Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Reading Room: GotG and Triathlon

Kind of a slow Saturday so far.  I'm feeling lazy, but at some point, I have to get off my butt and go run.  This post represents my desire to procrastinate.

Screenshot from Rotten Tomatoes
Twenty-five reviews, and no one thought the movie was stupid?  Wow.  The reviews on this movie are becoming a meta-story about the industry itself.  I'm becoming curious as Hell to see which reviewer has the balls to be the first to say that he/she hated this thing.

These are the same reviewers that hated Star Wars?  Man, times have changed.

"Tackling your first triathlon? Even the best triathletes in the world started somewhere -- and made their share of rookie mistakes."

Nice article.  I don't disagree with anything I see here, but there are a few things I might phrase differently.  With three years of coaching novice triathletes under my belt, here's how I would answer these:

I'm scared of the swim. What should I do?
A mass-start to the swim is inherently chaotic, and even very good swimmers can get rattled.  Add to that the fact that the water is almost certainly going to be colder than what you're used to when you practice swimming and that you may have to deal with some waves, and you have the makings of a tough beginning to your triathlon.

Don't panic!  First and foremost, remember that you know how to swim, that no one is actually trying to kill you, that you can do this, you just need to get your head right.  Part of that is acknowledging the obvious, i.e. "this is difficult, but I am going to get through it".  Breathe normally and swim at a pass that is sustainable over time.  Soon enough the pack will break up, and you'll be on your way.

It also helps to warm up plenty before the race.  This not only warms up your muscles, it (perhaps more importantly) also acclimatizes your body to the water temperature.

I'm an experienced runner -- why do I feel so awkward when I start the triathlon run?
Because God loves me.  In His infinite wisdom, He designed the sport to favor courageous all-arounders who favor the bike over spindly-looking natural runners who won't spend enough time in the saddle.

That's a joke, but it's also true.  Running off the bike is a mental and emotional challenge more than a physical one.  You will feel like crap, but the odds are that you're running pretty close to your regular aerobic pace.  If you let it throw you, then you're screwed.  But if you keep running strong, you'll hit your stride in a mile or so, and then you'll just be out there doing your thing.

How will I find my gear in a crowded transition area?
You'll find it.  If this is your first triathlon, transition is the least of your worries.  After the race, you won't even remember it.

Look at it this way: even if a bad transition costs you a full minute... who cares?  You shouldn't set time goals for a race distance you've never run.  That applies for your first triathlon, too.

It's fine to worry about transition times when you're competing for a podium position.  At all other times, it's a little silly.

What and when should I eat and drink?
Nutrition is the fourth discipline of triathlon.  Getting your nutrition needs right over the course of a long race is perhaps the most challenging aspect of the sport.  This is the main reason why you should start with Sprints, work your way up to Oly's, and then tackle longer races only if you feel compelled to do so.

My advice is to get a bunch of Gu's and practice on the bike.  As a general rule, you will need to take on something like 60g of carbs (sugar) per hour, with heavier people needing more and lighter people needing less.  Your pace will also affect this since going faster burns more glucose, thereby requiring you to top off your blood sugar with Gu's more often.

I personally like to work hard on the bike and will often burn through Gu's at a rate of one every 45-minutes, even over a multi-hour ride.  It's my background.  I was a mid-distance swimmer, and all that easy aerobic pace stuff is difficult for me.  Tempo work is fine if your body can tolerate it, but it takes fuel, which is why I have bonked so many times in so many races.

Don't do that.  Practice in-race nutrition over the course of a few long rides and feel what it's like to need sugar, take it, and have it take effect.  Once you've got the hang of it, you'll be okay, but it really does take lots of practice and experimentation.

If you want to read more on this particular topic, I wrote an article about it for Triathlon.About.Com a year or so ago called "A Beginner's Guide to Race Nutrition".  I want to say there's a little more actual science in the article.

And now I'm ready to go run.  Have a great Saturday!

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