tip: When returning to running, the number of workouts you complete each week is more important than how far or how long you run.
Hi friends! This week’s post for my Are You Ready to Tri? Series is Triathlon 101.
One of my favorite aspects of triathlons is the atmosphere and the people. I’ve found that triathletes are some of the kindest and most approachable people I’ve ever met. If you are new to the triathlon scene, seasoned triathletes always seem more than happy to answer any questions you may have or offer advice to help you have a great triathlon experience. I think that part of the reason for this friendly atmosphere is that triathletes are not experts. We all have our strong event and our weak event. My strongest/favorite aspect of triathlon is the biking portion and my weakest/least favorite portion is the swimming leg. But most of all, I just think triathletes are genuinely awesome people! 🙂
There are several different triathlon distances. The most common distances include; sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman and Full Ironman. There are super sprints and Ultraman Triathlons as well. The distances for a sprint triathlon are typically as follows; 750 metres (0.47 mi) swim, 20 kilometres (12 mi) bike, 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) run. An Olympic triathlon (also known as intermediate or standard distance) consists of; 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) swim, 40 kilometres (25 mi) bike, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) run. A Half Ironman is; 1.2 miles (1.9 km) swim, 56 miles (90 km) ride, 13.1 miles (21.1 km) run. A Full Ironman is the longest of traditional triathlon races and is the following distances; 2.4 miles (3.9 km) swim, 112 miles (180 km) ride, and a full marathon: 26.2 miles (42.2 km) run.
Triathlons are not necessarily restricted to these prescribed distances. Distances can be any combination of distance set by race organizers to meet various distance constraints or to attract a certain type of athlete.
In order to participate in a triathlon, an athlete is required to register and sign up for the actual race, usually this is done in advance but sometimes athletes can register the day of the race.
On race morning you will have to check in and pick up your swag bag and your race number, colored swim cap, and a timing chip. Volunteers will write your race number, age and distance on your arms and legs. The timing chip typically goes around your ankle. There will also be a bib number that you can either attach to a race belt or pin on your clothes as well as a number for your bike.
After registration is complete you should set up your transition area. athletes will generally be provided with a bike rack to hold their bicycle and a small section of ground space for shoes, clothing, etc. In a point to point triathlon, there are two transition areas, one for the swim/bike change, then one for the bike/run change at a different location.
Once you’ve got your transition area set up it is time to head to the pre-race meeting where athletes will be briefed on details of the course and rules.
The swimming leg is the first part of your triathlon experience. There are three types of swimming starts. The first type of start is the mass start. This is when all triathletes run into the water at the same time. In my experience this type of start has the most potential to cause swimmers to panic. Wave starts are more common in shorter races where a large number of amateur athletes are competitors. In wave start events smaller groups of athletes begin the race every few minutes. The final type of start is time trial starts, where athletes enter the water one at a time, a few seconds apart.
The swim course is usually marked off by buoys. There are kayaks and life guards out on the water for safety purposes. If you begin to panic or need to rest, you may stop if you need to without penalty. You may not use the kayak to assist in forward motion however. Make sure you wear the swim cap provided for the race, this will help make you visible to safety personnel.
After you exit the water you will enter transition one (T1). In T1 you will remove your wetsuit (if you are wearing one), cap, and goggles and pull on your helmet and cycling shoes. Make sure that you put on your helmet before you get on your bike!!
Remember, transition times count towards your overall race time, so you want to transition as quickly as possible.
After T1 it’s time for the cycling portion of the triathlon. Typically the cycling portion is on public roads and not closed to traffic. However, there is usually traffic control in place to help control traffic. The cycling portion of triathlon is my favorite! I would recommend that prior to race day you take your bike to the local bike shop to ensure everything is in working order and safe. I highly suggest that you have a seat bag with repair kit just in case you get a flat tire. It would be in your best interest to learn how to change a tire and practice before race day.
Once you’ve completed the cycling portion of the race, it’s off to transition two (T2). After getting off your bike you will enter the transition area, rack your bicycle, and quickly change into running shoes before heading out for the final stage.
There may be aid stations on the bike and run portions of the race, typically this consists of water or energy drinks. For longer distance triathlons there may be other food available such as coke, gummi bears, energy gels, etc.
The race ends once you cross the finish line! Typically there is a post-race party for all athletes. The celebrations vary from race to race but normally there are refreshments such as food and adult beverages. I’ve been to events where there was a band and raffles and other triathlon themed activities.
Next week I will talk about how to train for a triathlon.
Do you have any questions about triathlons? Anything in particular you would like to see addressed in more detail?
The triathlon season is quickly approaching! Are you ready to tri? Every Monday starting on April 1st I am going to be blogging about triathlons. This series is designed to provide encouragement and education for athletes that are interested in running a triathlon or have ran a triathlon and would like to enhance their knowledge of the sport.
Here is what I will be covering:
- Culture of Triathlon/Multisport
- Race layout
- Race Day
Training for a Triathlon
- Endurance/form/strength triad
- Generic training
- Specific Training
How to Get to the Start Line… Healthy
- Swim Technique
- Cycling Technique
- Run Technique
- Putting it all together
- Getting mentally ready
- Tapering training for a race
- What to expect at a triathlon
Sunday March 10, 2013 I ran my first half marathon as part of the Polar Bear Series through the local YMCA. I felt ready. I followed a half marathon training plan since December 2012. I cross-trained, I strength trained. I felt mentally and physically prepared for the race. Then the Sunday before the race during my long run I began to have some pain in my right foot, so I took the week before the race off from running and only went to spin class and worked out on the elliptical trainer. By Thursday I was virtually pain free and my confidence was back that I would be able to race on Sunday.
That Saturday night my youngest daughter vomited during the night and I only got four hours of sleep. I lost an hour of sleep to daylight savings time and I woke up worried that my lack of sleep would affect my ability to put forth my best effort in the race. I went ahead and prepared to race anyhow, telling myself not to worry, that I would do great.
I had a pre-race bagel with peanut butter and a banana along with an energy drink (just in case!) I put 5 pitted dates in my pocket for during the race fuel, my plan was to eat one at miles 3, 6, 9 and 12 plus an extra if I felt I needed it. I debated wearing my fuel belt, but decided against it.
We headed over to the race site and picked up our bib numbers about 30 minutes before the race. I got myself ready and warmed up a bit. It was a beautiful day, mid-50s and sunny, perfect running weather! About two minutes before the race was supposed to start I realized I had forgotten to put on my IT band strap but there wasn’t enough time to run back to the car and grab it so I decided to just run without it. I hadn’t been having issues lately so felt that I would be okay.
3, 2, 1 and we’re off! I felt good at the start of the race, I had run the course before and knew what to expect as far as turns, etc. I felt confident and began to pick out people that I wanted to catch and pass to keep me going and focused. I was keeping a good steady pace of about 9 minutes per mile and was feeling confident that I was going to meet my goal of finishing in 2 hours. I grabbed some water at the first station, mile 4, and ate a date.
Around miles 5-6 I saw the leaders heading back to the start/finish and knew that the turnaround was at mile 7. Sometime between seeing the leaders and getting to the turn around I began to feel twinges in my right IT band. I quickly stretched a bit on the side of the road and kept going. I got to the turn around at 57 minutes, still on pace to run the 6 miles back and finish in 2 hours.
By mile 8 or so I had to stop and stretch out my right leg/knee again, the pain was sharper and more intense. My husband caught up to me and stopped to ask if I was okay and should he stay with me? I waved him on to go ahead and finish the race at his own pace. I tried to keep running but it got to be more and more difficult, by mile 9 I was alternating walking, stretching and trying to jog a bit. I knew by now that there was no way I was making my goal. Now all I wanted to do was finish the race. I had completely lost sight of my husband. People began to pass me, lots of people.
There were several times during those last 3-4 miles that I felt like just giving up. I thought there was no way I would make it back to the finish. My knee hurt an unbelievable amount, but I kept going. Walk, stretch, try to jog a few feet, stretch, walk again. I ate my dates. I stopped at the water stations where the people handing out water cups shouted words of encouragement like, “Almost there, 2 miles to go!” Those two miles felt like 200, but I persevered.
I caught up to a young man who has done all the races (and happens to be a client where I work) and we commiserated about our injuries (he had a hamstring issue going on) and jogged together for miles 11 & 12. He managed to get another burst of energy and ran the final half mile to the finish. At mile 13 I pushed myself to run the final 0.1 mile to the finish line. Once across I collapsed to the ground in agony.
My official 1st half marathon time was 2:23:33 hours. I was very disappointed in myself that I had failed to meet my goal after all my training and hard work. On the other hand I was proud of myself for having finished a half marathon even though I was injured.
After the race there was Gatorade, water, pizza, pretzels and Newton’s available. I had made my Blueberry Chia Blaster Smoothie and drank that instead.
There was an awards ceremony after everyone had crossed the finish line. Everyone who had run and finished all 4 races of the Polar Bear Series was given a medal.
I went to my primary doctor the next day. She sent me for x-rays and referred me to a sports medicine doctor. I saw the sports medicine doctor on Wednesday. He diagnosed me with Iliotibial Band Tendonitis and Peroneal Insertional Tendonitis. I was prescribed anti-inflammatories and physical therapy 3 times per week for the next four weeks. Doc said that if PT clears me I may be allowed to begin low-impact exercise such as swimming or the recumbent bike in 2 weeks. I go back for a follow up with the sports medicine doctor in mid-April.
To say I’m bummed out is putting it mildly. I do not sit still well. I’m the kind of person who feels guilty and restless when I take one day off from working out. I don’t know what 2-4 weeks will do to me. It will probably drive my family crazy! My fear is that all the gains I’ve made will be lost. I’m worried I will put on a bunch of weight and lose cardio fitness. I don’t have a game plan yet, but perhaps I can still do some yoga or kettlebells or have Jillian Michaels kick my ass using her 6 weeks 6 pack DVD that’s collecting dust. We’ll see.
Check out my other races on the Herbivore Triathlete Race Results Page
Previous Races in 2013: Polar Bear Series 5K & Polar Bear Series 10K & Polar Bear Series 10 Miles
Next Race: Allegany Adventure Run 6K-May 4, 2013 (Trail Run)