Sharon and I had decided to do a triathlon. Now, where to start with our training? I am a computer geek by trade, so the first place we hit was the internet. Luckily, our first hit was this site. It felt really good to know there were other people who were at the same level as we were and had the same questions. With just a little reading it became apparent that there was a whole lot more to the sport of triathlon than just “swim, bike, and run,” and we would need some help to do this right!The online how-to articles were very valuable and helped us get an idea of what we were in for. But nothing is better than one-on-one training, especially if you are a complete newb. Lucky for us, as there was a resident tri-god who worked in my office. His name was Brett and he had completed three official Ironman races. In addition, he was well known in the tri community through his podcast, www.zentriathlon.com, and forum, www.triscoop.com. Brett is, shall we say, rather enthusiastic about the tri lifestyle. This messianic zeal to change everyone in the world to a tofu eating, hippie tree hugging, tri zombie definitely worked to our advantage, as he was willing to basically become our personal coach for the low monthly price of FREE!!The first thing that Brett emphasized from day one was time/heart rate training versus distance training. In other words, you schedule a certain amount of time to train and then train at a certain heart rate for that amount of time. Distance was basically irrelevant during this portion of the training. Since we were so new to all of the training, he had us start with very short times. The first several weeks were 15 minute swims, 25 minute runs, and 35 minute bike rides each done twice weekly with one day of rest. We got a heart rate monitor and tried to keep a heart rate level of around 150-160 for the run and 130-145 for the bike. These heart rate levels were somewhat arbitrary and it did take us a while to get a feel of what heart rate equated to a moderate intensity level. Basically the trick for us was to feel only a little worse at the end of our run than we had when we started out. Once we went above 45 minutes on the run, we found that anything above 160-165 per minute would really wear us out. 150-162, however, seemed to leave us feeling as if we could run forever. In the beginning it actually took some discipline to not exceed our scheduled times. On the other hand, we did not immediately get burnt out and depressed about our training schedule. Even as we increased our times each week, it seemed a doable number. After four months, our times had increased to 45-60 minutes on the swim, 60-70 minutes on the run, and two hours on the bike ride. We never increased the time from week to week by more than 10%, and we also averaged one light week every three or four weeks where we might only train four times during that week. This schedule seemed common to all of the training aids we found, and for more reasons than strictly a training need. In reality most of us have a life outside of training. It is nice to be able to schedule a week were you are able to make time for a weekend getaway or a child’s ball game and not feel that you are hindering your training. Also there were those days where things just happened and we had to miss a scheduled workout. Brett always preached that as long as the miss was due to a valid reason and not lack of discipline, then a missed workout here and there really made no difference in your overall progress. Now for the other side of training for a tri. Everything I have described so far is just basic aerobic training. There is a whole other aspect to the training and that is training on HOW to do a tri. Almost from the start you should be practicing the transition from the bike to the run by doing “bricks”. Again, as we did with all of our training, we started slow and easy: a moderate bike ride followed immediately by a short run of less than a mile. Now everyone seems to feel that this is the hardest part of training but I was pleasantly surprised to find it was rather easy.
One of the things that I have always hated about running is how long it took me to get warmed up and into a comfortable rhythm, usually 30-40 minutes. Well lo and behold, whenever I did a brick I started the run mostly warmed up. There was a very short distance, maybe one to two tenths of a mile, where my quads and calves gave me an awkward feeling, but that was it. I actually found that my mile times were FASTER after biking than the times from a regular run, and that the running was almost fun About a month out from our race we added the swim in and started practicing the entire tri distance. Our local parks department is awesome, and they were very eager to help us in any way they could. They let us set up a mini transition area with our bikes and gear in the pool facility, and they watched the gear we had to leave behind. We were able to complete the entire sprint distance, with practice transitions, three times before the actual race. I HIGHLY recommend this.
Our actual race transition was easy and I was in the top five out of 80 in the swim to bike transition. This was free time that I got by doing nothing more than three practice runs, and it was worth four spots in the standings! There is a whole art to how you set up all of your gear in the transition. Brett had given us some really good tips on how to setup, and we practiced these during our practice runs. In addition we attended all of the newbie seminars that were given prior to race day. These were very informative, especially in regards to transition setup and what to expect on race day. Again, this is nothing but free time and is well worth putting some practice into.And the final and most important thing, THE OPEN WATER SWIM. Do whatever it takes to do at least one before you race, especially if you are not a strong swimmer. I will save the details of our swim for my race day report, but let me just say this, I am a fairly strong and confident swimmer. I have always felt comfortable in the water and with swimming long distance. This did not matter on race day! There was still panic. What controlled it for me was that I had recently been in the water and done this exact distance. I KNEW I could do it and this is what allowed me to overcome and just swim. I really do not know what I would have done if I did not have this to fall back on. I just think for all of us that it is just way too easy to panic from something that is a complete unknown. It is so much easier to gather yourself and persevere if you have some kind of experience to fall back on.
Basketball, Computers and Fun in the Sun!!