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.

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