Weeks to the Tremblant Ironman: 26 weeks
This past week I had my longest swim, bike, and run workouts since last summer – a 2500m swim, a 2h20 bike, and a 70 minute run. These distances are a far cry from the actual full distances that I’ll have to complete come August, but it feels good to get some good mileage in this week.
Right now I’m working on staying consistent and not letting my immune system get in the way – this week I was fighting a cold and missed my swim workout with the club, but managed to do my other workouts and even hit my 5 min time trial. I’ll take it!
As I’ve started my training in the last few weeks I have been asked by a few people how they can get started in triathlon. They are interested in the sport but have no idea what they need to do to get started. What equipment do they need? What kind of fitness do they need to have? What kind of distances exist?
I’m going to share some of my answers to the most common questions, all centered around learning to tri and needs vs wants (we all know the sexy triathlon bikes are a draw!):
1. I want to do a triathlon but the Ironman is far too crazy for me. What other options exist?
I sometimes question my desire to complete the full distance Ironman (3.86 km swim, 180.25km bike, 42.2 run) but know that the distance is right for me, at this time. There are however many different distances –
The Sprint – 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run
The Olympic – 1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run
The Half Ironman – 1900m swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run
There are also relay options – love to bike but not swim? Have a friend take on the swim portion and do the bike and run. Or love to run? Try out a relay race with two friends and only do the run. Make a weekend out of it and remember to have fun.
2. I’ve heard that triathlon is a very expensive sport. I love the idea of trying one out, but my budget can’t handle all of the pricey equipment. Any solutions?
Yes! You definitely don’t need too many things to try out a triathlon. And there are many things that you can buy second hand. (Check out this swap next weekend if you’re in Toronto and looking for a good deal on gently used triathlon products: Enduro Sport Swap.)
Here are a few of the needs and wants of triathlon:
Need: Swimsuit/Goggles, Cycling shoes, Helmet, Running shoes + fitness clothing
- Swimsuit: You don’t need anything fancy here. Pick a suit that fits well and that you’re excited to wear. Have you had the same suit for the last 10 years? Maybe it’s time to invest in a fresh one for your training ahead.
- Goggles: Make sure you find a pair that fits well. Try them on outside of the pool and check their fit – do they stay in place without you having to put the elastic around your head?
- Cycling shoes: If you decide to clip into your pedals you will need cycling shoes. Road shoes are generally heavier and more durable, although higher end ones are fairly light. Triathlon shoes can be worn without socks (they have more ventilation) and can be pulled on more easily. What kind of riding do you mostly do? Pick a cycling shoe that fits well, and is within your price range. Don’t be tempted by the $400 carbon fibre shoe… (yet).
- Helmet: Fit here is key. A lighter helmet with plenty of ventilation will also be more comfortable, and aerodynamic helmets exist as well. But most important is a proper fitting helmet that will protect your head. Change your helmet every 3-4 years, and never keep a helmet that was involved in a crash, even if a minor one.
- Running shoes: So many options here. Cushioned or minimalist, pick a shoe that work for you and your terrain. Not sure where to start? Many stores will give you a proper gait analysis and suggest a pair. My favorites right now are New Balance Fresh Foam Zante – cushioned but light, and they make me feel fast!
- Fitness clothing: Whatever fits well and keeps you cool – both in temperature and in style. I’m a big fan of colorful fun fitness wear and am fortunate to have a sister in law who runs her own great athleisure apparel studio, Cardio Glow. Thanks Kathleen for all the great clothing!
Want: Wetsuit, Aero bars (if you want to add them to your road bike), triathlon bike, triathlon shoes, power meters, triathlon watch, the list goes on.
- Wetsuit: Prices range from $200 to $1000+. A more expensive suit will fit more closely to your body, and provide buoyancy and flexibility, allowing a greater range of motion, and an easier and smoother pull. My advice? Rent an entry level wetsuit for your first race. Then, if you see yourself doing a minimum of a few triathlons (regardless of distance), invest in a good quality wetsuit. Skip the first entry level model and get the second tiered suit, or something a touch higher quality. This way you start off the race with a comfortable suit and your stroke will benefit too. Look at the suits that start around $350+. Don’t forget that you can also buy wetsuits second hand – just double check that there are no holes or tears.
- Aero bars: If you choose to get aero bars make sure to have a professional check on the new fit of your bike. Your body will be positioned differently when leaning down on the bars, and you will likely have to get used to a new fit. Reserve about $175-$350 for the bars, when bought new.
- Triathlon bike: Triathlon bikes are beneficial when doing longer distance races, especially if they are flat courses. Planning to do a half and/or a full distance Ironman? Look into entry level bikes and consider possibly getting a second hand bike. Many triathletes upgrade their bikes once they realize how much they love triathlon and so it’s worth checking out some second hand options while you are looking into triathlon/time trial bikes. Triathlon bikes are approximately $2,000 and up, but often heavily discounted if used.
- Power meters: If you’re a metric focused athlete who wants to have a way to measure fitness and effort (and have some money to spare) getting a power meter might be a good idea. Knowing how much power you are generating can mean that you are exerting yourself consistently when riding varied terrains and distances, meaning that your legs and lungs will be stronger for the run portion of the race. Generally speaking power meters start at around $1,200.
- Watches: My watch is a triathlon specific watch – the Garmin 735xt – and it’s been awesome to have in the last couple of months. Do you need a triathlon watch? No, you can track your workouts in a diary and follow a plan and do well. After all, it’s all about putting in the time. That said, I do find having a watch helpful and so would recommend that you start training without one first and then research options if you feel like your training would benefit from the additional feedback/tracking that the watch can provide. A GPS running watch can set you back $200 and fancier ones are closer to $600-700. Here too you can buy second hand, just be sure that the battery life is long enough for your race distance and time.
- Wetsuit – You can rent a wetsuit for around $50 for 4 days and then usually put that $50 towards a purchase in the future.
- Road bike – You can rent a road bike for your race – but make sure to rent it at least once before race day to get a feel for it. Also make sure that you know some basic bike maintenance so that you can change a flat tire, or adjust your saddle.
- Cycling shoes – If you are trying out a shorter distance race and you have access to a bike and cycling shoes that fit, then give them a try (make sure you know how to clip in and out of the pedals). That said, you can most definitely do a shorter distance race with running shoes and flat pedals. You can also take your mountain bike or hybrid bike to most races – just be sure to double check that you are allowed to use the bike so that you’re not surprised the morning of the race, and left without a bike!
3. I’m a fairly fit/unfit individual – how do I pick the right training plan?
It’s important for you to be fairly realistic when it comes to planning out your training. Although my plan right now consists of two workouts per sport, per week, start out with one swim, one bike, and one run per week – fit in some cross training and general activity (walk/bike to work) too. Include recovery weeks – I take every fourth week off as a recovery week (this next week for instance! woot woot!) when I still complete the workouts but they are shortened and less intense. Lastly, pick a race that allows you to train properly and patiently. Do not plan to train for an Ironman in two months. Know your abilities and choose wisely.
4. I’m a really strong swimmer but I don’t know if I’m weaker at cycling or running. How do I decide which sports to focus on most?
Biking is my weakest sport, without a doubt. I have come to realize that in order to be successful at my Ironman race I have to become a stronger cyclist. Does that mean that I can take it easy on the swim or the run? Of course not. My swim needs a lot of work too, but I enjoy it, and I am more motivated to stay in the pool than I am to train on an indoor trainer. I also love to run, but I can certainly become a stronger and faster runner. All this to say that you should make an inventory of your stronger and weaker sports – which do you enjoy most, and which require work? When life gets busy and you need to skip a workout (it happens to the best of us) try and get a quality workout in your weaker sport. You’ll thank me come race day!
5. None of my friends are interested in doing a triathlon this summer but I need the extra support and accountability. What can I do?
Having the right support system is so important. Even if none of your close friends or family members want to try a triathlon with you, you can easily find others in your area to join in on the fun. Here are a few ways to make new tri friends:
- Join a club – I’m a member of the Toronto Triathlon Club and have met so many fellow triathletes through my membership. We’ve sweated it out together at bike studios, motivated each other to hit the pool deck for workouts, and trained together in Collingwood, Muskoka, and Tremblant. If you’re more of a cyclist you can join a cycling club or a running club too. Often times you’ll meet athletes who like a challenge and they might be keen to register for a triathlon too!
- Follow triathletes on social media – I’m fairly visible on social media and try to inspire others to lead healthy and active lives. I also love to follow other triathletes – both amateurs and professionals – to get a dose of motivation delivered to my phone. Some of my favorite accounts to follow? @gwenjorgensen, @mirindacarfrae, @linseycorbin, @IronmanTri, @paula_findlay, and @janfrodeno.
6.What’s all this talk of triathlon having a fourth or fifth sport?
You might have heard that there are many other parts to the triathlon race, that it’s not only a swim, bike, and run race. That is in fact true. You have to learn about transitions, about nutrition, and you have to learn a lot about time management. All in all these new challenges are exciting and help you grow as an athlete and an individual. Don’t feel scared to take them on. Follow my lead by taking it one day, and one workout, at a time.
7. This seems like a sport for the young, is it not?
No, not at all. More and more age ranges exist in triathlon. Simply put, you are never too old to tri.
And so, although it may seem daunting to commit to tri this season, if you break down the steps needed to see that finish line you’ll quickly notice that you can in fact do it. Find a goal that motivates you and works for your schedule, take an inventory of the people and the equipment who will help you get there, and start putting in the work. Be consistent and remember to have fun.
Are you a newbie? Have any other questions about the sport? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll answer or point you in the right direction.
Until next week,
Animas Canada has graciously chosen to support me with the Dexcom CGM and the Animas Vibe Insulin Pump as I train for and race Ironman Tremblant. I believe in full transparency and appreciate that Animas Canada does not review or approve my blog posts. They want me to share my honest experience with the device. I am also fortunate enough to have been chosen to be a Diabetes Sports Project Champion. Learn more about their great work here. As always, all opinions and posts are purely my own