Tuesday, May 11, 2010

T1 - The First Transition (Sometimes called the "Forth Leg" of the Triathlon)

One of the things that makes Triathlon unique, is the transition; transitioning from one component to the next.  Most people new to Triathlon do not realize how important it is to focus on these  transitions.

When you come of the water, you are a bit disoriented, your heart rate is a bit high, your nervous system has to now adapt from being immersed into a liquid to standing upright.  Sometimes I think that the creators of Triathlon courses are cruel,  they might put a 600m run from the swim to the bike UP-HILL!!!   

Ok, so what do you do??

  1. Train for T1: about once a week ( if possible because of weather), swim at least 400m and then go for a little run. If not possible then start doing this as soon as you can before your races.
  2. When running, use small-little steps, take deep breaths.
  3. Start unzipping the wet suit and bring it down to the waist while running.
Now that you are used to getting from swimming to the transition area, let us talk a little bit about this.  This is where you have you bike racked and hopefully you remember where you racked it.  My memory is really bad, and I have been known to wonder around aimlessly looking for my stuff; 10 minute transition, shameful!

Now what I do is put a towel down that is a crazy colour, so it is easy to recognize.

Setting up the T1 Transition.
If you plan right, this transition will be very easy.   So we will go through these few steps:
  1. Rack the bike either by the seat of the handlebars, ensure that the bike is in an easy gear before you rack it.
  2. Put the helmet on the handle bars or seat (this is the first thing that you will put on in the transition area).
  3. Set out a funky coloured towel and put your, running shoes, gels, bars, sunglasses, sunblock, and anything else your will need.
  4. Ensure that you have your bottles of water already in the cages in your bike.  I also tape a gel to the cross tube of my bike, so that I could get a quick zip of energy to start the bike.
Once that is setup you are ready to rip.  Once you come into the transition area, put your helmet on immediately, take off your wet suit, put on your cycling shoes (I did not want to be too complicated, and have you have the shoes already clipped in, this is a bit advanced and needs special shoes); remember to clear the shoes for insects.  I did a duathlon, and forget to do this and soundly squished a few caterpillars  in both my shoes, that definitely was not fun.  

Un-rack you bike and run to the transition line (this is the line that you need to cross before mountain your bike, officials tend to get a bit testy if you hit this line riding at full speed), move a bit to the side, so that you don't block up the zone, mount the bike, clip in and away you ride.

If there is one thing that you take aways from this:  "Training should mirror the race."  This way race day is not different from a training day.  Train for the transitions, and during race day they are easy and save time.

This does not apply to an Ironman and Half Ironman as much, these races are so long, that a super quick transition is not as important.  But for the Spring and Olympic the transition is key.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How Do I know If I Can Do a Triathlon?

One of the reasons I am a coach,  is that I love helping people achieve more than they ever thought was possible.   I meet lots of people that think you have to be a super athlete to even attempt a triathlon.  You just have to go to any Triathlon and see the incredible variety of people, all ages, shapes and sizes, completing and competing in this wonderful sport.  Almost everyone can participate, it just takes a little planning.

One of the first things that I do, is to go through a process that helps figure out, "How much time do I have to train during the week?"

In order to do this I have them fill out the following spreadsheet:

Instructions Enter in the estimated time for  the different categories for the week.  
    Job:                           The hours you spend working a week.
    Preparing for Job:      How much time a week you spend preparing for your job
    Sleep:                         How many hours you sleep a week
    Eating:                       The time you spend actually sitting down to eat a week
    Travel:                        How much time you spend commuting to and from work a week
    Shopping:                   How many hours a week you spend running errands and grocery shopping
    Time with Family:       How much time you spend with family a week.
    Social Functions:        Time spent going to movies, dates, dinners, etc.
    Home Maintenance:    Stuff you do around the house, or time a week spending on hobbies.
    Relaxation:                  Yoga, meditation, massage, spa time spent for the week.

Job (Working)

Preparing for Job



Travel (Commute time)

Shopping (Grocery, errands, etc.)

Time with family

Social Functions

Home maintenance/hobbies

Relaxation and lost time (yoga etc)

Time to Train

Once the information is filled out, the spreadsheet subtracts the total from 168 hours; the remainder tells how much time is left over for training.

Each one of the triathlon distances take a different commitment.  For example to do a Sprint Triathlon, you need only about 5 hours a week of training to complete it.  Most people can absorb that time into their schedule, but Half Ironman and Ironman you need 15-35 hours a week of training.  Our next step is to see when and where the races so that we can plan the start of the training and the setting of SMART goals.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Step 1: Swimming

A Triathlon consists of swimming, followed, by biking, followed by running.  The distances are Sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman, Ironman, and Double Ironman.

Sprint:                  750m swim, 20km bike, and 5km run
Olympic:              1500m swim, 40km bike, and a 10km run.
Half Ironman:      2000m swim, 90km bike, and a 21km (half marathon) run
Ironman:              4000m swim, 180km bike, and a 42km (marathon) run
Double Ironman: 8000m swim, 360km bike, and 84km run

It seems daunting, but as Confucius said "the longest journey begins with the first step".  Swimming, though it is the shortest component of a triathlon can be the most challenging, especially if you are not used to a mass start.

I strongly suggest finding a good coach in your area, and start swimming.  The 3 most important things in swimming are:

  1. Proper body alignment of head and spine
  2. A strong and powerful roll
  3. A high elbow catch
If you are able to practice these things, then your swimming will be effortless and you will have lots of energy as you come out of the water.  It is better to take your time and get this right, before you do meters and meters of swimming.  I personally find the Total Immersion system very good, especially for beginners and recommend it very highly.  

Once you are comfortable in the water, there are some Triathlon specific things that you need to know:
  • Using a wetsuit (taking it on, off and swimming in it);
  • Sighting, practice looking where you are going when in open water;
  • Drafting, a mass water start is very scary but if you can draft, swimming is a lot easier;
  • Running after swimming, in many triathlons there is a long run to the bike transition area (T1), so you need to get used to this.
There are many organizations that give this training, at Les Trois Sports, we have 8 weeks swimming sessions in the Spring and Fall where we cover these specific skills.