I was supposed to have a triathlon seminar for interested folks last night where I work, but only one person showed up. But, that’s ok! This lady had hiked the ENTIRE Appalachian Trail a few years ago, so she and I shared our experiences (my triathlons and her hiking).
Since I went through all the trouble of coming up with notes, I thought I would share them here. Enjoy!
Q: What is a triathlon?
A: Wikipedia defines it as “A triathlon is a multiple-stage competition involving the completion of three continuous and sequential endurance disciplines.” Most of the time, a triathlon consists of three legs: Swimming, Biking, and Running. There are triathlons that consist of some type of boating in place of the swimming.
Q: In what order are the events completed?
A: Swimming comes first, followed by biking, and the run is last. Sometimes, you swim in an open water area (like a lake or ocean), but some races hold the swim event in a pool. Biking and running can be on the road or on a trail.
Q: How long is each leg of the event?
A: The most common triathlon distance for beginners is the “Sprint” distance. It normally consists of a ½ mile swim, 12.5 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run (5K). The Olympic distance triathlon is double those distances in each leg. An Ironman race is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run (yikes!!!).
Q: Where do you change your clothes between each leg of the event?
A: Most of the time, you don’t really change clothes. Most folks where a one piece triathlon suit for all three events. Or, you can wear your swim suit and then add more clothes after you get out of the water. When you start biking, you’re wet, but you dry off relatively quickly (until you start sweating!).
Q: What is the “transition area”?
A: That’s the area where you transition between each event. Once you leave the water, you go to your bike that is set up and ready for riding. Before the race, you are allowed to enter the transition area and set up your bike and running gear.
Q: Is it expensive?
A: Participating in triathlons can be expensive if you let it, but you can keep it economical if you choose. For my first race, I borrowed my dad’s mountain bike. It was harder than having my own road bike, but I wanted to make sure I liked the sport before investing in a bike of my own. Besides a bike, all you really need are shoes, goggles, and a swim suit. You can borrow a wet suit or wait until warmer weather so you don’t need to wear a suit at all.
The entry fees can be expensive, but normally the earlier you register, the cheaper they are. You can normally race for as low as $50 per event, but if you wait till the last minute, you could pay $80 or more.
You can get a membership to the USAT (USA Triathlon) for around $35 per year, but normally I just pay the $10 race day fee if I only plan to do one or two events each year. The yearly membership includes things like a magazine subscription, but I’ve never signed up.
Q: How do I train for a race?
A: Practice each sport – swimming, biking and running. I have some sample training plans in this packet to help you out. I’ve realized that being a competitive triathlete keeps me fit because I have events to train for. If you haven’t been active before, start slow and work your way up. Consult your physician before starting any exercise plan if you’ve been sedentary (not exercising).
Q: What is a “brick”?
A: A brick is when you run after biking during a training session. It’s called that because your feet feel like bricks weighing your legs down! However, after you get into running, your legs feel better. The first quarter mile or so is hard after you’ve ridden your bike for a while, but you can do it!
Q: What is a “wave”?
A: The swimming is started in waves of people grouped normally by gender and/or category. Most of the time, the young males go first because they are the fastest. Then, a few minutes later, another wave starts. Sometimes, there are 4 to 5 waves of swimmers. This keeps everyone from getting jammed up in the turns and is easier for the lifeguarding folks to make sure no one goes under unnoticed. If it’s a pool swim, then normally folks start one at a time.
Q: What’s a typical race day like?
A: I normally get up early (probably 5 or 6 am) so I can get to the race site at least an hour early. Even though I’m going to be jumping in the lake, I normally take a shower to wake myself up. Once I get to the race site, I go pick up my packet (if I didn’t the day before), get my body markings, and set up my transition area. After that’s all set, I always warm up by jogging or swimming a bit. Then, I get ready and race!
Q: What are body markings?
A: Before the race, you have to take your race number that is assigned to you and let folks take permanent markers and mark you up with your number. This makes sure that you clear all check points and it also ensures that someone doesn’t steal your bike when you remove it from the transition area (only the biker with the corresponding number is supposed to remove the bike after the race). Normally, I wear my markings until they naturally fade (sometimes a week, even with reguarl showering)…it’s kind of neat when people ask you why you have numbers on your legs and arms. Most of the time, your age is marked on your calf and your race number is on your thighs and arms. BUT, if you want to make it come off faster, rubbing alcohol takes it right off.
Q: Why did you become a triathlete?
A: My friend asked me to do a triathlon with her back in 2004. I told her she was crazy! She convinced me that I could do it, even though I didn’t know how to properly swim. So, I practiced and trained for a few months. My first race was the Smith Mountain Lake sprint the first weekend in May. It took me almost 2 hours to complete and it was hard, but after that, I was hooked! My friend never did another triathlon again (ironic, huh?).
Q: What races have you participated in?
A: I can’t remember the years for each event, but these are the races I remember competing in:
- SmithMountainLake Sprint – I’ve done it 4 or 5 years. It’s a great race, but the water is cold (the lake is about 60 degrees). I recommend a wetsuit if you plan to do this race (normally the first weekend in May).
- Bath County/Lake MooMaw Sprint – I did it once and really liked it. The water is warmer since it’s in late June. I plan to do that race again this year on June 22.
- SheRox Sprint – This was an all women event held in Charlotte, NC. I liked it a lot, but I don’t think they’ve held it again.
- Boone, NC – I did a sprint triathlon there one year and liked it. It was a longer swim, and I think the bike was 20 miles, with a 5 mile run. It was hard, but it was beautiful country. The first and only time I’ve ever been chased by dogs in a race!
- Claytor Lake Sprint – I did this race last September and really liked it. Plus, it’s local so you don’t have to stay the night anywhere the night before.