In addition to being a multisport coach I also work at a bicycle shop in town. I wear many hats there, but some of the more interesting roles I assume are bike fitter, triathlon specialist, and assistant buyer. I share these roles with a few other colleagues, but see a wide range of diversity within our client base. In our preliminary interviewing questions before we fit someone on their new bicycle, we ask questions like: "what will be your primary use for the bike; do you plan to do any racing with the bicycle; will you be participating in any multisport events with the bike-i.e. triathlon" and so on. Of the clients I work with at the shop I would guess at least 75% of the individuals I fit have some kind of interest in triathlon, most of whom have only participated in a sprint distance race or competed as a leg of a triathlon relay.
Droves of individuals are taking on the challenge of completing a
multi-disciplined competition for the accolades of friends and
family and/or identity of "triathlete" or "ironman."
Among this immigration there are numbers of peoples who are leaving inactive or
sedentary lifestyles for the pursuit of accomplishing something great…something
they’ve never done before that stretches them beyond the limits they had
previously set for themselves. Although
many of these athletes-in –the-making should get a gold star for tenacity and
motivation, many of them have not considered the prior approval and permission
of a licensed healthcare professional to participate in such an event.
in which one
participant did not cross the finish line; this individual an active person by
all friends' account was an avid cyclist and runner certainly one who had
prepared and trained for this event, but for difficult circumstances or freak
cause of nature, did not make it to T1 alive.
My heart goes out to this family who lost their husband, father, son,
and friend at such a young age. Looking
back on the event it has been sobering to think that while I was out there
thrashing in the huge waves of this large body of water, there was also another
man out there thrashing in what would ultimately be his last breaths. I am still uneasy about all of this and have
wondered about that day on so many levels, and from so many vantage points.
As a coach, I work with athletes of various ability levels and athletic
backgrounds and see firsthand the variety of folks that attempt to compete in a
multisport event. In no way to I want to draw a direct correlation from
the tragedy of this young man at the race I competed in, and my own experience
with clients training for competition; there are however some trends that
I see which could save a lot of folks some hassle and help to make potential participants
cognizant of the precautions one must consider in training and racing for a
Triathlon is no round of golf; with necessary training and preparation
however, it can be a fun and safe sport in which to participate. Maybe this summer you participated in your
first triathlon. Possibly you didn’t
even participate in an event, but were a spectator for a friend or loved one
who competed in a multisport event.
Whatever your level of participation
or interest, this article is about thinking through some of the concepts that
will move you in the direction of preparation and training for your future
Some basic guidelines to consider as you recollect how this season went and
how you will plan for future training and racing:
1) Hire a professional to help you assess what is reasonable for you, given
your background, current health status, and plans for future competition. I am bias in this area, because I am a
certified coach and personal trainer. I
have worked with a couple clients that I have had to pull the reigns in
on. Last summer I had a client that was
preparing for his first international distance competition. In our interview and introduction consult we
looked over his background and discussed any of his apprehensions about his
goal of competing in an international tri.
One of his concerns was that this was his first triathlon competition
and that by doing some swimming on his own, he wondered if he would be able to
complete the 1.5kilometer swim that is required for an Olympic distance
event. Hearing this concern, we worked
on not only continuous distance swims in the pool, but also continuous distance
swims in a nearby lake. We discussed the
reality of possibly switching his entry registration from the Olympic distance
to the sprint if necessary. As race time
approached I felt comfortable with his progression and gave him the green light
on participating in the Olympic distance.
We admitted that he would likely have to do some backstroke and possibly
some sidestroke, given his discomfort with rhythmic breathing, but that he had
come far enough that it would be safe for him to race without anxiety. Other athletes have not been in the same boat…in
some cases we chalk it up for “next year” and advise the athlete just compete
in the sprint and save the longer distance for the future.
2) Training intensity and modality should mimic racing conditions. Two years ago I directed an indoor triathlon
at the Downtown YMCA. It was called the “Dip
Ride & Dash.” The race was a
tremendous success and we had an awesome turnout including over a dozen
participants that had never completed a multisport event. One of the interesting conversations I had was
with one of the dozen tri-newbie’s, a gal in her mid 40’s who looked like she
was as fit as Paula Newby Fraser (multiple Ironman World Champion). This lady thanked me for putting on the event
and explained that the reason she had never competed in a triathlon is that she
has an irrational fear of open water swimming.
Thankfully this woman knew her fear before starting an event in a lake. Others have swam hundreds of laps in a pool only
to put their foot to the line on a beach somewhere and discover 50 yards later
that swimming in murky water with weeds, fish, and turtles is nothing like
swimming in a pristine chlorinated pool.
3) Talk to your doctor before training, but especially before competing in a
triathlon. Most multisport coaches will
require their clients to sign a waiver that acknowledges that risks and inherent
liabilities associated with training and competing in triathlons . This waiver will include a line that
indicates the participant has received a physicians approval to participate in
training and is not currently diagnosed with any condition that would limit
their ability to stress the body beyond low level aerobic activity. The inclusion of this kind of wording is not
intended primarily to serve as a limiter in restricting individuals from
participating or to limit liability that the coach might incur, but more as an
encouragement that anyone who exercises on a regular basis should be in routine dialogue with their primarily healthcare
provider about the modalities they are using for exercise.
Working in the multisport industry, I am so encouraged at the numbers of
people who are discovering the way that multisport training and competition can
positively impact wellness and quality of living. Working with athletes of all ability levels
and intensities of competition, I am blown away by how inclusive the sport is
and how a self-employed IT consultant couch potato can take a physician’s
prodding seriously and get some coaching from a dietitian and tri coach and
lose 180lbs over one year and discover a new way of life.
Although results may vary, we all have come
to the sport in part due to an ounce of intrigue and a little insanity. With a little sage advice and some guided
training one can lower their handicap and safely enjoy this different kind of