We rejoin the triathlon journey at the start of my first Century, or 100-mile bike ride—I didn’t say “race” because for me, it wasn’t—or at least it didn’t start out that way. The ride, held to raise money for the American Lung Association, was from DC to Williamsburg, and I participated with other bikers from the consulting firm where I worked part-time. In other words, I was part of a “team” and wore the company colors.
The ride was exhilarating. And best of all, at the end of the day, I had come in third from a field of roughly 200 bikers. Granted, they weren’t hard core bikers, nary a one of them; some even had baskets on their handlebars, but still I HAD been fast and now had tasted the elixir of competition. I was poised to take it up a notch.
After that first Century and realizing that biking could not completely satisfy my workout fix, since I’d never only done just one thing, I started to be wooed by triathlon. At the library, I checked out every book they had on the subject, including “Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals,” and got the idea that I could really do this. I went online and soaked up everything I could find about triathlon events, coaches, clothes, equipment (ah, the equipment), and training strategies. So armed, I began my training. Myself.
The problem with training on your own is that you never know if you’re really doing the right thing, or if the advice you’re following is the right advice. As with all things, triathlon elicits an ocean of advice and approaches, much of which lay in opposition. So you always wonder—as you’re running, biking, and swimming your body to daily exhaustion—whether you’re moving in the direction of total fitness or courting an injury or heart attack. Luckily, the latter didn’t happen, but something else did—stasis. I wasn’t getting anywhere, working hard but not getting better. Then one day, I noticed an online ad for a 1-day triathlon workshop in Woodbridge, VA, to be held at my very own hometown gym. I couldn’t resist—a decision that would transform my training from random to rational.
My eventual and erstwhile triathlon coach (we met at the workshop) was an 8-time Ironman who loved the sport. His enthusiasm was palpable, as was his dedication to help me become more competitive. (BTW, one great thing about triathlon is that you only compete with those in your age group, divided into 5-year increments.) Every 2 weeks, my tri trainer would send me a schedule, which looked like some version of the following:
He’d often include “coach’s notes” and offer me tips and insider knowledge in emails, always there to answer my questions.
I will never forget winning my first piece of triathlon “hardware”—had to go all the way to Buffalo Springs Lake in Lubbock, Texas, for that one! It was only a “sprint” (defined below), but still…I was hooked for life.
My husband and I have even talked about signing up for various sprints in our older age (that’s him, left), tracking down races in different cities across the country, combining tri and travel. One of these days, perhaps, though coaching turns out to be even more fun!
Here are some definitions and links for more info, if you’d like to delve more into triathlon as a potential hobby.
Definitions: there are basically four types of triathlons, based on distances. They are:
- Sprint distance: 750 meters (0.47 mi) swim, 20 km (12 mi) bike, 5 km (3.1 mi) run
- Olympic (Intermediate or Standard) distance:1.5 km (0.93 mi) swim, 40 km (25 mi) bike, 10 km (6.2 mi) run
- Half Ironman (Long Course): 1.9 km (1.2 mi) swim, 90 km (56 mi( bike, 21.1 km (13.1 mi) run,
- Ironman (Ultra Distance): 3.9 km (2.4 mi) swim, 180 km (112 mi) bike, and a full marathon: 42.2 km (26.2 mi) run
For more information, on triathlon training:
And for schedules of tri races in your city:
Finally, the sport’s official governing body:
Keep moving! – Jen Katt