Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Just some reminders for the new year.

As the Mentor Group has been doing good and I've been spending a little more time "socially" with other athletes around town (group rides/spin classes, swimming with other triathletes) I've been reminded of some of the questions that a lot of us take for granted everyone knows. It's easy to forget I've been training / racing fairly hard going on 5 years now... I still feel like a beginner in so many ways. Anyways, I thought it might be a good idea to throw out some general advice that is helpful to the new guys (and important for the rest of us to remind ourselves of every now and then.)


- First... get lessons. Most of us didn't come from a swimming  background, so there's not much point in just going to the pool and fighting out 25m at a time without knowing what you're actually doing. I started taking lessons with kids classes (I was 24) and while yes, it was a little embarrassing, I learned and corrected mistakes in hours that would have taken me weeks/months to figure out on my own.  I just can't stress this one enough. Swimming is usually the *cheapest* of the 3 sports anyways, so you can afford to splurge on something that will turn out to be a great investment.

- Don't put too much faith in your wetsuit. Don't get me wrong, they are great tools, but don't fool yourself into thinking that you'll be a better swimmer / safer / able to do a farther distance just because you're wearing a wetsuit. Also, don't do all your lap swimming with a pull bouy because you "won't be kicking" in a race. You will and you should.

- PRACTICE your open water swims! I know a couple of people who are actually pretty good lap swimmers that have a Tough time in OWS events. It's because they don't ever practice it. Swimming in Open water is a lot different... the water is (usually) quite a bit colder and a whole lot darker (in most of my ow swims you can't see more than a couple of inches in front of you with your face in the water.) than the pool. You also have no black line or lane dividers to keep you on course, so it's important to know things like "do I swim with a pull to the left/right?" or "what are the landmarks I need to follow." Other things like where the sun is positioned (is it going to be right in your face? Clear goggles probably aren't the way to go) and how strong of a "pack" swimmer you are (can you handle getting smacked in the head/face for a few minutes without freaking out?) are other issues you need to have addressed long before race morning. It's long been said that weaker swimmers should start on the outside edge toward the back... but it's important that you understand just how "weak" of a swimmer you are. Are you switching to back/breast stroke 100m in? If not, it's possible you want to start a little farther up so that you can avoid the truly weak swimmers who can end your day with a well timed frog kick.

- Practice getting out of your wetsuit. Don't be standing around in transition tripping and falling because your wetsuit got stuck on your feet.


- Wear your helmet. Always. I don't care if you are just riding down the greenway for fun. My worst wreck (the one I ended up having to have surgery on my collarbone for) happened as I was traveling somewhere around 5-8mph. There's no excuse for this one... don't be an idiot.

- Buy the frame, not the components. In real estate they say to buy the worst house in the nicest neighborhood. Bike buying is a lot like that. Your neighborhood is the Frame and your house are the components. The difference between a Felt F5 and an F1 (Felts racing road bike) is ~ $8,000.00. Yes, you're getting "nicer" carbon lays (which is often questionable as to whether it's actually an upgrade or not) on the frame, but basically what you are paying for having Shimano Di2 and Dura Ace wheels over SRAM Apex and Mavic wheels. Wheels in general are not something I factor in when buying bikes... If I am going to run race wheels...I will be picking them. Everything else is just training wheels IMO. Di2 is certainly top of the line, but Apex shifts flawlessly too... basically anything Shimano Sora up, Sram Apex up and Campy Centaur up is race ready (along with other stuff like the Microshift I reviewed) so paying $$$ for the groupset doesn't make a lot of sense unless you've got the $ to spend.

- Get the bike that fits you, not the one that's in stock. (unless it's the one that fits you!) This is important for any bike, but extremely important when it comes to a TT/Tri bike.  Most road bikes that are in the "ballpark" of being your size can be made to work for you with the right stem/crank length/etc. On a Tri bike that is a lot less likely because of the weight distribution and steep seat tubes. A P5 might be your dream bike, but if it fits terribly, it's going to be a lot worse of a purchase than a Speed Concept would be.
It's also important to know that anything you see on a bike to determine it's size (usually S/M/L/XL or sizing from 48 - 60 or so) is basically useless. The companies do not share a standardized sizing system, so a 54 Trek and a 58 Felt might actually have the same measurements. Get a fit done before buying if at all possible.

- Learn to ride with and around people and traffic comfortably. Even if you never plan to do group rides or bike races (you sad, sad person) learning to ride safely with and around others is terribly important for your longevity. (you know... in life) Most LBS' have group rides and a lot have practice sessions to get new people comfortable in packs.

- Ride more, and ride hard if you want to get stronger. Cycling doesn't beat you to death quite like running does, so going hard often isn't as likely to get you hurt. Just adding junk miles (pedal a little... coast some... etc) won't hurt you, but getting stronger is all about intensity!

- Tegaderm. Buy it and hope you don't have to use it, but be glad you've got it when you need it.

- Learn the Rules.


- Smart running is the key to running longevity. You can't be an idiot about running. I used to be an idiot. I'd go out, regardless of what intensity I was supposed to run at, and just run the distance about as hard as I could finish the run at. Sure, that works for a while, but then you go too hard one day and "blammo" there goes the hamstring/knee/ankle/ACL/MCL/Whatever. It's been said many times by better runners than me, but when it comes to running "Mostly Easy, sometimes hard" are words to live by.

- Wear the right shoes! Don't worry about what the fad is (looking at you, barefoot running) go to your REAL local running store (not Foot Locker) and get the right shoes for you. They might not be as sexy as the new Super Ninja Sock Racer pro's... but you might actually be able to run in them :)

- Don't sweat trying to make yourself run a certain way. Focus on getting a good turnover and landing within your center of gravity, otherwise, who cares if you land forefoot/heel striking. Tons of fast guys are heel strikers (some of the fastest in the world as a matter of fact)

- Listen to your body! It's better to cut a run short / ease off / miss one day than it is to miss months because you are injured. Consistency overall is key, but don't hurt yourself just because you "had to get that last mile."


- Practice them! Transitions are often overlooked but a very important part of Triathlon. They can make or break your times depending on how good (or bad) you are at them. Be Good. Take a little time each week to practice the basics at least!

- KISS. The less crap you have hanging out in transition the better off you are going to be. After a tough swim (aren't they all) things you think were easy to remember can get a little muddled in the rush to get out on the bike. It's times like this you don't need to make life tough for yourself. Things you NEED.
-bike shoes
-running shoes
-number belt

that's pretty much it. Anything beyond that you really need to examine as to whether it's necessary or not.

There it is. A nice easy list of things we should all consider.
Thanks for reading!
-Christopher Morelock

*PS - New Camera has been purchased! I'm excited... can't wait for the UPS man!

1 comment:

  1. Chris, thanks for writing this! I got a lot out of it. Info I can take with me in training and racing. Hope you enjoy your new camera that the man in brown will bring you, I'm getting a GoPro Hero for my 30th birthday in March, can't wait!