Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tonight’s special guest…

image I am slammed this week, I knew I was going to be so in the spirit of complete laziness cooperation I asked one of my favorite podcasters Barb from the Kelowna Gurls Tri’s Podcast if they would be willing to write up a blog post for me in my absence and to my surprise she said yes!

In case you don’t know Barb, here’s how she describes herself; In 2008, I documented my journey to become a triathlete. A couch potato most of my life, I began cycling as a means to weight loss in 2006 and over that year, fell in love with biking, and lost 20 lbs. As my fitness level increased, I began to wonder if I could run, and in 2007, I had run my first 5K in 26:16! Last January, I returned to the pool after a 35 years hiatus, took some lessons, and then practiced on my own 3 times a week with a goal of completing a sprint triathlon in August 2008. And I did it with great personal success! Meeting my time goal (1:30), coming in 4/11 in my age group, and exceeding my goal in the bike portion was tremendously fulfilling and made me finally realize – I AM an athlete!

Pretty cool huh! Anyways she’s an awesome person and athlete and was really the catalyst for me getting my act together in the pool! Find her here on Twitter. I am really grateful and happy to share this with you, maybe this will start a trend, enjoy….

So you wanna be a triathlete?

Or at least you're thinking about it, right?  You can't tell me you can read the Quadrathon blog every day, and see a hard core runner like Stuart turning himself into a triathlete, and not be at least a teensy bit inspired to give it a go yourself!

I know, you're probably thinking - "but I can't swim!"  Or perhaps - "I haven't been on a bike since I was 10."  Whatever. Those are just excuses.  My personal excuse was  "I can't run the end the the block" AND "I haven't had my face in the water for 35 years."  But I did it.  And if I did it, and if Stuart can do it, then so can you.

So what do you need to be able to do?

Well, if you're lucky, there's a Try-a-Tri or some other aptly named mini-triathlon (perhaps a Super-Sprint?) within driving distance of you. Go google it and see.  Go ahead, I'll wait right here.

If you didn't find a mini-triathlon for beginners, they I'm sure you found a sprint tri.  It's a little longer than a mini-triathlon but it'll still be ok for your first race. There are LOTS of newbies just like you even in the sprint tris so don't worry. You will not be alone in your newbie-ness.

Most Try-a-Tris or Super Sprints require you to swim about 300-400m. That's about 12-16 lengths of a standard 25m (or 25 yd) pool.  You can do it with a little practice, believe me.  If you choose a tri with a pool swim, you can even hang on and rest after each length if you really need to.  And to be honest, a LOT of try-a-tris with a lake swim (also known as an OWS) are kept in the shallows so you can stand up and take a breather if you need it.

OK, you've done the swim. Next you have to bike about 6 miles and then finally, you run about 1-2 miles.  I know, now you're thinking, "That sounds pretty easy, I think I might be able to do a regular sprint tri." Well then, go for it!

The standard distances for a regular sprint triathlon are:

Swim: 500-750m (20-30 lengths - pool sprint tris are often only 400m swims though)

Bike: 20 km (16 miles)

Run: 5 km (3 miles)


You need a bike. Any bike will do. Dust off your old mountain bike, pump up the tires, maybe take it down to your local bike shop and have them give it the once-over. If you don't have a bike, then borrow one. SOMEbody you know must have a bike that fits you.

You'll also need:

A swim suit


Shorts and a t-shirt to throw over the swim suit later for the bike/run

Running shoes.

(If you do a lake swim and it's cold, you might want to borrow a wet suit as well) 

Triathlon Survival

Your first triathlon is all about survival.  You just want to finish the thing. Once you're done, you will be hooked and of course you will want to do way more training to beat all your previous times, buy a cool bike and a Garmin, and better gear and, well, then it gets expensive.  But it's great fun and you will have met lots of cool, fit people who you can run and ride and swim with.

So how do you survive the first one?  Well, give yourself a few months to train, the more the better if you are a total non-swimmer.  Go sign up for a set of private lessons and then hit the pool 3 times a week to practice, practice, practice.  I promise the swim only gets better with time spent in the pool.  LOTS of time in the pool will help you learn how to do a basic freestyle, how to breathe without inhaling water, and how to put on a swim cap without ripping your hair out by the roots.

You can also join a Master's Swim club to get some swimming guidance. Don't be scared off by the word "Masters" like I was.  I thought it meant only hard core awesome swimmers could join. Not at all, they have a slow lane for the 2-3 people just like you and I, and they are happy to help us learn the ropes. Ask questions, watch, learn, and swim!  Lots!

Next: Check to see if there is a local triathlon club in your town, or perhaps a running club - they usually have some triathletes as members.  Joining a group or two will give you someone to train with, and people to ask the million questions you will have along the way.

Finally: Read a few books, join online triathlon forums such as Beginner Triathlete or listen to podcasts about triathlon. And ask lots of questions - it's the only way you learn. And of course, get out there and run, bike, and swim 2 times a week.  That's 6 days of training a week. You can do it! Now that doesn't sound so hard does it?  It's a challenge, it's fun, and it's something new!

I live by the motto "It's never too late to be what you might have been"  by George Eliot, and I have slowly learned that there isn't anything I can't do.  How about you? What are you waiting for?

Thanks Barb! Normal service including my reading and commenting will resume shortly…


  1. I very much enjoy both of your podcasts, as well as your blog reports. It is great to see the podcast comunity come together when something is needed.
    Great post Kelownagurl. As someone who is heading towards his first triathlon I appreciate all the information that you are putting out there.
    One question that I do have, and this is for the both of you (but mainly KG as I reside in Canada). What about insurance for these events? What is the best process to get this for triathlon as well as marathons? still trying!

  2. Tribork - thanks! I belong to Tri BC which includes medical insurance for any sanction event. It covers medical costs over and above what MSP would normally cover. It does not cover equipment damage or loss.

    When I registered in the Apple and in the Oliver races, I had to pay extra for the insurance if I wasn't already a member. If you do 2-3 races in a year, it's worth the membership fee.

    I don't know much about insurance for non sanctioned events.

    Hope that helps!

  3. The super sprint at Callaway Gardens here outside Atlanta is my favorite event every year. Over 70% of the competitors are newbies and a lot of those are teenagers and kids. My favorite part is standing at the type of the hill cheering them in to the finish. The look on some of their faces is just amazing.

  4. Thanks Barb - as always great info - this may be the year I move from Duathalons to Triathalons if I can just get over my fear of being drowned by overzealous swimmers!

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