I have compiled a list of the eleven most important things, in my opinion, that I have learned in my first three months as a triathlete and a BT member. Hopefully you find this useful. Sometime in late June, I overheard someone explaining what a sprint triathlon is. As I listened to his description, I thought to myself, “I wonder if I could do that.” I have always been a person who took part in sports and I have always enjoyed physical activity. But here I was, about to turn thirty and looking for some motivation to continue working out. That night, I did some web searches for information on triathlons and starting out as a triathlete. That is when I found the Beginner Triathlete web site. I can honestly say now, looking back, that at the moment my athletic life changed. I spent some time on the site reading some articles, browsing through the forums and looking at the training logs of others. I read Michael Pate’s articles, bought his book, and I decided that this would be my new sport. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but in a couple of months, I crossed the finish line of my first triathlon. I can honestly say that I am now in the best shape of my life and I owe a lot of it to what I have learned and read here at Beginner Triathlete. I am a history teacher and like many history teachers, I am a list keeper and a recorder of experiences. I have been making a list over the last few months of what I have learned. I have also been wondering for some time: How does one repay all of those faceless “usernames” who have helped along the way without knowing it and without looking for recognition? So, I decided that the best I could do is to “pay it forward” and try to pass on some of what I learned to others who are where I was three months ago.
So, this is what I have learned in my first three months as a “triathlete.” Please remember that I am by no means an expert or a coach. A lot of what I will tell you here are just things that I have been told by people who know a heck of a lot more than me.1. Triathletes are good people. They don’t judge other triathletes.Very quickly in my triathlon life, I learned that there are many people in our sport that are willing to help and those people never, ever forget that they were once “newbies” just like us. I will never forget a woman I met at my first triathlon. I can remember looking at her before the race and thinking that she must be one of the greatest athletes I have ever seen in person. I knew she would finish the race way before me (which she did) and I would probably never see her again. It turns out that I did see her again, about a mile into the run leg of my first tri. I was tired, in a little pain and wondering to myself if I was really cut out for this. Then I saw her. She was standing on the side of the trail and cheering us (the so-called strugglers) on. She didn’t care that she was faster than us and I could sense that somehow, even thought she knew she was better than we were, she admired us. There was also a man standing there, still in his tri-suit, sweaty and tired handing us water as if he was there for us. There were others I met that day that congratulated me on finishing my first race, those people are what makes this sport so great.2. What works for them may not work for you.You will hear, read and see all kinds of training methods, plans and ideas. Everyone, from coaches, to experienced veterans to other “newbies” are willing to help and explain what works for them. The trick, as far as I can tell, is to take little parts of all of that and find out what works for you. Over time, it will become easier to understand your body and understand what training is all about. It is not simple though, and it takes a lot of dedication and research (see numbers 3 and 4).3. Research, Research, Researchand4. Record, Record, RecordI put these two together because, in my mind, they sort of go hand in hand. I don’t think you can simply jump in the pool or on the track and see instant results. I have learned that you need to take a scientific approach to your training and understand the kind of results you want out of each and every workout. You can do a lot of your research here, but of course it helps to buy some books and talk to others who have trained and competed in triathlons. It may also be a good idea to talk to others who are more experienced in the individual sports involved in a triathlon. I am lucky that I work with a former NCAA championship-caliber swimmer. I can’t tell you how much she has taught me. I also work with a life-long marathoner who has given me more advice and support than any book could. The research and planning isn’t enough, though. Use your training log! As they say, to truly understand where you are going, you have to understand where you have been. The training log also helps on those days when you feel like you are slow or like you had a bad workout. Sometimes, on days like this, I look back at my logs from a month or two ago and learn that even my bad days now are better than my good days back then.5. Tell others about your plans.It is crucial that you verbalize your plans to compete in a triathlon. This helps you stick to your goals. About a month before my first tri, I started telling everyone I know that I was going to do it. The more people I told, the more I convinced myself that I would be able to finish the race. It also became more real, and I knew that the day after the race, I would have many people asking me how it was. I knew that I could not tell them that I didn’t do it. I think that telling others helps you stick to your goals.6. You can’t worry about what non-triathletes think.I wish I could remember who told me this so that I could credit them here. A few days before my first tri, I was on the BT forum and I was wondering, out loud, if I was really ready for this. Someone wrote to me that, “finishing is better than not finishing and not finishing is better than not starting” (thanks, whoever you are). Think about that and how meaningful that one simple statement is. Think of all of the people who never START and ask yourself if it really matters if they judge you.7. Sometimes, less is more.This is something I just learned in the last week or so. For a while now, I have been logging many miles and pushing myself over and over, and I started to feel a little burned out. Running became painful and I started to dread having to work out. It shouldn’t be like this, and believe me it isn’t. You simply cannot push yourself to your limits every single time you train. If this is what you do, you are setting yourself up for failure or worse, injury. Read through the training plans available here and you will get a better idea of what I am talking about.8. Days off are good. (If it hurts – don’t do it)You need to allow yourself time to recover, especially when you are starting out. Your body isn’t used to this kind of training and it needs time to heal and rest in order for you to meet your goals. But at the same time…9. Sometimes, some training is better than no training.There will be days when you just feel like you don’t have “it.” You might have had a bad night of sleep, you might have a slight cold, and you might just be very busy with other things. If this is the case, then ease up on that day, change your plans or just go for a walk. No matter what, a little training is better than what you were doing a month ago.10. Your equipment is important.I am not saying that you need to spend all of your life saving on this sport, but you should make sure you have a good pair of running shoes (or two so that you can alternate). Buy them from a store where people are runners and actually know what they are talking about. Your ankles, feet, calves, back and legs will thank you. You will prevent injuries that keep you from training and reaching your goals. Another thing that you should probably get is a good, reliable heart rate monitor. You don’t need to get the top of the line three hundred dollar one with all the bells and whistles. There are plenty of affordable and useful models available that will give you the bare essentials. The HRM will give you a gauge and an idea of whether or not your training is working.11. There is nothing like crossing the finish line.I will tell you now, that I will never, ever forget the feeling I had when I crossed the finish line for the first time. I wish I could bottle that feeling of accomplishment, self-pride and satisfaction. I am not ashamed to say that I had to do everything I possibly could to hold back the tears. The look of pride on my wife’s face and the cheers and applause from the others is something I will carry with me for a very long time. Although I only finished in front of a handful of people, that feeling is immeasurable. It is that feeling that will get you hooked and will bring you back time and time again.
I am a high school history teacher. I live on Long Island with my wife,11 year old daughter Madison and 7 year old daughter, Cassidy.