route

Issues arise when you are out on the roads. In case you are dislodged from the group be sure you are familiar with the roads. Most groups rides have a cue sheets available with the route, or it may be available on a website. It is your responsibility to have a general idea of the roads. It is also a good idea to bring your cell phone.

Be Friendly

Many groups have been riding together for years, and being the new person can be intimidating. The best way to deal with this is to be friendly and introduce yourself to other riders. Find out who is the group ride leader and introduce yourself. Most groups are happy to have new people, and will be willing to help you out.

Post Ride

When you get back to the parking lot, don’t just throw your bike on the rack, and roll. Hang out and chat with other riders. I have met some really interesting and wonderful people on group rides. After a ride most people are feeling good, and its a great time to make new connections.

Charity Rides

Local charity rides are a great way to get introduced to group riding. These rides are very beginner friendly. Check the web for charity rides happening in your area. If it is a big event, these rides will also have training rides leading up to the event. Below are a couple of links to some large national charity rides>

Bike MS –  Bike MS is  national ride to fund MS research.

Tour de Cure – TdC has rides in 44 states to raise money for diabetes research. They will also have training rides leading up to the event.

 

Do you know of any great charity rides? Leave a suggestion in the comments.
photo credit: ScottElliottSmithson via photopin cc

My First Triathlon with Bart Yasso

 

bart-yasso

Bart Yasso is an icon in the running and endurance world. Yasso is the Chief Running Officer for Runner’s World, and has an awesome passion for adventure. Yasso has completed races on all seven continents, completed the Badwater 146 through Death Valley, completed Ironman five times, and rode across the USA twice unsupported.

Yasso is fantastic writer as well, I highly recommend his book, My Life on the run.

Below Bart generously shares experiences from his first triathlon. He has gone on to race and win many more triathlons, but just like everyone else, you start with your first race.

 

What was your first race? Location, Name, Year, Distance

My first tri was the Emmaus Triathlon, Eastern Pennsylvania in 1984, 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run. One of the first half marathon distance races in the country.

What motivated you to try your first Triathlon?

The triathlon craze was taking off and I wanted to be part of it.

What was your athletic background?

I was a runner for many years so I just needed to add a few swims per week and some weekend bike rides to my training.

What was your biggest concern when starting out? How did you overcome it?

My only concern was my right shoulder during the swim. My right shoulder pops out of joint on occasion. It would not be fun if it happened during the swim. I was careful in the swim I stayed away from the mass start.

Were there any difficult/funny moments in that first race?

No I had a great race I finished 4th, When I see photos I laugh because most of us did all 3 disciplines in a Speedo.

What bike did you use? 

1984 Team Fuji
1984 Team Fuji

Team Fuji

Were you hooked after that first race?

Yes I was hooked right away.

What piece of advice you wish you had when you were starting out?

We didn’t have energy bars or gels back in 1984. I remember wishing I had some food on the bike. I was pretty darn hungry on that 13.1 mile run.

What was your feeling as you crossed the finish line?

I remember thinking I can win some of these races if I take this seriously. I won a bunch triathlons/biathlons back in the 80s. Overall and loved every minute of the race.

“You Can” – Overcome Reasons Not to Try a Triathlon

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Has completing a triathlon been in the back of your mind, but you haven’t signed up? Do you say, I’d love to do a triathlon one day? Let’s make one day today. There are always reasons to start something one day in the future. These reasons make us put off things we really want to do, until later becomes never.

Here are the top reasons I hear for not trying a triathlon, and some suggestions to deal with these issues:

“I can’t – Its too hard” – If you are in a general state of good health, you can train for and complete a triathlon. Its just takes a little knowledge, and some quality training. Choose a good training plan, that fits into your lifestyle, and will get to race day ready. What you should say is I can’t right now.

Training for a race will get difficult at times. There may be times when you really think you can’t. These are the times when you can dig deep and make a breakthrough. The more you struggle and persevere, the sweeter the reward.

“I’m not fit enough” – You may or may not be fit enough to finish a triathlon right now. That’s why proper training is so important to make sure you are fit enough. Athletes of all sizes and ages complete triathlons. If you wait until you are fit enough, it may never happen.

“I don’t have the time” –  Everyone is busy. You may not have the time right now with your current schedule. You have to make time for things you want to do, and will make a positive impact on your life. If you are really honest with yourself, you have more time than you think. There are 168 hours in a week. Can you spare 6-5 hours to train? You can get up an hour earlier, and fit in a run. You can swim at the YMCA during lunch twice a week. Pay yourself first with your time, and invest in your health and wellness.

Link: First Triathlon in under Four Hours a Week 

“I’ll embarrass myself” – When is the last time someone was challenging themselves to try new things to better their lifestyle, and you laughed in their face? I am going with never. Most people respect others who are trying to improve themselves with new exciting goals. Put yourself out there, and others will admire your courage to try new things.

Link: Fantastic Finish Fridays. Stories from new triathletes that overcame fears to finish their first triathlon.

“Triathlon is too expensive” – Triathlon can be an expensive sport, but you can get started for less than you think. Try out your first race with some borrowed equipment, and see how you like it. If you get hooked, then you can invest in better equipment.

Link: Getting started in Triathlon for less than $100

“I don’t have the equipment” – If you look in your garage right now, you probably have almost everything you need for your first race. You only need a bike, helmet, goggles, running shoes and something to wear. All of the other accessories like GPS watches, race belts, and compression sleeves, aren’t necessary. Keep it simple for your first race and have fun.

Link: First Race Esstenials

photo credit: natellev via photopin cc

I’ve Signed Up For My First Triathlon, Now What?

Race Start

You’re awesome. You took the plunge, plopped down your money, and signed up for that first triathlon. Now what? Don’t stress. Here a quick guide for next steps to get started on your triathlon journey.

Step One – Tell Your Family/Friends – This may seem obvious, but don’t forget to fill everyone in. You’ll need a support system to help you through training.  People are general supportive of others going after new goals. really keep your significant other in the loop. You may need to trade some training time for household chores.

Step Two – Inventory Your Equipment –Training and racing Triathlons definitely requires some equipment. Before you go and drop whole paycheck on a new tri kit, check and see what you can make work from what you already have.

Here’s a quick guide for first race essentials. First Race Essentials.

Step Three – Choose a Training Plan – A great training plan is the key to ensure you show up for the race ready. The plan should layout your workouts week by week leading up to the race. This is the most important step when you start your training.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a plan:

  • How many weeks? Most plans for a sprint race will be between 8-12 weeks long. Be sure there is enough time to complete the plan before your event.
  • How much time each week?  There are only so many hours in a week, be sure you have enough hours to fit in your training. Your plan could be as few a fours hours a week. Four Hour Post Here.
  • What are your current abilities? 
  • Is the plan doable? Start with a plan your feel comfortable completing. If you start a plan that is over your head, you may get frustrated, and quit.

 Beginnertriathlete.com has some great plans to get you started.

Step Four – Schedule your workouts Now that you chose your plan, it is time to schedule your workouts. Sit down with your calendar and fill in the times. This is an important step, as it takes choice out of the equation. I like to do this weekly, as I have a good idea of what my week will look like. Be sure to consider open pool times in your schedule.

Step Five – Find a training buddy – A training partner provides encouragement and accountability. You are less likely to hit that snooze button seven times when that alarm goes off at 5:30 am on Saturday, if you know you have to meet your training partner at 6:30 for your long run.

Congrats again on taking the plunge into Triathlon. Training will be easy some days, and extremely difficult on other days. There will be days that you dread going out for another run. On those days, lace up those shoes and just start the workout. Most of the time just starting will get you through that workout, and you will feel much better after.

Dive In! 7 tips for selecting your first TRIATHLON

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Congrats! You’ve decided to dive in and and become a triathlete. Now it’s time to sign up for you first race. We want you to have a great experience at you first race. You have put in the commitment and training, and now its time to show your greatness.

Here’s some tips to help you decide which race is best for you:

1. Race Distance – Sprint distance triathlons are usually best for first time triathletes. Typical distances for a sprint triathlon are ~500M Swim, 12 mile bike, and 5k run. The majority of people will finish this race around 90 minutes. Sprints are short enough to let it rip, if you are feeling great. If it’s not your day, you can cruise through the finish.

2. Race Location – Consider you logistics when choosing a race. Sometimes the effort to get to the race, can be as nerve racking as the event itself. Some things to consider here:

  • How far do I have to travel?  If you have a private helicopter, this is not an issue.
  • Do I need to stay in a hotel? If the race has an early start, and you have a significant commute to get there, staying close to the race start will decrease race morning anxiety greatly.
  • Is the race spectator friendly? Your friends and family have supported you through all of your training, and want to cheer you on during the race. Races that are held in parks or in downtown areas work well for families.

Tips to decrease race more anxiety.

3. Swim (open water vs. pool) –  If you are not yet comfortable swimming in open water, you may want to start with a pool swim. This is usually the largest concern for new triathletes, and justifiably so. In open water, most times you can’t see the bottom, there are many other swimmers around you, and swimming in a straight line isn’t easy.  A pool swim will be staggered, so you are not in a a big crowd, and there is a black line at the bottom to follow.

If you are considering entering your first open water triathlon, here are some tips:

Enter the Washing Machine – Tips for your first open water swim

4. Bike/Run Course – Check the course info page for the race, and pay attention to the course profile. A short event can be made very difficult by elevation. Be sure you are comfortable with the climbs and descents, if the course is hilly. Bike handling skills take time to develop. If you are still working on your handling skills, save those technical sections, and screaming descents for later.

Run courses can vary in their terrain.  Courses can be on pavement, trails, sand, the surface of the moon, you never know. Most of the time this is not a deal breaker on the decision to sign up for a race, but be prepared. I once didn’t check out a course in advance and it had 8 large sets of  steps on it. I was not prepared, and that course crushed me.

5. Local Weather – I know we can’t control the weather, and it is unpredictable. This is one area where you can play to your strengths. If you can run all day like a camel in the heat, then sign up for a summer race. If you melt like a snowman above 80 Deg, then pick a fall race.

6. Race Organization –  The quality of the race promoter will have a huge impact on the overall event. Race promoters vary in there experience and commitment to quality. Be sure to check into the race promoter before signing up for an event. Ask other athletes about the promoter’s events, they will be happy to share their experience, good or bad.

7. Post Race Party – This may sound like a silly thing to consider, but some races have great post race parties. If you are racing with friends,  you want to celebrate after the race. A beer never tastes so good, as after a hard race.  There are a few races I do every year, just because the party is so much fun.

What are you waiting for? Get on www.active.com and get signed up.

If you know of a great beginner friendly race, please leave the info in the comments.

Your First Triathlon in Four Hours A Week

Tv no

Have you seen people in a triathlon, and thought I would like to try that, but I don’t have the time? It seems everyone is increasingly busy, and time is a precious resource. An event that involves three different sports sounds like huge time commitment. What if you could complete your first triathlon, and change your lifestyle in two months using only four hours a week?

Most people can carve out four hours a week to do something they really want to do. The current Neilsen ratings say the average person watches four hours of TV a day, or 28 hours a week. Would you be willing give up one day of TV for a healthier lifestyle?

Now we got the excuses out of the way, lets get down to business. How can I be ready to race a Tri in the two months in only four hours, a week?

I suggest your first race be a sprint distance tri. Typical distances for a sprint are 500M swim (15 mins), 12 mile bike (35 mins), and a 5k (30 mins) run. Each leg of the race should take 30 minutes or less. We will use that 30 min time domain to structure the majority of your training. If you are already proficient in one of these sports, you can concentrate on the other two.

A typical week will look something like this:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Off

Run/30min

Bike/30 min

Run/30min

Off

Bike/

1 hour

Run/30 mins

Swim/ 30min

Swim/30 mins

As you can see there are seven workouts broken up over five days. The two rest days are important to let your body rest, and feel like you have a life outside exercise. The double workout on Wednesday and Sunday could be done back to back inside to maximize your time. You can do your 30 mins in the pool, then hop on a spin bike or the treadmill to finish up. The swim days are flexible throughout the week. The only restriction is to not run and bike on the same day. Save your legs!

Does this sound like something you can do? Don’t be intimidated by the amount of workouts. Each workout is short enough to fit in your daily schedule, and leave you feeling energized. Also, there is flexibility in the schedule. If you can’t get to the pool on Wednesday, just move it to Thursday.

In future posts, I will layout the structure of each work during the week. In the mean time, let’s get moving!

If you have specific questions, please leave them in the comments. I will be happy to help.

Hack a Triathlon: Get started under $100

Do you want to race a triathlon, but you are on a tight budget? There’s no doubt about it. Racing triathlons can get very expensive. Super light carbon fiber bikes, and high tech training tools add up quickly. You don’t have to be tech millionaire to get started. In this post, we will show you how to get started with the right equipment, without emptying your wallet.

swim goggles

Swim – $25

Swimming should be cheap right? All I should need is myself and a swim suit. You’re pretty close. You need a swimsuit and a pair of goggles. Women typically have a one piece suit they can wear. For men, I suggest training in trunks, but racing in your bike shorts.

A decent pair of goggles should cost around $25. Here’ a link to some Aqua Spheres for $20.

http://www.amazon.com/Aqua-Sphere-Kaiman-Regular-Transparent/dp/B000ENST92/ref=sr_1_11?s=boating-water-sports&ie=UTF8&qid=1394498127&sr=1-11&keywords=goggles

Mountain bike in garage

Bike – $65

A bike is the mostly costly piece of equipment for Triathlon. Triathlon bikes can get crazy expensive.  A full carbon race bike with aero wheels will easily take a couple months of your salary. I recommend using the bike you already have. If you have a geared bike of any type, that will be great for your first race. This includes mountain bikes, road bike, or a hybrid. I don’t recommend beach cruisers, as they don’t have hand brakes, and can be dangerous at speed.

What if I don’t have a bike? Ask someone to borrow one. Many people buy great bikes, and the bike sit in the garage unridden. After you tell them of your plan to race your first triathlon, they will be happy to help out.

Besides the bike, you need a couple more items. First, you need a helmet. Triathlon rules state you wear a helmet at all times when you are on a bike. If you are racing in warm conditions, you want a helmet with good ventilation. Here’s a link to a Giro helmet for $30.

http://www.amazon.com/Giro-Transfer-Sport-Helmet-White/dp/B0047VMK0G/ref=sr_1_5?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1394498745&sr=1-5&keywords=bike+helmet

Also, I recommend buying bicycle shorts. Bicycle shorts have padding in the seat, and make riding much more comfortable. Also you can wear them as your race bottoms for the whole event. Here’s a link to some Canari shorts, that will work nicely:

http://www.amazon.com/Canari-Cyclewear-Padded-Cycling-Medium/dp/B00018BQ7W/ref=sr_1_3?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1394499109&sr=1-3&keywords=bike+shorts

 

Hit the Road, Runner

 

Run – Maybe $50 or $0

Here’s where the cheap skates can rejoice. We’re going to assume you are still clothed from the bike leg, so all you need is a pair of running shoes. You probably already have some running shoes. If not, check some deal sites to get some really great deals on running shoes. If you are not sure  what running shoe is best for you, go to your local running store for a consult. They will happy to help you out, even if you don’t buy there right now.

Here’s some sites with great deals on running shoes:

Joe’s New Balance Outlet

Running Warehouse

Now go and scrounge up $100

There you have it. If you have a bike to use, and some running shoes sitting in the back of your closet, you can be training and racing for under $100. The expense of triathlon shouldn’t hold you back from trying something new and exciting. Once you get hooked on triathlon, then you will need that second job. Happy Training!

For tips on choosing your first race. Click Here