Friday, May 16, 2014

I Was a Google Triathlete

The word "was" seems to indicate this is in the past tense, but that's not entirely accurate. I still AM a Google triathlete. I can no longer use the term "beginner" because if you've done something nine times, you can no longer use the beginner moniker. The fact is, I still am largely "winging it." I have a run coach and that has exponentially stepped up my game in the run department, but everything I know about triathlons I've learned on the internet.

Last summer, I sat down with a triathlete coach, but he could tell...I was still primarily a runner with specific goals on the running front.  For the third season, I will mix things up by doing the "tri" thing post Boston Marathon through the summer. I tripped into the pool due to injury in 2011 and figured, I can run, I am doing a lot of swimming, and anybody can ride a bike, so why not triathlons? I have never had a triathlon coach or even a training plan I stole from the internet.  You might say I'm winging it.  
My first open water swim...horrible.

Whether you've done one before or not, the sport can be a bit intimidating, and it still is to me, but the internet is a vast ocean of information.  Under full disclosure, I did take a couple swim lessons early on, and realized I'm a much better swimmer than I gave myself credit.  Early on, I looked more like my daughter when she was six and her stroke resembled synchronized drowning.  Mine looked like an old three prop boat motor missing the third prop.  Even with swimming, I have studied aspects of the swim leg of a triathlon. Things like proper stroke and rotation of the body in the water. If you have ever golfed before, it's as complicated as a golf swing. There's a lot going on at once.

Probably the most intimidating part of the triathlon is the transition. You don't get to pause your overall time as you move from the pool to the bike (known as T1,) or the bike to the run (T2)--the clock is still running so time lost here costs you.  I won't list them here, but there are some great videos on YouTube on beginner and advanced aspects of the transition.

The first year I raced, I borrowed my brother-in-law's 20 year old iron road bike.  Better than the dusty mountain bike hanging in the garage, but far from the (what can get crazy) expensive tri-bikes on the market. I finally bought a Trek Speed Concept two summers ago, and felt like an absolute moron buying it. I had NO idea what a "big ring" was. Googled it. It is not what I bought my wife, but the larger front gear thingy that the chain connects to. I'm such a newb.


Aside from the internet, you learn a lot from fellow triathletes particularly in the transition areas. Just as important, what NOT to do...like change shirts at any time especially getting out of the water and getting onto the bike.  We all know what it's like to try and take off a wet t-shirt. #noteasy  By the way, I condone learning the sport on the internet, but you're on your own if you google "wet t-shirt."

Cruising into 1st in my AG at the 2012 Denver Triathlon
Mounting and dismounting the bike is probably the trickiest part. Having no ego or shame, I have learned a lot from my son who's also a triathlete and actually does have a professional coach.  My "flying squirrel" mount on the bike mount was all wrong. Whether you're a man or woman, you probably don't want to jump while running and land your giblets on a hard saddle. A slight nuance I learned from my son after learning the move on the internet is to land on the inner thigh, then slide onto the normal ride position.

Two things I tried with little practice at all? My first race was a mountain lake open water swim with a wetsuit required. I "googled" the getting in and out part and again there's a lot of little tricks you pick up--like removing cap and goggles out of the water and as you roll off that arm sleeve of your wetsuit they conveniently stay in the rubber as it turns inside out. The second thing was rubber-banding your bike shoes to the bike. This one is a bit advanced. The guy from the local triathlon shop, Kompetitive Edge, added the tip to grab some green rubber bands from Whole Foods.  The perfect shoe mount rubber band. I tried this a couple days before a race and successfully a couple days later. This is not recommended. For that matter, everything you read in this blog post is not recommended. #iamnotaprofessional

The best part of the triathlon for me is that it ends with a run.  Most triathletes seem to be swimmers or cyclists that hate the run.  I have a few miles under my belt and tend to do okay on the third leg. With all that, I have hit the podium in all but one of my nine triathlons, so I figure I must be on to something. We shall see when I hit the open water in my first race next weekend.

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine