Thursday, March 4, 2010

That Dang Learning Curve!

Okay so blah blah blah I'm training for a triathlon, its hard, wah wah, I'm having to do all sorts of different stuff, blah. You already know that.

But that being said, the triathlon is less than a month away. Eeek! I am getting pretty excited about it, but have realized in the past few days, as people tell me stories about their first triathlons and the lessons they learned, that, well, I still have a lot to learn. I feel confident with my ability to do each of the legs with competence (especially since I looked up the times from last year's race and figured I was at least faster than the slowest person there...I think), but I've started to get apprehensive about the transition stations.

I have a lot of questions, most of them revolving around the issue of whether I will be able to eat. I have this thing where I get nervous doing endurance sports on an empty stomach, which of course would lead to low blood sugar, which of course would lead to me passing out on the course, lying defenseless and alone for a rabid animal to drag me into the woods and devour me before anyone even noticed I was gone. So if I could stash a banana somewhere that would be cool.

But I have other questions, too, like...what do I do? Luckily the internet is FULL of helpful people who are so friendly and eager to share their expertise with me! Actually, I was pointed in the direction of some really great resources that helped answer some of my burning questions.

1. Can I eat in the transition area? If so, should I? And what?
This article recommended putting some energy gel in my station, but I prefer to eat actual food. So I plan to pack a few Lara bars, which are small and all-natural. I may also need to eat a bunch of pancakes the night before just to be sure I have an adequate storage of glycogen.

2. What should I do to make the swim-to-bike transition easier and faster?
I found some great tips on TriNewbies, like having a bucket of water to get sand off of my feet, and suggested wearing shoes with elastic laces to save time with tying them. Other tips like hanging my bike helmet on the handlebars, making sure my tires are inflated, and having plenty of water may seem like no-brainers but could easily be overlooked in all the excitement of nerves, adrenaline, and carb-loading. And I'm pretty much expecting to be no-brain by the time I get to the starting line anyway. A great example is provided at FitEgg with a walk-through of a sample swim-to-bike transition, which is the one I am most concerned about.

3. What do I wear?
I have a borrowed wetsuit for the swim, but after that I am at a loss. I assume I'll wear my speedo and tug on some shorts for the bike and run. This article suggested slathering up with BodyGlide, which sports a website featuring pictures of intense-looking athletes unburdened by chafe. Naturally a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses will be required...although my prescription aviator glasses might not be quite what I need.

4. How can I maximize the limited training time I have left?
I've been invited on a few "brick" workouts, which I've passed on partly because they were not at convenient times and partly because I still have nightmares of a swim coach that made us tread water holding bricks over our heads as he sat on the diving board eating doughnuts. For real, that actually happened. But I don't feel so bad now that I realize I've been doing them on my own. A brick workout, from my interpretation, is pretty much a practice run. I've done a couple of bike-to-run workouts and felt the burn of trying to run a 5k after biking 15 hilly miles (not fun). This article at explains how to do a much more technical version than my homemade practice session. I don't know if I am going to get that intense; I mostly just want to finish the run without throwing up or collapsing.

There are a lot of people out there who are really passionate about triathlons. It makes me excited to be planning my first one; the energy, enthusiasm, and encouragement I've received adds a whole new training element to the workouts themselves.

Okay, enough blah blah, time to go practice my bed. :)


Blake said...

All good questions... I remember having a lot of the same questions for my first tri. I will do my best to answer, but keep in mind that I am no triathlon expert!

1. Yes you can eat whatever you want in transition area. As far as what to eat I would test things during your training to see what gives you energy without making you feel uncomfortable.
2. Practice the transition. I know that sounds weird but if you have done it before you will know what to do. Have everything out and know the order of what you need to do.
3. Again, whatever is comfortable for you. For my first tri, also a sprint, I just wore my bathing suit on bottom and then for the bike/run, just threw on an old basketball jersey. It can be intimidating seeing everybody else in their fancy tri-gear, but for starting out, it doesnt matter.
4. I would say yes, practice running after biking, and biking after swimming to get your body used to it.

From what it sounds like, you'll have a great and fun race! Good luck!

Eric H. Doss said...

Glad you posted all these questions and thanks for the link.

A few quick answers:

You can eat in the transition area. Heck, if you want to spend the time, you can make yourself a sandwich, just as long as no one else helps you make it. I normally don't take any nutrition in T1, but I do in T2. No matter how short the ride, I take a few gels with me, just in case. No reason you can't take a banana or apple. Same thing with the run. You can always carry a gel or fruit with you.

I think the most important thing about nutrition is to not make any changes before your race. You don't want to try out a new gel brand or even a new flavor from the same company. Don't switch from Gatorade to Powerade. Don't start eating bananas if you haven't eaten them in training. Bottom line, race like you train and train like you race. Last minute changes lead to stomach issues, blood sugar issues, etc. Don't do it.

I've seen people use the bucket of water in T1, but I generally just have two hand towels. Works pretty well for me. What I do is set up my T1 station in the order I put things on. So, for me, my towel is first, then my socks, then shoes. Sunglasses and helmet on the bike. I always put my helmet on as soon as possible, it's a penalty if you leave T1 without a helmet.

What you wear is mostly about your comfort. Under a wetsuit, I just wear my tri shorts. Peel off the wetsuit, throw on my jersey or top, and I'm off. BodyGlide or SportShield is a must for under the wetsuit, especially around the neck where most chafing occurs. For us guys, I'd really recommend shaving if you're wearing a wetsuit. Arm and leg hair will create friction and probably be pulled out anyway; shave and save the pain.

The most important benefit of a brick is it helps you understand the challenges your body will face after T1 and T2.

Most importantly, don't worry too much. It's your first tri. You'll have plenty of missteps. Looking back, you'll find dozens of things you could have done better or differently. But who cares? Your second tri will be a bit better, third even better than that.

'Drea said...

One of the coolest tips that I found was to tape *granola* bars to your handle bars.