Beginner Triathlon 101

running-03062016You have decided you are going to complete a triathlon – AWESOME! Once the decision is made, then the work starts. How are you going to finish? Just like when you started walking… one step at a time.

Triathlon 101

There is a difference in triathlon as compared to competing in the sports individually. I previously mentioned that you will not:

  • Swim as fast as “swimmers”
  • Bike as fast as “Bikers”
  • Run as fast as “runners”

Why? We need to focus on management. Managing the effort for each sport while making sure we keep enough “in the bank” to complete the next sport.

Another old saying…

You can’t win a triathlon in the swim, but you can lose it there.

Same with the bike. You can record a record speed on the bike, what good will it do if you cannot finish the run?

What is this telling us? Even if you come out of the water first, you are only just beginning. You need to have the energy and stamina to complete the bike and run. If you expend too much energy in one sport you will NOT be able to complete all 3.

Triathlon is a balance – speed, energy and endurance. What we need to do is:

Swim as fast efficiently as we can to get to our bikes, bike as fast efficiently as we can to get to our run, run as fast efficiently as we can to get to the finish line. Fast needs to be replaced with efficiency. This is the management part of the sport.

If we go all out in the swim, we will not have enough gas in the tank to bike / run.
If we go all out in the bike, we will not have enough gas to get to the run.
If we go all out on the run, we may run out of fuel or get injured before the finish.

Running out, not having enough fuel can be:

  • Bonking
  • Cramping
  • Getting injured
  • Mentally falling apart

In my perspective the sport of triathlon is*:

  • 20 % physical strength
  • 30 % endurance
  • 50 % mental toughness

( *78.2% of all statistics are made up )

The biggest battle I have fought through all the training and racing is the battle in my brain. The ONLY way I have completed the events that I have is through mental fortitude. Physically I have quit many times. Endurance wise my body “just couldn’t take any more”. Mentally (Spiritually) I have pushed myself further than I have ever thought was possible. I have done this in many aspects of my life not just triathlon.

Does this mean we don’t need to train to finish? No! We definitely need to train our bodies to complete the tasks and reduce the chance of getting hurt. We can mentally push our bodies past our physical ability. Why would we want to intentionally do this?

Side note – you will see / read about people that do this. Under train yet still complete 70.3 and 140.6 events. I look at these and use them as an example of what “not” to do.

We need to work up to the distances. There are many training plans available on line and through your coaches and mentors. Most of the plans start at a minimum of 10 to 12 weeks (3 months) to prep for a simple Sprint distance. For longer races people will train for 6 months and up to a year in advance.

How do I mentally prepare?

I make sure I can do each segment individually. For the Olympic distance I did, I worked my way up to:
Swimming over a mile
Biking over 26 miles
Running over 6.1 miles

Individually I knew I could do each segment. I was capable. I added in going longer for each. In training I would swim for 1.5 miles, bike over 50 miles and run at least 8+ miles. This assured me that I could do the distance and more.

Once you can do them individually, you can start working on adding them together. This is called a “brick” workout. Swim then transition into biking. You do not need to do the complete distances, just need to get a feel for changing over and switching from one sport to the next. Another day go biking then transition into running.

This will prepare your body for changing sports and also give you time to practice your transitions: Changing shoes, adding / removing gear, getting some water / fuel, etc.

When you start going into the longer distances, racing in shorter ones also helps. For the first year all I did was sprint distance races. This was enough to get me involved in the sport, find out what it was all about and get me “hooked”. Last year I was working on a 70.3 event. I used sprints and an Olympic distance to help me get to the longer distance. This will be a topic for another blog post.

I look at triathlon training as a journey. The races are just one of the destinations. We need to stay healthy and enjoy the ride, otherwise, why would We be doing this?

Until next time…

Peace and Love,
-Dennis

if you can't fly, then run..."

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