Ran across a blog title. In that title, it stated “Triathlon, and how it relates to the real world.”
That got me thinking, does Triathlon relate to the real world? I mean most of the things we do, outsiders look on and say things like “how can you get up that early” or “you are crazy for running that far”. Getting up at 0500 on a regular basis to get demolished in the pool or run to the top of a hill, then down, only to turn around and run up it again aren’t things the normal dad does on my block.
Not to say that you can’t compete and have a real life; I do it each day along with countless others; but there are reasons why living a normal life and being a triathlete are completely different.
We compete in three sports simultaneously. It can take years to be efficient in the water swimming 5-6 days a week; throw in cycling and running, it can take that long to just survive. Now eat, drink, and try to keep it in your stomach until the finish line.
We plan our training volumes like a kid plans a trip to the candy store. As much as we can hold, then just a little bit more. To fit in the appropriate training time, we resort to either two-a-day or brick workouts. I haven’t had less than 2 days a week with a brick or two workouts since November 2012.
Our obsession with gear can be unquenchable. When you have to gear up for three sports, it can be expensive. Throw in the newest ‘Super Tri-Bike’ or the “Lightest Shoe” things can add up real fast. The only thing worse than that? We eat it up asking ‘what else can we buy?”
Our thoughts are mostly on training, racing, or nutrition. My wife is the first to point out that I spend a lot of time talking about my training plan or how my nutrition plan is going. We can be annoying to anyone who will listen, and even to those who don’t.
I think we are all crazy.
And I think triathlon does not relate to the real world.
Question: Do you think Triathlon relates to the real world?
There is no initiation or right of passage, but you can tell when you have become a triathlete.
In a recent blog post, ‘I Could Never Run That Distance’ I explored the reasons why I do what I do. So how do you know when you can call yourself a triathlete? I tried to determine some distigushing characteristics.
Not that I am an expert, or you are a only a triathlete when (insert something here). One thing about this sport I love is that there is no ‘recipe’ that makes a triathlete. Some people come from a swimming background, like myself, and some come from a running background, I wish. The one thing in common though, it took alot of hard work to get where we are, so good job.
If you are like me, you like to make fun of yourself, so I thought i would make this list.
And because it isn’t worth doing unless you are either getting dirty or having fun; that is the family moto in our house.
The collection of bike parts in your garage can rival any bike shop, big or small. In addtion to the standard tires/tubes/pump, most commonly found on my work bench is brake pads, pedal cleats, and foam helment inserts.
Your physio’s recptionist knows you by name, and convieniently, you don’t have to check in at the counter for your appointments any more. For me, it is never the same issue either; one day it is a shin injury, the next a shoulder problem.
You have actually combined ‘just’ with ’10km’ in the same sentence. More than once. Not to mention that most of them are the second workout of the day. Brick anyone?
The smell of chlorine after a lunchtime workout doesn’t bother you, or anyone else in the office anymore. I have never read of any benefits of cholrine on your body, swimsuit, or training aids but that doesn’t stop me from logging +10,000 meters per week.
What is that black mark on my calf? It kinda looks like chain grease. After a long ride Saturday, there was no time to hit the shower before heading out with the family so a ‘baby wipe’ shower had to do.
Laundry is part of your nightly routine, typically just before your evening stretch. When you bike for 90 minutes on Monday, you want to smell fresh for Tuesday’s long run, right?
You have forgot what your shower at home looks like. The shower at the gym on the other hand has become your hang out spot. Sorry for the pun. You carry a toothbrush with you in your gym bag, and more than likely you carry the entire supporting cast along with it.
Your bike is in better mechanical shape than your car is. It is not uncommon to let your car go 1000km past it’s oil change, but heaven forbid you forget to grease your chain after each ride.
Waking up on Sunday morning at 0630 is considered sleeping in. Still got 8 hours of sleep though, couldn’t stay awake past 2100.
The triathlon community is an awesome one to be part of. Everyone I have met, except for a select few, are great individuals who I feel priviledged to meet.
Question: What characteristic do you identify with?
My local triathlon store doesn’t have layaway. Ah, it is probably for the best.
Read any magazine and you are inundated with adverts for the newest wetsuit, bike, or shoes guarenteed to shave precious seconds off your finish time. Finally, the podium is within reach…..
There is some pretty nice gear out there these days. It can be tough to pass by a bike store without having to stop in and check out the latest ‘super tri-bike’ or the newest lightweight running shoe. If you follow me on twitter, if you don’t you should, you know that I have somewhat of a running shoe fetish.
If there was a statistic for how much money was spent on triathlon specific gear, I am talking aero helmets, tri specific apparel, hydration systems, I bet the number would be staggering. I admit, I have fallen into the ‘If I only had (insert gear here), I would be faster” trap once or twice. It seems to take the work out of triathlon, just get the right stuff and everything will work out. Luckily, I have been able to avoid this for the most part and continue with the gear I currently have.
Sorry Cervelo, that P5 with my name on it will have to wait.
So the question is, “does gear make you faster?”
The short answer, in my opinion, is no. Your physical and mental toughness gained through training and experience will make you faster, not the gear under your feet. By setting realistic but hard season goals, training smarter (not necessarily harder), dialing in your nutrition plan, and studying each race course you will give yourself an unfair advantage come race day.
The long answer is a bit more complicated. I don’t advocate buying gear that promises to make you faster, but if it can make things a little easier for you, then it may be worth the investment. If you are just starting out, there is a couple of purchases that after you first season, will help you shave time from your finishes. Here is what I think you can spend money on, if you want to.
Race specific road bike instead of your clunky mountain or commuter bike. There is no secret corelation between your bike and your split time; road specific bike offers less rolling resistance, better gear ratios, and overal comfort. It doesn’t have to be a TT/Tri bike, even tough they are awesome.
Well fitting tri-suit allows for an easy T1 as you wear it in the water and they will dry once on the bike; it doesn’t take long. The padding is less than a pair of bike shorts which will allow you to run in them as well. Easier T2.
Pair of swim goggles that are perfectly fitted to your face. Nothing is worse than swimming half of your open water swim with one eye flooded. Find a good pair and buy 3, 2 clear and 1 tinited for those pesky swims into the sun.
Speed laces will help with the frustration in T2. If you have tried tying your shoe laces before, you know what I mean. Put your shoes on, tighten, run. Fast.
That is it. You got this far with the gear you have, so reward it by not ditching it the second something better comes along. Spend more time swimming, biking, and running with some weight training mixed in, and you will continue shave time of each race.
Question: Have you tried gear that you thought would work and ended in disappointment?
P.S. – No piggy banks were harmed for this blog post.
Mostly unwritten, there are a couple of things not to do while participating, voulenteering, or supporting a triathlon/triathlete.
We have all seen it, something that makes you say “did I just see that?” Having been competeing for two seasons now, I have come across a couple of situations that made me take a second look. I may be alone with my thoughts on the subject, but here are some of the ‘faux-pas’ I have seen at some of my races.
Make sure that the gear you have matches the race distance and your ability. I participated in a Sprint Triathlon last year and passed a fellow competitor riding on Zipp wheels; I am all for aero-dynamics, but the benefit of aero wheels is lost on me for a 20km bike leg. I believe that you physical and mental conditioning will enable you to win a race, not the gear you are riding on or running with. More on that in a future post.
Are you an Ironman? Be proud of it, I would be if I was, but please leave the ‘Ironman Couer d’Alene Finisher’ jacket at home. This goes for everyone, but more especially if you are a spectator, and more especially at a Kids of Steel race. Even if you won the whole thing, which I doubt you did, the focus is on the current athletes and not your previous finishes.
Get a generic, logo-less tri suit. Unless you are sponsored by Cervelo (man I wish) your bike should be your only large brand identifier. I made the assumption that a young kid was sponsored by Felt at one race, got a little intimidated, then passed him on the first lap of the bike leg.
Most races, if not all, will distribute t-shirts with your race package. Don’t show up on race morning or worse, race with that t-shirt.
Respect for everyone involved in the race including competitors, voulenteers, and the communities you are racing through. I can’t count on two hands the number of times I have seen guys pass a competitor without a warning. Just a quick ‘on your left’ would do. If you see another competitor stuggling, give them some words of encouragement. You don’t need to pull them along, but a kind word when you pass could be all they need to make it to the top of the hill.
Most race organizers have to work hard with the communities to get permission, licenses, and the ability to come back the following year. To quote the Ironman 70.3 commitie, ‘don’t be a tosser’. If you are using gels, chomps, or anything that requires packaging, stick the empy warpper in your jersey or hit the garbage at the next aid station.
So don’t be that guy at your next race.
Question: Have you been ‘that guy’? What else have you seen that qualifies to make the list?