Triathlon Tips ….

Lots of new people are entering the world of Triathlon.  I know it can be scary.  I know you are nervous.  I know that you have questions.  Here are a few tips to get you going and provide a bit of confidence that you really can give it a TRI.

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Overall

  • Start small, pick a non-branded race in the middle of nowhere and give it a TRI.
  • Each race is sanctioned by USAT (USA Triathlon) and will require you to purchase a one day membership, in addition to your registration fee, if you are not already a member.   You may use that one day membership fee as a credit toward an annual membership ($33). 
  • Go to the Athlete’s meeting.  Each race is different and they will give you specific instruction at the meeting as to where they want your race numbers/stickers, where to park, what to expect, and any special instructions regarding course changes.
  • Many triathletes participate for fun and fitness.  They come in all different shapes and sizes and have all different types of gear. 
  • Triathletes are helpful and friendly and are more than willing to give you a few tips if you ask.  Don’t be scared.  Ask.
  • Wear a TRI kit if you have one.  I train and race in my TRI kit so its money well spent in my opinion.  If you don’t own a TRI kit and are reluctant to buy one for your first event, then wear a tight performance wicking top, sport bra without padding (the padding holds water), and a pair of tight fitting “biker” style shorts.  No padded bike shorts or you’ll be collecting water in that gigantic pad and it will feel like a diaper.
  • Get to the race site early to get everything set up to lessen the race day jitters.
  • Allow race officials to mark your body with race number/age.  It’s in the rules.  You can’t do it yourself.
  • Apply sunscreen after body marking.
  • Take it out slow, it’s an endurance event.  Endure it.
  • Enjoy it.

Swim

  • Wetsuits are not required on the swim.  However, if the water is cold or you are nervous, it will help you stay afloat calm.  Wetsuit rentals are available online and at many local multisport stores.  Some stores will even allow you to apply the rental fee toward the cost of a new wetsuit if you decide to go that route after the race.
  • Wetsuits are illegal and will disqualify a participant from age group awards if worn when the water is 76.1 degrees or warmer.  Officials always designate the race as wetsuit “legal” or not.  No guessing, they will tell  you.
  • Goggles are a necessity.  They protect your eyes and help you see in the water if the water is clean and calm.  Consider tinted goggles in case you are swimming into the sun on race morning.
  • Swim caps will be provided by the race officials and it’s required to wear the cap they provide, it will help to identify your age group for the swim wave.  It will also help them determine  how long  you have been in the water and they will keep a careful eye on you if you fall off your wave and are swimming “solo”.
  • Just like with any race, if you know that you might be one of the slower swimmers, start toward the back of your assigned wave.  I like to start mid-pack and toward the side so I have fewer people in the water around me. 
  • Go wide around  the turn buoys to avoid some of the chaos.
  • If you feel someone coming up on you in the swim, possibly even grabbing at your feet, don’t be afraid to give a few kicks to let them know that you are there.  Don’t freak out.  Don’t stop.
  • If you feel crowded and aren’t worried about time as much as a finish, feel free to move to the side,  put you head up and let the crowd move away. 
  • Relax and breathe.  The key is to get out of the water and onto the bike.  I always tell myself that the swim is the easiest part of the day and I try to relax and enjoy the peace and serenity of the water.
  • Just keep swimming.  Don’t worry about how far you have left.  Don’t worry about how fast (or slow) you may be going, just focus on the task at hand and keep swimming until you dig sand with your fingers.  Then stand up and start unzipping your wetsuit (if you are wearing one) and head into transition.

I did a post about transitions last week, so I’m going to skip that for now.  If you want transition tips, please go HERE.

Bike

  • Make sure your bike is racked in an “easy” gear.  You may be going out of transition and heading uphill.  Or maybe your legs will be a bit fatigued from the swim and run into transition.  Start easy, then shift up once you catch your breath.
  • Make sure you fill your tires on race morning.  Who knows what could have happened to the tires while transporting the bike.  Check the tires for good measure.
  • Put the race number/stickers on your bike, either the head/top tube, or the seat post.  You’ll need a number to be visible on both sides of the bike.  This eliminates the need to wear the paper bib while riding.  They may also give you a sticker for your helmet. 
  • Wear a helmet.  It’s a requirement.  Make sure the helmet fits well and doesn’t move around.  This is your only piece of safety equipment on the bike and its very important.
  • Gloves – Optional.  Road bikers wear them but most triathletes won’t because it adds time in transition to put them on.  Totally up to you.  They will help to protect your hands if you fall and reduce the road vibrations while riding.  My recommendation is to skip the gloves and not fall.  Smile
  • Just keep pedaling, even on the downhill.  No coasting.  Shift, pedal and harness as much power as possible on the downhill to boost your speed. 
  • What goes up must go down.  Don’t get discouraged on the uphill because chances are it will be followed by a nice downhill. 
  • Learn to shift.  The gears can make or break a hilly course.  If the course has a lot of hills, a road bike over a TRI bike will benefit you.  TRI bikes don’t climb well.  TRI bikes have less gears than road bikes.
  • Drink up!  The bike portion will be your longest discipline.  Use the opportunity to fuel and hydrate. 
  • Watch for loose gravel, especially on turns.  If you didn’t learn this as a kid, the gravel can take you and all your friends out of the game fast.  Take the turns wide, pay attention to who is around you and yield to those going faster.  Don’t be afraid to lose some speed on the turns in order to stay upright.
  • Keep your “sit” bones pushed back on your seat.  Don’t move around and allow your soft tissue to take a beating.  The seat is wider at the back for a reason.  Your “sit” bones need to be at the back and take the brunt of the bumps of the road.  If I notice my bum getting sore, I push back in my seat and always seem to find that I wasn’t sitting properly in the first place.
  • Don’t be scared by the crazy kids on the fast bikes with disc wheels.  They sound like a train coming up behind you but don’t worry, they will be gone as fast as they appeared.
  • Be prepared to be your own bike support.  If you have a flat, fix it.  Find Step by Step tips to fix a flat HERE.
  • No drafting.  It’s illegal in triathlon.  No exception. 
  • Pass on the left.  Say, “on your left” as you approach to avoid them veering into you for any number of reasons.
  • Mount and dismount the bike at the “mount” line.  There will be volunteers helping to point out the line but know where it is located.  Don’t stop to mount/dismount where there are a lot of other people doing the same because if one person falls in the process, they will “domino” everyone else. 

Run

  • Certainly the most dreaded discipline by some.  I find a lot of triathletes are cyclists who can swim but don’t necessarily like to run.  This is evident by the participants who start by walking the run, then never do run one single step.  So if you need to take a walk break, don’t worry, you’ll be in good company.
  • Yes, your legs will actually feel like “bricks”.  When you get off the bike, plan to be a bit wobbly.  Very normal.  It will work itself out within that first mile.
  • Just keep moving.  Seems simple, right?  It really is simple.  If you feel like you can’t run, take a short walk break and start back up again.  But keep moving.  The longer the distance of the event, the later in the day you will face the run.  The heat will be brutal.  You will feel like crap.  The faster you move thru that run, the faster you can be soaking in the lake.  RUN!
  • Hydrate.  Drink at every water station, dump water on your head if you are feeling warm.  Triathlon brings most of us a very long day.  If you don’t stay hydrated and fueled, you won’t finish.
  • Wear a hat/visor.  Once again, anticipate the run to be hot as hell, hot, hot!  Provide yourself with a little necessary shade.  It will also help keep your head damp and cool if you dump water on your head.
  • Race belt.  You will need your paper number on the run.  It’s easiest if you have a race belt with the number attached and ready to clip on.  If you don’t own a race belt and you are hesitant to purchase one for your first event, some people use their Spi belt and pin the number to that.  Your choice.
  • Be happy.  You’ve  made it to the end of your race.  Run thru the finish shoot and sent out a whooooop of joy, or thanks, or relief.  Regardless, rejoice in the finish and be proud of your accomplishment!

Lots of tips!  What did I miss?  If you can think of something, let us know!

** Don’t Be Scared To TRI ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Swim Analysis….

Well, last night was a totally new experience.  While I have swam my entire life, I don’t lay claim to having any particular skills.  I can swim for a long time but not particularly fast.  I’ve been wanting to take a formal swim “lesson” for well over a year but apparently my work, life, family schedule isn’t very user friendly so it never worked out.  However, last night MJ from TriSmart carved a notch out of her evening to help myself and a friend.

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I won’t say that we were thrilled about going, quite the contrary.  Initially, we were going to swim at the same time that TriSmart had a group swim and this was super intimidating for us.  I have swam with TriSmart before but it wasn’t my fault, we “all” just happened to be at the same pool.  It’s happened multiple times actually and its not fun.  They do workouts and I just swim.  Since their workouts are broken down into shorter segments where they work on one particular skill for a shorter period of time, they get a decent pace going.  And they splash a lot of water around.  And the rocking and rolling of the pool tidal waves make me want to stay as far away from them as possible so that I can “just” swim.  The thought of jumping right into a group session where I was ALSO supposed to be getting individualized instruction, sounded less than ideal.  Fortunately, MJ managed to get us an earlier slot and it was a much more relaxed atmosphere.  Thanks, MJ!

We did a 100 yard (4 lengths of the pool, 25 yard = 1 length) time trial where my lack of swimming really showed in my poor endurance.  I was 10 seconds faster on the first length vs the last.  Oooops.  Sorry about that!   Actually that’s how I run too.  I know, even splits are better.  Boooooo!!!!

We did a 50 yard swim to test efficiency by determining how many strokes it took to get thru one length.  Too many apparently.  Therefore, I need to work on efficiency with the end goal being less strokes to cover the length of the pool verses those I used last night.  How to get more efficient?  Rotate more in the water and get that slipstream going!

We received lots of tips, like I should NOT hold my breath when I swim.   🙂  I don’t think that’s normal for me but I was nervous.  I haven’t been in the pool since August.  Plus, I really was holding my breath and “forgetting” to exhale while I was face down in the water.

I also managed to forget about my “rotation”, a skill that I worked on for probably 6 months prior to my first half ironman in 2008.  I wasn’t reaching far enough and I also was not rotating my body enough in the water.  As soon as it was mentioned, the light bulb popped on…..

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I’ve previous worked on the reach and follow thru for long periods of time.  I would have thought it to be ingrained in my memory but apparently not.  In fact, I’m quite certain that I swam all year last year NOT reaching and NOT following thru with good rotation.  I can see the lack of it here in this video that MJ shot:

I am also bringing my arms too far in front of my body.  She wants them wider so as not to cross motion but continue the motion going forward.  Lots to work on.  Where to start?  Ugh!  The swim analysis comes with a workout so that I can start working on remembering what I “used to”  know and also fix some of the things that I didn’t even know where wrong, like trying to swim with my arms wider in the water.  Lots of fun ahead!

Have you have done a swim analysis?   Would you think about it?  We have a few more months before TRI season really takes off in the Midwest, so now is the time to hit the pool and correct some of the little flaws that might be weighing US down.  🙂

** Happy TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz ** amanda@tootallfritz.com **

Rough Waters……In the Pool?

Now that summer is officially in full swing, the local indoor pools have moved toward summer hours.  This means the  pools are packed all the time when they are open with swim lessons,

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Master Swimmers & Triathletes,

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And then me, trying to find a spot somewhere in between.

swimming cartoon girl

I don’t consider myself to be a “swimmer”, which I’m sure many of you can understand.  How long was it that you were running before you considered yourself a “runner”?  I always say that anyone who runs is  runner regardless of distance or pace.  Therefore, I should probably consider myself a swimmer.  It just seems like such a stretch. 

I’m a triathlete, that I own.  I swim because of triathlon.  When I’m not in season, I don’t go to the pool.  When I’m pregnant, I don’t go to the pool.  When I’m injured which is a rarity, I don’t go to the pool.  I only go to the pool when I’m in season and trust me, I’ll push it off as looooooong as possibly before I haul myself in for a workout.  I don’t dislike swimming, it’s just inconvenient.  I can’t do it at home and I have to physically go somewhere, during hours which they are open, in order to participate.  Not easy.  I am heading to work when most people are meeting for an “early”  5:30 or 6am run or swim.  The pool doesn’t even open before I have to start showering and getting ready for work, so I have to steal time out of my day to make it happen. 

Yesterday, I stole time from the family, hit the pool when it reopened at 5pm and squeezed into a lane between a couple Michael Phelps looking fellows,

michael-phelps      michael-phelps_swimming

a normal looking dude swimming with a pull buoy, 4 ladies doing their exercises and about 50 kiddos who were conquering swim lessons.   Wow, was it rough in that pool.  I have swam in calmer waters during triathlon races in rain & thunderstorms.  The Phelps Brothers were tearing up the water, spitting water, kicking water and creating a current that felt slightly like an undertow.  Mr. Pull Buoy was swimming faster when he was actually swimming with is pull buoy than I can swim in a race.  He was even doing flip turns with that thing and making a good amount of commotion in his lane as well.  The noise from the coaches, the whistles, the kids was deafening.  I had water hitting my back coming from countless directions but I just kept swimming (say that again in Dory’s voice from Finding Nemo cuz that’s how I hear it in my head).  I just kept focusing on counting my laps.  And I just kept swimming and counting.  Pretty much all of the normal things I focus on like reaching, being smooth, breathing, etc. all of that was eliminated last night as it took 100% focus to just keep count and swim.  I did that for 88 laps, non-stop.  I assumed I was slower than the nice calm swim I had with Susan the other day but was surprised to see upon completion that I was actually faster.  48 minutes for 1.2 miles.  No flip turns for this non-fish, non-masters swimmer…….I just keep swimming.  And apparently, “just” swimming has its own benefits when one settles into a routine.

I’m feeling good.  I’ll never be able to keep up with the fasties in the pool but I know I can “just keep swimming” for as long as it takes to get out of the water.  At the end of the day, I’m okay with that.  If we just keep TRI-ing then we improve, its bound to happen.  Don’t get discouraged that you can’t run with the big dogs, just keep moving forward and TRI-ing.

** Keep TRI-ing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz ** amanda@tootallfritz.com

Dear Lifeguard….

As defined by Wikipedia A lifeguard supervises the safety and rescue of swimmers, surfers, and other water sports participants such as in a swimming pool, water park, or beach. Lifeguards are strong swimmers and trained in first aid, certified in water rescue……. 

Dear Lifeguard:

I have always had the utmost respect for your occupation.  You stand on the sidelines of the pool/beach watching the masses while everyone else is having fun.  You are always attentive, cautious, helpful and in emergency situations you save lives.  In fact Beach Patrol: San Diego, may or may not be one of my favorite “reality” tv shows that I haven’t seen in forever.

I have been swimming in the same spot for almost a month now.  I go and you are always there “watching”.  Normally, you sit atop your perch, on the opposite side of the pool watching the boys playing water polo and we do not speak.  I like it like this.  I like to go, swim and leave as quickly as possible.  I don’t really want to talk to anyone.  I don’t want anyone to “watch” me or I would go back to swimming at LA Fitness where the body builders sit in the hot tub “watching” the swimmers while they “rest” their aching, bulging muscles

Yesterday,  when I entered the pool you were sitting atop your perch watching the boys playing water polo and I slid into the water to swim.  I only made 3 or 4 laps before you came over to sit on MY side of the pool to watch me.  This really bothered me.  First off, I swim on that side of the pool on purpose to get further way from you.  Second, although I know I am not the best swimmer, I certainly believe that I could hold my own in a pool which at any given time, I can stand up in…… even in the “deep” end.   Thirdly, you made me believe that I was GOING TO DROWN!  Although, I was attempting to focus on my “just keep swimming” mantra, you interrupted my thoughts and made me paranoid.  I couldn’t think of anything other than the fact that you thought I was going to drown.  I tried to focus on my stroke but kept thinking I must look sooooo horrible that you had to come over and sit close in order to be better prepared to save me from DROWNING.  I tried to focus on my breathing and choked on a mouthful of water because I was concerned about what you thought about my swimming or lack thereof ability.

It took almost 20 laps of me flailing around in the water for you to return to your perch.  Gee, leaving so soon?  Did I finally develop a rhythm which looked safer?  Or was it the 5th water polo ball which bonked me in the head, forcing me to stop swimming, stand up, and pitch the ball into the other pool, which helped you realize I was tall and could “possibly” avoid drowning if I were to stand up?  Or were you frustrated watching my pathetic attempt at swimming?  That’s it, isn’t it?  Regardless, thank you for leaving but also allow me to thank you for watching “just in case”. I  know your job isn’t easy.  I know you have a lot of responsiblity.  I know you take your job seriously and I thank you…..just please watch from across the pool in the future.

I promise I will become better.  I promise I will become faster.  I promise I will try not to flail around so much next time so as not to disturb your watching water polo practice.  See you next Monday.

Your Tall Swimmer,                                                                                                          Amanda – TooTallFritz

1309 Days……

It has been 1309 days since my last non-trainer real bike ride and you probably think that I have been missing it. And you’d be wrong. People laugh when I say that I swim to TRI or I ride to TRI. They think I am joking really don’t understand that the other two disciplines which I practice are done only so that I can toe the line in a Triathlon. I swim and bike quite possibly so that I appreciate the run more. When I swim, I pray to my Lord & Savior to get me out of the water safely and onto the bike. When I am on the bike I am loudly cussing begging to be delivered to my running shoes. Then WHY do I TRI? I do it for the “fun“, for the challenge, and so that I will put my running shoes on a pedestal from which they will never tumble. I LOVE TO RUN. I AM A RUNNER.

So the bike shop laughed when they saw my brand new bike from 2007. I put some serious miles on it in 2008 training for a 70.3 but as soon as the race was over, it went on the trainer and has not come off until its trip to the bike shop yesterday. Why, you may ask? I was trying for Mr. Michael and soon after that 70.3, I got lucky and conceived. I am a restricted activity preggo woman who is allowed to walk. Nothing else, walk. As if you don’t think a normal pregnancy is not an eon, now think of a preggo runner who is not allowed to jostle her little package, at all. I was told I could walk. I asked if I could elliptical and I was told, NO.  “NO! No marathons for you. You can walk. You can only walk!”……Now go back and repeat that quote in a Japanese accent. It almost isn’t the same if you can’t hear the words in the Japanese accent of my 5 foot tall OBGYN. I could walk, I could only walk. Okay, I walked and ate. The two things didn’t go real well together. By now you have probably figured out that what goes into the body has to be somewhat countered by your activity level and your calorie burn. It wasn’t pretty but I had a beautiful baby boy so it was ALL worth it!

On September 7, 2009 my bouncing baby boy arrived 366 days after that 70.3 in 2008. Lots of extra things going on with him so it took me a bit to get back to the run. 2010 & 2011 focused just on my lil man the run and now 2012 brings Triathlon back to me. One way or another, I’m going back to triathlon. I have already registered for two 70.3s this year. You may think it would have been wise to get back on the bike PRIOR to registering for a few races but that would be self-defeating. I knew I wouldn’t get back on the bike without the TRIs already on the schedule. So today was Day 1 of TTF on the bike. All I can say is OUCH. The first 13 miles with the wind at my back was awesome. Cold but awesome. The 2nd 13 miles was good because I was on the trail and I saw lots of my run friends, some of whom were doing their 20-22 milers today for the Illinois Marathon on April 28th. The last 13 miles sucked. Really sucked. Uphill into the wind sucked with tired legs, a sore upper body and a pain in the neck and shoulders. Sucked. Now I am totally wiped out, mad at the bike, and hoping I bounce back so I can get a good run in tomorrow morning.

My number one thought on the bike: I’D RATHER BE RUNNING!!! What do you think about while you ride?

Happy Running or TRIing,                                                                                       Amanda – TooTallFritz

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