Sure the iconic triathlon — Kona Ironman in Hawaii — is a much lengthier endeavor at a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run, but for most people those distances are too daunting, too difficult, and the training too time consuming to even consider.
However, the shorter, sprint-distance triathlon is doable for competitors seeking a multi-sport challenge. Most people find that after completing a few sprint triathlons, they are ready for a little bit more of a challenge, such as an Oly (Olympic distance) with a 1-mile swim, 26-30 mile bike and 10k run (6.2 miles).
According to the USA Triathlon (USAT) website, triathlon participation in the United States is at an all-time high, following unprecedented growth during the last decade.
Who are these athletes?
And why do they choose a sport many consider risky? USAT lists several reasons which include “looking for varied outlets for fitness, ego reward of saying ‘you are a triathlete’ and growth in number of total races across the country, making it easier to get to.”
If you’ve ever considered a triathlon, what’s your holdup? Now is a great time to start training for a late summer competition. Just pick an event and go for it!
How do you get started training?
For most people, the swim is the “scary” leg of the event. It’s generally the first leg of the tri because you don’t want to be swimming when you’re tired — you can pedal slower and run slower, but if you swim too slow … Well, there comes a point when you’re no longer swimming, but sinking. Not good.
Concentrate your training on your weakest link. If it is the swim, go to one of the local pools, like the YMCA or Anniston PARD Aquatic Center, and hire a teacher or coach to design a program to get you ready.
If your weakest event is the bike, try to get in three or four training rides a week with features similar to your event. Is it hilly? Flat? Mimic that in your training. Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association holds weekly training rides.
If the run is your nemesis, spend a little time pounding the pavement or trails in our area. Anniston Runners Club can guide you to local weekly training runs.
How does a triathlon work?
Competitors arrive at the staging area of the event, usually a parking lot, and set up bike and run gear in a designated spot that will serve as the transition area — the point where they’ll transition from one leg of the triathlon to the next.
As stated, the swim is generally first. Once athletes complete that leg, they run from the lake, river or pool to the transition area, lay down their swim gear (goggles, cap) and transition to the bike. Rules require all competitors to wear a helmet.
After returning from the bike route, athletes re-rack their bikes, remove their helmets and begin the running leg of the competition. The transition times between swim and bike and then bike and run are called T1 and T2, respectively.
How do you choose an event?
There are many triathlons within a short drive of our area. If this is your first event, you may want to choose one later in the summer to give you plenty of time to train. One of popular competition is Team Magic’s Mountain Lakes Sprint Triathlon in Guntersville on Saturday, Aug. 10. Team Magic’s events are always well-managed and fun.
Triathlon is a great sport that will increase endurance and add new dimensions to your fitness. And whatever triathlon you decide on, decide to have fun.
Q&A with Anniston Runners Club’s Tri Team Director: Angie Bryant
Bryant serves as a tri team director for Anniston Runners Club’s blossoming triathlon competitors, along with friend and training partner, Michele Butler. Bryant took a few minutes to answer some basic questions about triathlons.
Q: What is the best advice you ever received about doing a triathlon?
A: To race your race. Trust your training. Relax, breathe and have fun.
Q: What surprised you most about doing triathlons?
A: That I have not stopped training and racing since my first one in 2010.
Q: What scared you the most about doing your first tri?
A: Everything! My mind started going crazy the night before. Was I going to drown in the open-water swim? What happens if I can’t find my bike in the transition area? Wonder if I’ll get a flat on the bike course? Are my legs going to be able to run three miles?
Q: How did you handle those fears?
A: To overcome what scared me was to finish. Then my mind relaxed and I started to think, What was I so worried about, and when is the next one?
Q: What is your best advice to a new triathlete?
A: Ask questions. If you don’t know or are unsure about something, then ask a triathlete, go to your local bike shop, or Google it. Everyone was a newbie at some point.