When Bubba crossed the finish line, he scanned the crowd, located his wife and shouted, “Where’s Luke?” Hoping he had finished before me, Bubba was completing his first triathlon. Somewhere behind him, I was panting and staggering, and soon thereafter, also finished my first “tri.” That moment was the culmination of a few months of training and became one of the most gratifying experiences in my life. By the end of summer 2014, what will you have accomplished?
Have you ever considered trying a triathlon?
By now, I hope the New Year’s resolution of “getting fit” or “trying something new” has not been abandoned altogether. If your exercise routine needs a lift, or you need motivation to carry you through summer, maybe you should set a goal to “try a tri.”
Don’t you have to be crazy or super fit to complete a triathlon?
According to tryatriathlon.com…NO!
Most people who participate in triathlons are normal, everyday people like you and your friends. Most often, they’ve either seen a race happening locally, or they know someone who has attempted one. Triathletes come from all walks of life, and are all ages, shapes, and sizes. You would be surprised to see that many shy and ordinary people are running alongside the crazy and boisterous gym rats. I have also seen competitors with various disabilities, in addition to kids as young as 6 years old compete in races.
So, why choose a triathlon?
Some reasons people choose a triathlon are: for the “bucket-list” type challenge; the fun and friendship; the competition; the mid-life crisis; in response to a dare; to lose weight; to improve health; or to grow as a person. But I can guarantee one thing: the bragging rights you gain once you’ve completed a triathlon are worth more than the price of admission. How many people at your work or school can say they have completed a triathlon?
OK, this could be fun, what are the options available?
There are four triathlon distances…
Sprint: 0.5mi Swim, 12.4mi Bike, 3.1mi Run
Olympic: 0.93mi Swim, 24.8mi Bike, 6.2mi Run
Half Ironman: 1.2mi Swim, 56mi Bike, 13.1 Run
Full Ironman: 2.4mi Swim, 112mi Bike, 26.2mi Run
Most novices will start with a sprint triathlon. I would go a step further and suggest you find a “sprint” with a “pool swim” to get acclimated to such an event.
The alternative to a “pool swim” would be an “open water” swim, i.e. lake, reservoir, river, ocean, etc. According to Tri-Newbies.com, most triathletes complete their swim training in the safety of a swimming pool, which have lifeguards, walls on which to rest, lane ropes that calm the water (and to grab if need be) and a shallow bottom on which to walk, leaving even the most timid swimmer feeling safe and secure. In the open water these conveniences are rarely available, especially in the ocean.
For me, open water swimming is still a work in progress. My biggest issue with the open water is my tendency to swim off course. Most swimming pools feature a large black line on the bottom of the lane, which swimmers use for navigation. In the open water, no such navigation is available. So I either spend too much time looking up for direction, which sacrifices time, or put my head down and swim off course, which sacrifices energy when swimming back to the pack. All of this, coupled with the very likely probability of getting kicked in the face by a fellow swimmer’s flailing limbs, will help you understand why I suggest beginning with a pool swim triathlon.
Don’t I need all the fancy equipment to compete…or a pricy, aerodynamic, shiny, new road bike?
No, you don’t need a fancy bike to compete – a mountain bike or similar is just fine. Other than that….some swim goggles (your swim cap will be provided) and a pair of running shoes.
I was fortunate enough to have a few friends who had completed triathlons before me. Talking with them gave me the comfort and knowledge base I needed to pursue my first race. It would also be very helpful to look into some tri-specific training classes, offered locally at the Healthpark and the YMCA.
I completed my first triathlon 4 years ago. In the spirit of full disclosure, my training partner referenced above (Gary “Bubba” Cecil) finished ahead of me in that race. And that friendly competition, paired with completing my first race, gave me the confidence and inspiration I needed to continue training and look into more races.
Since then, I have competed in 5 more races, including sprint, Olympic, and half- Ironman distances. I would not trade those experiences, even the training, for anything in the world.
So this summer, whether you are up for the challenge, the competition, the dare, or your goal is to lose weight, improve health, or grow as a person, I hope you will consider trying a triathlon.