Archive | Guides RSS feed for this section

2XU Winter Training Gear

With Kona behind us and colder months looming ahead, northern hemisphere triathletes are discovering that the opportunity for a warm daylight workout session is quickly being replaced with tenebrous training schedules. As each workout becomes subject to harsh winter weather the key to staying safe, snug and stoked lies deep within your stockpile of cold weather training gear and 2XU is eager to keep you in the training game.

2XU Winter Beanie

Ditch your visor in favor of this cold weather training staple. It keeps sweat away from your eyes all the while keeping you safe with its reflective highlights. Plus it helps to keep you warm. Duh.

2XU Active 360 Run Jacket

Lightweight and all sorts of shiny, the Active 360 Run Jacket will keep you comfortable during the entirety of your workout. Constructed with a warm jersey lining the Active 360 features large vents under the arms to help circulate air through the jacket while you run, keeping your microclimate comfy and cool, not sticky and sweaty. The jacket has only 1 small zip pocket, suitable for keys, but it remains fairly difficult to access making it unideal for storing nutrition. Perfect for short to medium runs the Active 360 will have you training safely and stylishly.

2XU Sub Zero Cycle Jacket

There comes a point in the season where a jersey and arm warmers simply don’t insulate enough. While I don’t recommend cycling in negative degree weather, the Sub Zero Cycle Jacket is designed to do precisely that (albeit as 2XU is Australian they are most likely referencing Celsius, not Fahrenheit). One of the most thought out cycling jacket designs that I’ve seen, the Sub Zero angles its rear pockets allowing easy access while riding and keeps those pockets deep so you can keep extra tubes and nutrition on your back without the fear that they will eject when you hit a rough patch in the road. Comfortably lined with fleece the jacket stays true to 2XU’s design strategy of stitching their garments along the lines of what can be considered a “performance cut”, all at once making it both form fitting and sleek looking.

2XU Men’s Racer Track Pant

When you realize that the idea of leaving your warm and comfy bed to face the stinging winter elements to be shielded by only the thin protection of your summer run shorts isn’t the most motivating means to begin your morning it’s time for a wardrobe upgrade. The Racer Track Pant from 2XU is designed to keep you motivated no matter what the outdoor conditions may be. A basic track pant design, the Racer features two zippered side pockets and drawstring cinching, but where the pant sets itself apart are the outstanding “3D Thermal Knit” high filament polyester yarns. This unique construction will regulate your temperature from the cold and chilly first mile to your steamy and sweaty triumphant finish, meaning that your body will be at a comfortable temperature throughout your workout. Suddenly leaving the shelter of your snug sheets becomes that much easier knowing that you’re perfectly outfitted to battle back against whatever winter weather you may find yourself facing.

What is Yamamoto Neoprene?

38, 39, 40. These numbers do not reference European shoe sizes nor do they allude to a series of symphonies, instead these are the proletariat model numbers that correspond with Japanese rubber manufacturer Yamamoto’s lines of neoprene rubber. The fact of the matter is you may be able to find a tri-wetsuit that’s not made from Yamamoto neoprene, but it wouldn’t be easy. These ubiquitously used materials are pervasive within the majority of triathlon wetsuits found in today’s market and if you’re a triathlete you’ve more than likely heard the name and numbers thrown about alongside that sleek new wetsuit you’ve been eyeing.

You may wonder what the numbers mean and what significance, if any, they carry that makes these levels of neoprene best suited for triathlon wetsuits?

Yamamoto began producing wetsuit material in 1961 and have grown with the sport of triathlon ever since Dan Empfield’s pioneering work marrying the garment with the sport. Yamamoto’s rubber was chosen after the discovery of the unique properties that the rubber holds making it a perfect fit for triathlon specific garments. Yamamoto neoprene is a limestone sourced rubber and whose amazing properties include:

  • Nitrogen gas blown rubber that augments the insulation of the wetsuit, making it warmer
  • A 23% higher closed-cell structure than oil derived neoprene, making it more buoyant
  • Maximum elongation of over 480%, whereas human skin stretches only up to 60 to 70%
  • 95% water impermeable whereas oil derived standard is nearly 70%
With each model already possessing these impressive qualities, the underlying difference between each series is found within the increased flexibility and buoyancy gained by each subsequent model. It is understood that 39 is more flexible than 38 and 40 more-so than both, however where 39 represents an increase in durability over 38, 40 is considered to be more fragile than 39 and is thus used strategically throughout the suit to provide critical flexibility where needed without sacrificing the wetsuit’s durability.

Beginner Triathlon Transition Tips

Triathlon Transition Area

Your fingers scrape against dense sand, a startling and unfamiliar texture, after having swum across a bottomless and vast expanse for what seemed an eternity. As you near the end of your first triathlon swim course the roar of a crowd cheering penetrates the sloshing water and the guff of your hardened rhythmic breathing and your adrenaline spikes. The next few seconds become an overwhelming blur as your body wills itself through sand, sound and silhouettes towards the transition area, all the while your mind focusing on one question. What happens next?

The transition area is at best controlled chaos. You’re in race limbo, trapped within a fixed space where you must prepare yourself for the next stage of your journey, and all the while the omnipresent race clock continues to tick. Upon entering this area, triathletes, no matter their age, sex or elite status are immediately sorted into one of two categories. Prepared and unprepared.

This is a guide for beginner triathletes who want to better prepare themselves for triathlon transitions.

Swim to Bike – Transition One (T1)

Before you arrive to the course you should be practicing taking off your wetsuit. Don’t be that person searching for the pull zip while running through the transition chute. Instead take the time before your race to practice running while finding your wetsuit zipper and stripping it down to your hips. Run, don’t walk, out of the water while immediately taking off your cap and goggles.  When you do pull your arms through your suit pull your cap and goggles through too, lodging them into the arm of the wetsuit. This helps to keep the clutter of your own transition area to a minimum and will ensure that you don’t forget them when you’re packing up after your race.

Practice taking your wetsuit off beforehand!

Before your race you should have already mastered the art of taking off a wetsuit as to avoid the time-costly and comical transition wetsuit wiggle. And honestly it just takes a few tries to get it down pat.

How to arrange your transition area:

Transition Area Setup

Transition Mat Setup

  • Choose a spot as close to the bike exit as possible
  • Set bike equipment in front of your run equipment so that it is quickly accessible.
  • If your swim exit took you through sand you may want to have a tiny bucket or water bottle available to quickly rinse your feet of sand and pebbles
  • Never eat or drink while in transition. Attach all nutrition to your bike (taping it to the tube or inside a bento box). There will be plenty of opportunities to eat and drink while cycling!
  • Put your bike helmet on first! You should mount your helmet between your aerobars or on your handlebars making it easily accessible and immediately visible. You must have your helmet on and clipped before having any interaction with your bike otherwise you will suffer a penalty.
  • Run your bike to the mount line and mount your bike in one of 3 ways.
  1. Running bike mount – This is the fastest and most difficult mounting technique. With your shoes already clipped into the bike’s pedals, the triathlete runs alongside the bike and jumps onto the saddle while taking a few pedal strokes to gain speed and stability before slipping his/her feet into their shoes. 
  2. Push-start mount – Somewhat fast. With your shoes once again already clipped into the pedals, stand next to the bike with one foot on the pedal pushing off with the other foot before pedaling away and slipping your feet into your shoes.
  3. Over the bike standing mount – This is the slowest and most common form of mounting your bike. Chances are this is how you start off every training ride and is the way that most of us have gone about mounting our bike since our first ride. There’s nothing wrong with this technique, you’re just losing time putting on your shoes and beginning from a static state instead of doing all of this while gaining momentum and distance using either of the above techniques.

Bike to Run – Transition 2 (T2)

Some Triathlons will mark exits in chalk

When approaching the end of the bike course, shift to a higher gear and spin at a higher cadence to help prepare your legs for the run. Remember to keep your helmet on and clipped at all times until your bike is completely racked to avoid a penalty! After racking your bike, unclip your helmet and put on your triathlon running shoes and race belt before grabbing any extra gels or equipment. When making your way to the run exit, put on any extra run gear instead of staying static at your transition-mat. Finally, shorten your stride until your legs loosen up from biking. It may take a mile or so but don’t worry, you’ll find that running groove in no time!

I hoped to answer some of the following questions in this post. Let me know if I missed something.
– What do I need for my transition area?
– How to set-up a transition area?
– What is a transition area?
– What is the best way to set-up my transition area?
– How do I set-up my transition area?

Ironman Arizona Race Tips

It’s almost here. Ironman Arizona.

After all the hundreds of consumed GU’s and Gatorades, waking up feeling like a bulldozer hit you every morning for 4-12 months, and having your drive, courage and heart tested day in and day out, it’s time to see what it was all worth. Let me start by saying Arizona Ironman 2011 was my first, and I know what everyone has gone through with training. I’ve had the days when I’ve collapsed in tears on runs wondering how I was going to piece it all together come ray day, absolutely terrified of failing. It probably didn’t help I was only 22 years old and felt a little bit over my head. However, the fear is what fueled my training, and ignited my hunger to eat this race alive. With all of this said, there’s a few tips I could have used, and want to share some golden advice so you too can have the race of your life. I’d also like to note that this is what worked for me, and by no means should anyone think these tips are the only way to go.

Pre-Race Week

Let’s start by the week leading up to the race, because I’m going to bank on the fact that anyone reading this followed their training regimen semi-closely. Emphasis on the semi. THE WAY YOU TREAT YOUR BODY THE WEEK LEADING UP TO IRONMAN CAN MAKE OR BREAK YOUR RACE. Why did I put that entire sentence in caps? Because you’re already at a deficit prior to your race if you haven’t been prepping your body properly this week. What do I mean by prepping? Slow down! Nothing you try to throw in last-minute with training 10 days leading up to the race is going to benefit you. As far as working out, my pre-race week taper looked like this:

Monday= Easy 5 mile run, Stretched like crazy

Tuesday= Easy 20 mile ride, Stretched like crazy

Wednesday= Easy 2,000 meter swim, couple mile jog, Stretched like crazy

Thursday= Easy swim, 30 minute VERY EASY ride, Stretched like crazy

Friday= Walked/ Stretched like crazy

Saturday= 15 minute VERY VERY LITE jog, walked, Stretched like crazy

(I didn’t do the pre-race swim which you can opt to do Saturday, didn’t want to risk catching something from the water)

Sunday= RACE!

Take note I stretched every single day. To some, you may think this was not enough. It worked perfectly for me. You’ll be going crazy this week. You’ll feel like crap. Your body will be confused wondering why all of a sudden you’re not working out for 5 hours at time, and you’ll probably feel the most restless you’ve ever felt in your life. It’s OKAY! Remind yourself how crucial it is that your repairing your muscle fibers and preparing for one of the biggest days of your life.

Onto the eating part. Do it. A LOT. But not just anything. I’m 5’6, 135 pounds. I ramped my calorie intake up to about 3,000 to 4,000 calories the 4 days leading up to the race. Yes, four. Carb loading is not effective enough one day prior to race day. You’ll read different advice on this. Some say it’s not necessary to up your carb load due to you tapping into a different reserve store in your body. Because you’re racing at a lower energy level during an Ironman, you’re using much more of your fat stores as compared to solely tapping into your glycogen stores. Meaning, some will argue it’s not necessary to pack the calories on prior to race day because the process for utilizing fat as energy is much more complicated and slower. What am I getting at with this? Well, reflect on your hardest training days. The days where I simply didn’t eat enough prior to the days before my bricks, I bonked. Whatever works for you. I sweat close to (in my opinion) what a man does, and thus felt the need to eat. And I’m glad I did. I ate a lot of veggie/protein/pasta packed meals. I also started adding additional salt to my diet 3 days leading up. Two salt stick tablets a day prior to race day, as well as a gallon of water a day. I treated my body like a queen. Slept 7-9 hours a night.

To recap: Rest, don’t throw in crazy workouts, drink water like a mad man, eat healthy, protein packed meals, and stretch like crazy. And by god don’t eat at some crazy new eclectic restaurant you discovered down the street from your hotel the night before the race. That’s just dumb, and you’re asking for it. Eat what you’ve eaten the past 9 months before your hard workouts.

Race Nutrition

Prior to telling you my magical combination of food, I’d like to again, reiterate that this is what worked for me. All of our bodies will respond differently..

I didn’t figure out what Hammer Perpetuem was until 6 weeks out from my race. Wish I would’ve known about it earlier. Who knew that you didn’t have to jam 5 Cliff Bars, 7 GUs, and a plethora of fruit down to get all of your calories in?! Liquid calories are the two key words here. The quickest way your body is going to metabolize the necessary amount of nutrition is through a liquid/powder blend. This powder is a blend of almost everything your body will need:

Here’s what my race day nutrition looked like:

Pre Race Morning: 2 Oatmeal Packets with 1 banana, 20 ounces of water, 10 ounces Gatorade, 1 GU, 2 Ibuprofen. I had the solids down by about 5:30 am (ish).

Swim:

Nada!

Bike:

Six 24 ounce bottles in total. I think at the end I had about 1/2 bottle left that I didn’t finish by the end of the bike.

Bottle #1: Purely Water

Bottle #2: Gatorade

Bottle #3: 2 1/2 to 3 scoops of Perpetuem

(Bottles 4, 5, and 6 were the same, and in my special needs bag approx. half way through). I made sure to start with water, and have my last feed bottle (Perpetuem) down by the high 90’s miles so I wouldn’t be too bloated. Bottom line, don’t get off the bike hungry, and don’t assume you can make up calories on the run.

In addition, 1 Cliff Builder Bar, 1 banana, couple of orange slices, 4 GUs, 1 Bag of GU Chomps, 3 Ibuprofens and 5 Salt Sticks. I stored these in the back of my tri jersey as well as in my bento box. I also used a rear hydration system by Xlab and had a bottle cage on the bike. Tip: I froze both of my feed bottles about a 1/3 of the way up with water the night before. I then added the Perpetuem powder on top race morning for the bike bottle. You will have access to your bike race morning (you have to drop it off in transition the day before), but not your special needs bags. The powder isn’t too tasty lukewarm, so it’s smart to half freeze the bottle and add the water later on. Another note, also may be smart to bring a cover for your bike, as it will be outside all night in transition and subject to any elements. I saw people wrapping their bikes with plastic protectors or anything they could find to cover up their brakes and components.

Hydration set up under my seat

This is a cost-effective option for a hydration system. It can however be a bit difficult getting your bottles in and out of the cages, as they’re a bit stiff. A more convenient option in my opinion, is the Speedfil Hydration System. Below is a quick video on the system.


Remember, every 15 minutes you should be doing something. Whether it’s eating, drinking, or taking a salt stick, you have to keep a steady intake going. If this means setting a timer to go off every 15 minutes on your watch, then do that if you can’t remember to steadily be drinking and eating. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget about fueling.

Run

The idea here is to get off the bike feeling fairly full. If you’re getting off the bike hungry or thirsty, you’re in trouble. You’ll also find that once you get to about mile 10, you’re gonna get nauseous at the sight of GU’s. At least I did. I probably only ate about 3 Gus, some Power Bar Gel Blasts, a 1/2 of a nutrition bar, and some orange slices. I ate a few salt sticks during the run and also carried a couple Tums. I was sipping on some type of fluid every 10 to 15 minutes. I also gave into the Coca Cola at about mile 17, which was incredibly hard not to do earlier! My advice, keep eating small stuff lightly. Keep some kind of a sugar/salt intake going. If you planned your bike nutrition right, you really shouldn’t need to be taking in much. Just remember again, just as you did on the bike, do something every 15 minutes. There will be chicken broth offered later at the aid stations (towards 5pm) for those on the course a little bit later which can taste and work magic with its high salt content. You will find an aid station just about at every mile or so which I found myself slowly doing a shuffle through while eating. It’s okay to walk a bit to get your nutrition down!

The Course

Let’s start with the swim. Throw what anyone told you out the window right now. Unless you’re a pro, and starting your swim 15 minutes prior to everyone else, the water will never smooth out. When you go to get in the water, don’t wait until the last minute to jump in. I know it’s cold, but it’s important to 1. Not get stuck directly in the middle (or far back for that matter) and 2. Not get stuck near the wall. You’ll see a wall to your right. Stay away from it. Swimming is my strength and I moved to the front. I somehow still managed to have someone swimming over my back while getting kicked from the front in the meantime. All the thrashing for the first 500 yards or so is a bit unavoidable. Simply remember to just stay calm. It’s the shortest leg and will be over before you know it. I’d say your best bet is to stay to the mid-left away from the wall. The two shots below are a snap-shot of what the swim start will look like. The second photo is a much scarier one, and certainly from my perspective, a far better depiction. Wetsuits are a necessity.

Some words of advice:

Look up, often. Watch where you’re going. If you don’t, one or all of three things will happen: 1. Another irritated swimmer will give you a nice, hard jab. 2. You’ll smack your head right into a kayak or two. 3. You’ll add-on additional minutes/yardage. Learn how to spot.

When you go to get out, the stairs are pretty steep. Don’t be tough/guy, tough/woman and try to lift yourself out of the stairs. Let the volunteers lift you up so you don’t eat it and hurt yourself. They’ll literally carry you up the stairs. You’ll be so dizzy from being horizontal for so long that it’ll take you a minute to gain balance anyways. After allowing the wonderful volunteers to get you in and out of transition quickly, while putting your shoes on for you (yes, they literally do everything for you in the tent), let them lather you up with sunscreen as well. There’s a pack of 5 or 6 people ready to glob sunscreen all over you after leaving the transition tent. Very smart idea. Below is video of the swim exit. Narrated by my proud Mother. Take note of the vertical steepness. Below the swim exit video is a quick video to give you an idea of what transition looks like.

Bike! You have three loops as I’m sure you’ve already read up on. It’s not hilly. The most you have to worry about is a false flat up Beeline Highway. The biggest issue with this course tends to be the wind, as it was the year I did it. Hopefully, the wind will be at your back while going up Beeline. Regardless, I ended up being in aero position for about 95 of those miles. I opted to use an ISM Adamo Saddle, which served wonders, as it is designed for pressure-relief in aero postion.

If you don’t have aero bars on your bike for this race yet, I would highly suggest it as most of the course is flat. Below is the course outline for the bike.

The “climb” up Beeline Highway is approximately 10 miles. It really is more of a false flat. If you did any, and I mean any, hill training you should be fine. I’d say being mentally prepared to get through hours of a head wind is much more important. In my opinion, wind can be far more defeating than climbing a hill. Drafting is not legal, but there were tons of people doing so last year, for fear of literally being blown over. The wind will most likely heavily pick up on your third lap. Stay calm, and don’t try to ruin yourself on the bike. I thought having three laps was going to feel like murder, when in reality, it couldn’t have been better. You know exactly what to expect come lap 2, where to push, where not to push, you get to see your family quite a bit (awesome), and have a better time-lapse for your nutrition. If I remember correctly, your special needs bag on the bike will come at about mile 57 or so. Take time to use the bathroom! I got off my bike half way through to use the facilities. This is also why it’s a smart idea to wear a tri top and tri short as opposed to a trisuit on a race like this. Much more easy to get off. There are porta-potties all over the bike course. Just please take note to be careful when veering off the road to do so. Signal your way over. I did see a crash with this situation last year.

Run (The Best for Last)

Again, 3 laps of beauty around Tempe Town Lake.

I’d like to note that a good 20 plus of the marathon miles are on cement. Ouch. I found myself jumping on over to any patch of dirt or even asphalt I could find because my body didn’t take well to the pounding on the cement. Don’t try to use your race flats on this course. A stability trainer worked perfectly for me. Also keep in mind you’ll have your special needs bag at about mile 11 or so. The special needs bags are the bags you yourself put belongings in that you’ll need on the course. You’ll get one on the bike almost half way through, and you’ll have one on the run as well. I packed some more nutrition, some warmer clothing just in case, and a change of socks in the event that my feet got wet. Anything you think you just might need throw in there. They’re fairly large, and the volunteers are INCREDIBLY good about organizing and getting your bags quickly. The volunteers on the course are unlike anything you’ve ever seen at any race. Every step of the way they’re there to help you while cheering you on and making you feel like a million bucks. I ended up finishing at about 6:30 or so and only was in the dark for a couple miles. I could barely see during these couple miles. If you end up running in the dark, the course states you must use the glow sticks they provide. I don’t think it’s enough light personally. I’d say bring some other type of light because it really was hard to see, and you’re going to be pretty delirious at that point. Unless of course you’re Chrissie Wellington..and have more than enough light to see your way through.

This is your day. Soak up every second, and trust in the months of training you’ve done. Come prepared and don’t forget why you’re doing this in the first place. To see the finish. It’s everything you’ve dreamed of. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to thank your loved ones who’ve supported you day in and day out throughout it all. At the end of your race, I’m sure they’ll tell you as well that they felt like they did an Ironman too after cheering you on all day.

Me with my trophie. 2nd Place WooHoo!


Open Water Swimming in Triathlon

The shortest leg of the race in triathlon is often funny enough, the most feared. By far, you’re certainly the least out-of-control of your surrounding environment in this leg, which can allow for the capability to put a nice damper on your time. Most triathlons take place in some kind of a body of open water, so assuming your pool skills will transfer right over isn’t the case, and often times, can be dangerous. There’s many tips that can be followed to keep yourself safe, and drop seconds to minutes on your swim. We spend tons of money on gadgets, wheels, aero-dynamic and light-weight everything to save seconds and minutes, so why not take the time to practice open-water techniques for the swim? Below are some triathlon swim tips.

Pool Swimming

Pool heaters, a line to follow, lanes to keep our flailing bodies in, and visibility as far down as the eye can see. What’s not to like about training in a pool? Well, it’s not a realistic representation of the race environment. Certainly, it’s great for things such as speed-work and interval training, but it needs to be used in conjunction with your open water training. We’re not required to lift our head up in a pool to see where we’re going, or to modify our breathing according to surprise waves smacking us over the head, and if we get tired, oh boy! …a nice wall or lane line to grab onto won’t be there. Certain aspects of oceans and lakes call for specific gear, technique, and safety measures. Train to increase your conditioning, practice being in the environment to get you mentally prepared for the elements.

Necessary Equipment

So you’ve been training in the pool and want to venture into a lake, river, or ocean swim. Where do you begin? Most people do fine with some swim goggles, some find that a wider-lens goggle allows them to spot better in the open water. Here’s an example:

Wetsuit? Or no triathlon wetsuit? You’ll find at your triathlon races, about 95% (depending on temperature) of triathletes will be in wetsuits. Your first idea about this is probably that they’re wearing them to keep warm. Swim purists are strictly against this notion of wearing neoprene to swim. I myself was one as well, until I saw friends who I was lapping in the pool beating me in the open water. Not gonna fly. Tri wetsuits will give you quite the advantage. Sure they’ll keep you warmer than not having one, but they’re designed to make you more buoyant and reduce your drag. This allows you to conserve power, thus saving you energy and making for a faster time. My advice: get one.

Chaffing. It’s painful and unnecessary, but has a strong likelihood of happening with your tri wetsuit if some kind of a lubricant is not used. The chaffing will most likely happen around the neck, but there’s a few areas we strongly recommend as well to put the lube. Below are the two options, BodyGlide and TRISlide.

TRISLIDE

Body Glide

Both will protect against chaffing, and also aid in getting the wetsuit off quickly. We suggest putting it around your ankles, wrists, and neck prior to putting on the wetsuit before training and races.

Now that you have the necessary gear, there’s a few things you should consider prior to your open water swim training. It’s best to be checking the swells and currents prior to when you’ll be swimming if you’ll be swimming in the ocean. In a recent race I did at the Camp Pendleton Sprint Tri, the starting wave did not take note of the strong current and swam an additional 200-500 yards at least. Those that caught on and realized they needed to start their swim further down to avoid fighting a current, were able to gain a few hundred yards (which equates to at least a 2-5 minute lead) HUGE.

For Your Safety..

If you’re not an experienced swimmer, trying to get past the waves (or break) will be almost impossible if it’s a large wave day, and incredibly dangerous. Check to see if there is a lifeguard on duty if possible, who will quickly notify you of any potential dangers such as undertows or rip currents. If you do have a higher anxiety about open water swimming, choosing a day when there’s greater visibility out in the water (usually on a sunnier day) is certainly a smart idea. If the ocean seems far too terrifying, I would highly recommend swimming in some kind of bay or lake if you can access one. There’s fewer possibilities of potential anxiety triggers, and will serve as a great way to segue you into unprotected open water swims. It’s incredibly important when you’re getting into any body of water to not go alone. You never know what’s going to happen in the water. As an example, a fellow friend of mine was swimming in the bay when an unsuspecting 10 foot wood oar split his head open from a boater. He luckily had friends to drive him to the hospital. With that said, there’s a reason fish swim in schools. So should you!

Specific Open Water Techniques for Racing

Where the heck do you put yourself in the start of the swim pack? Before you answer, consider this: Would you hop in the fast lane on a 5-lane freeway going 45 and expect to not get honked at, tail gated, or dirty looks? Probably not. The swim isn’t a good idea to do this either. Line up according to your ability. Fast swimmer? Jump to the front. Let’s just say if you’re swimming a sub 7 or sub 6 minute 500 yard time, you’d do fine at the front. Mediocre swimmer? Get to the middle. Consider this the equivalent of how people stagger themselves at 5k’s and marathon starts. It’s also smart to place yourself on the outskirts of the pack, not directly in the center. If swimming isn’t exactly your caveat, stay towards the back. You’ll thank yourself later. You will avoid unwanted kicks and elbows this way. Once you’ve figured out how to place yourself, let’s think about how you’re going to get yourself through the waves, or from the sand to the water. With a technique known as dolphin diving, getting through the shallower water and under the waves will save you time and energy (and maybe a few waves to the dome). Below you can find a perfect example of how to do this. I do not recommend doing this if you’re a beginner in very shallow water (let’s say, below the knees). Once you become more familiar with this type of diving, you can utilize it in shallower waters, but I wouldn’t recommend it until you get a better grasp. This method is often used in lake swims as well.

Once you’re past the waves or initial start of the swim, you’ll feel pretty crowded. In the majority of open water swims, the wave of people you start with will spread out within the first few minutes. The only race I’ve participated in that this is not the case is an Ironman. The Ironman Arizona swim will never throughout the 2.4 miles of swimming, spread out. Back to the point. Most races will. You’ll begin to feel synced with your stroke. However, it is IMPERATIVE you are looking up. This is what we call “spotting” in open water. Everyone will tell you differently on how often you should be raising your head to see where you are, but I say a good rule of thumb would be every 10-30 strokes, depending on how experienced with this you are. Most triathlons will have you swimming in some kind of twisted triangle or rectangle similar to the one pictured below:

There will be buoys marking the corners, which are what we’ll call your trackers. They’re huge and brightly colored. You need to make sure you’re staying in line with these trackers, by picking up your head to see where you’re going. The only reason you swim in a straight line in the pool is because of the fat solid black line you swim on top of to keep you in check. It’s a good idea to practice spotting in a pool, or at least practice in open water prior to racing. You can easily add on a few hundred yards or more depending on how long your swim is if you’re not spotting the buoys. You also might swim yourself into a nice kayak, which are often conveniently located right in the middle of the line of swimmers. I myself have smacked my head hard on one of these puppies and proceeded to blame it on the nice kayak volunteer for being in my way. Point being, look up. The example above is of a lake swim. Most ocean swims will have you swimming parallel to shore, which means you’ll have the waves at your back coming in. Body surfing these in and beginning to dolphin dive once it’s about waist deep can save you some precious time.

Key Points To Take Away…

  • Pools aren’t a substitute for open water
  • Get the necessary gear to make your life easier for open water swimming
  • DO NOT swim alone or at least tell someone on shore you’re swimming and to keep an eye out
  • Learn how to study your surroundings; know the currents and swells
  • Place yourself correctly at the start of the swim start in a triathlon
  • Learn what spotting and dolphin diving are and how to utilize them (know your swim course as well)
  • Enjoy it! Stay calm, and remember why you started it all in the first place

Further Guides to Help:

Sleeved Wetsuit or Sleeveless?

Choosing the Right Triathlon Wetsuit

Printable Triathlon Gear Checklist

Wetsuit Fitting Diagram

Do I Need a Wetsuit?

A common question among first time triathletes is, “Do I need a triathlon wetsuit?” Wetsuits are almost always recommended in triathlons, but I’m writing this from the perspective of necessity.

This is a big concern because it’s often a hefty monetary investment, beating out the entry fee for a first timer. You can usually borrow a friend’s bike, or use your own hybrid/mountain/beater, but wetsuits are a different story because the fit is particular to a person’s body.

So do you need a wetsuit?

Wetsuit Fitting Diagram

I know it's not the most appropriate image for the article, but hey I thought it was helpful.

It depends.

Off the bat, when the water temperature is warm enough, wetsuits can be banned outright by the race, or permissible but rendering the athlete ineligible for awards.   If you’ve signed up for a race that falls under this instance, you won’t need one.

The USA Triathlon (USAT) rules on this point:

  • If the water is 78 degrees or lower, you can wear wetsuits without any issues.
  • But if the water is 78.1 – 83.9 degrees, competitors may wear wetsuits but will not be eligible for awards.
  • If the water temperature is 84 degrees or above, wetsuits are banned outright.

The World Triathlon Corporation (WTC/Ironman) rules on this point:

  • If the water is 76.1F degrees  or below, wetsuits are allowed without issues.
  • If the water is 76.1 – 83.9 degrees, competitors may wear wetsuits, but will not be eligible for awards.
  • If the water temperature is 84 degrees or above, wetsuits are banned outright.

For races where wetsuits are allowed (meaning the water temperature is on the cooler side), there are a few factors to consider.  Let’s get started.

Is it a pool swim?

If yes, there’s no need.  Have a good race!

No?

Is it an ocean swim?

If yes, then a wetsuit is recommended.   Waves and currents make ocean swimming challenging, especially for the more casual swimmer.  Having a wetsuit helps with buoyancy, making it easier to stay afloat, and also helps  you swim faster.  It’s a safety net of sorts, as the wetsuit can do quite a bit of work for you.  But if you’re a life long swimmer, and it’s a badge of pride to swim only with a jammer or bathing suit, perhaps this doesn’t apply. There is no doubt that a wetsuit will still provide benefits even if you don’t really need it to finish the race.

Not an ocean swim?

Is it a Lake swim?

If yes, a wetsuit is generally still recommended for the benefits of buoyancy as noted above.  But, the need here isn’t as dramatic.  Calm lake swims in bearable waters is something you may already do every summer.  Enjoy.  Same analysis for the life long swimmer as noted above. A wetsuit will provide benefits even if you are a great swimmer.

But what if the water is super cold?

Then yes, it’s recommended, but you might be able to abate the cold by also using a neoprene swim cap under your colored race swim cap provided to you.  This is where those life long swimmers would fall into. For all categories of people you should probably get a suit to help combat the cold.

Do you need all the help you can get?

A young lady I helped in the store told me, “I need all the help I can get.”  She blurted this statement as part of a logical assessment of her newbie abilities after I explained to her the different attributes and levels of suits we carry.  She ended up going with a Zoot Women’s Prophet that was on sale, fitting into her budget.   If you, like her, are not very confident in your swimming abilities and have heard yourself saying this, then you will take solace in having a wetsuit for the race.

It doesn’t have to be a high-end wetsuit, but practically any of the popular swim/triathlon wetsuits would give you the help you’ll need. I won’t argue the fact that a more expensive wetsuit generally offer more benefits. However I will say that there are so many choices out there that sometimes the most expensive option isn’t the best option for you.

So after going through this exercise, you may have concluded that a wetsuit is something you need.

I’ve compiled a few wetsuit resources along with actual products for your research:

Best of luck to you on your search for a triathlon wetsuit.

What to Wear Under a Triathlon Wetsuit

The question of, “What am I supposed to be wearing underneath my tri wetsuit?” is undoubtedly the most asked in the shop. The idea of wearing clothing underneath neoprene,  seems odd to many first-time triathletes. In reality, you can’t tell a difference underneath your wetsuit, and will save quite a bit of time by swimming in what you will be racing in. Essentially you wear whatever it is you’ll be competing in underneath. Often times, it’s the same clothing that you’ve been training ever so hard in over the course of the past months/weeks. With that said, triathletes have a couple of options as to what they choose to wear underneath their tri wetsuit. There’s two main types of race apparel: a trisuit, or a top with tri shorts.

Option 1:

Why a trisuit?

Racing in a one-piece can certainly be convenient. You’re simply wearing one article of clothing, not two, and thus don’t have to really worry about your shirt riding up and revealing anything not wanting to be revealed (muffins perhaps?) Most trisuits also have a zipper as well as  built-in-bra for additional support. Some trisuits, depending on the brand, have side or back pockets as well, which are perfect for storing those gu’s. Negatives? Certainly, if you have to use the restroom during your race. I recommend one-pieces to those participating in shorter distances such as sprints, or olympics. It is not particularly ideal to get out of this puppy when you’re in a rush to use the facilities during a longer race.

Option 2:

Why a two piece?

I find more athletes tend to gravitate towards wearing a triathlon top and triathlon short as separates. This could be that people are simply a bit weary of the one-piece, and in many cases have never seen one before. Wearing separates offers the ease of potentially more pockets for storing your goodies. Some tops are more of a singlet style with zip up in the front (like the one pictured), whereas some are a racerback style. When wearing two pieces, you have the option of changing up styles, coloring and brands. For example, if you like the feeling of a looser fitting top, and a short that’s a particular length, (most range from 4″ to 8″ for women) wearing two pieces offers a bit more variability. This option tends to be the better choice for the longer distances.

Other options:

Some athletes choose to wear no top under their wetsuit for the swim (or in a woman’s case, just her sport bra) and then put on their top once they reach transition. This can be a difficult task to do, as you will be wet and will be adding additional time to your race.  There have been those to wear a one-piece bathing suit underneath their wetsuit (Speedos or jammers in the case of men) underneath their wetsuit and do their race in just that. This is an option, although not the most comfortable.

For the triathlons where the swim portion takes place in a pool, the trisuit may be the better option, as a loose-fitting top could easily create drag. Most triathlon apparel is composed of a lycra blend, meaning it’s quick to dry, and barely noticeable while racing. If you’re wondering what to use for strictly training purposes, most simply wear their swim suits or, for men, jammers.

Any of these options will work,  it depends upon what you’re more comfortable wearing. The cardinal rule is to race in what you’ve been training in. Choosing to wear new race apparel can lead to the awful surprise of new-found seams and possible chaffing.

These are the variations of questions that I get.
What do I wear in a triathlon?
What do I wear under my wetsuit?
What do I wear under my tri wetsuit?

Why Do Swimskins Work?

http://www.onetri.com/torque-swimskin-mens-short-john-2011-p-4841.html

Wearing a wetsuit for the added buoyancy gain and inherent thermal protection certainly isn’t cheating and for many athletes it can be an absolutely necessity, but at a certain level of racing the competitive advantage gained from wearing a wetsuit is banned. Triathlon’s pinnacle race distance, the Ironman, and its respective championship race, Kona, have witnessed the rise of a new form of swimming garment; the swimskin.

Bred out of the need for a hydrodynamic suit that adheres to the guidelines from the scrabble list of acronymic governing bodies: USAT, WTC, and FINA, the swimskin has evolved into a textile based solution for elite open water swimmers looking to always be faster than the rest of the pack and to gain a competitive edge against other racers. TYR would say that you’re only as fast as your suit will let you be.TYR Torque Pro

Enter the Torque Pro swimskin.

This swimskin is not only going to give you a competitive hydrodynamic edge in the water during the elite races, but for shorter, mid-temperature and high surf-condition races, you’ll be less buoyant through the break, actually making you faster out to the first buoy since you’ll be able to leverage your bodyweight in a more efficient manner against the waves. I’d say for any sprint race or elite IM athlete, these new TYR swimskins are exactly the edge that you need to get the initial lead on the competition and keep them in your rear sights during the swim.

What is your running foot type?

So you’re a runner. Either you’ve been running for quite awhile or you’re savvy enough to research the sport before you dive in feet first, but the fact remains you’ve been inquisitive enough to find out that there are different running strokes (Gary Coleman not being an option here) and you’re fuzzy on how you fit into these categories. There is a simple test outside of inquiring with your local running shoe / triathlon shoe shop.

Neutral Pronation:

Neutral pronation may be described as an ideal running strike where the foot pronates with proper timing so that your feet utilize their natural cushioning effectively. This timing combines an ideal blend of your foot’s natural cushioning and stability and is in fact, a rare phenomenon among runners.

  • Ideal running strike
  • Running shoes don’t need to have extra cushioning or stability

Pronator: Motion Control / Stability Runner

Overpronation is marked by excessive motion in the foot resulting in an outer foot strike with an aggressive inward roll. Basically this means that the foot is cushioning too much and the runner suffers from a lack of stability.

  • Noticeable wear along the outside of your running shoes
  • A flat foot / lower arch for your feet
  • Referred to as the open pack position
  • Runners need greater support and rigidity in the heel and instep of the shoe, not cushioning

Supinator

This running strike results in a tight inward foot roll so that the foot isn’t able to take advantage of its natural cushioning abilities, resulting in a rigid joint. A runner who is a supinator doesn’t need extra stability in their shoe and should seek a shoe with extra cushioning to help the supinator to run efficiently and prevent injuries over time.

  • Noticeable wear on the heel and instep of your running shoes
  • High arch
  • Referred to as the close pack position
  • Runners need a shoe with maximum cushioning in the heel and instep of their shoes

Sleeveless vs Sleeved Tri Wetsuits

It’s a roaring debate between some, others it’s a cut and dry situation, but still the debate remains: is there an added benefit to swimming with or without sleeves? The short answer is sleeved tri wetsuits will always be faster, but then again, only for some.

The facts:

Sleeved

If looks could kill this suit would leave competitors dead in the water
  • Added buoyancy (aids in sighting strokes as well)
  • More efficient glide stroke
  • Greater surface area with addition of catch panels
  • Increased insulation for colder water swims
  • By far the more popular version of triathlon wetsuit
  • Can potentially keep water out better (which means less weight to pull)

Sleeveless

  • Greater range of motion
  • Less strain on shoulders
  • Better feeling of the catch
  • Increase in comfort for warmer water

What the debate ultimately boils down to is which suit best fits your body type and the water conditions that you’re racing in. If you have shoulder problems from an injury or surgery or an old-school/hardcore swimmer, you will notice an added benefit from wearing a sleeveless suit. If you’re a struggling swimmer looking to gain from added buoyancy or a hardcore racer looking for the latest and greatest to shave off a few seconds on your splits, a full-sleeve suit is what you’re looking for.

Debate over sleeved vs. sleeveless wetsuits at the Slow Twitch forum:

http://forum.slowtwitch.com/forum/Slowtwitch_Forums_C1/Triathlon_Forum_F1/When_is_a_sleeveless_wetsuit_faster_P3430382

What triathlon wetsuit is the best? – This is another resource to help you determine which tri wetsuit is right for you. If you want to learn more about buying the right triathlon wetsuit this article may help.

Tri Shorts Guide

Do I need tri shorts? What tri shorts should I get? As a beginner you might have asked one of these questions. Here’s a list of tri short considerations and guides.

Why Tri Shorts? – Most coaches that I’ve run into in the past have all said if you buy one thing triathlon specific then it should be a pair of tri shorts. I agree as it’s likely the most important thing that sticks with you throughout the race. I think it’s important to get a comfortable good quality pair of tri shorts. This doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive pair but I wouldn’t skimp in this area. There are plenty of good tri shorts at around $60.

Considerations: There are a lot of things to consider when buying tri shorts. I’ll try to list all of them here:

  • Length – Inseam length is a common consideration for people mainly because of comfort in the past 6″ shorts were the most popular. Nowadays 9″ and longer are more common. The most important thing here is to get something you are comfortable with.
  • Pad – A good pad is a common desire of people who know their tri shorts. The most popular tri pads are the ones that have a little bit extra padding but not so much that it adversely affects the swimming and running portion of your race and training. You will generally pay a little more for these pads. Traditionally tri pads are a black, very thin, quick wicking, synthetic sponge like material. The newer pads are usually differentiated by being a different color, generally red. The best way to tell what will work for you is to just feel the difference. All pads are not created equally.
  • Pockets – Some tri shorts offer 1 or more pockets to store small items like a gel packet. In one case it’s a nice feature to have if you want a gel in your pants. On the other hand you may not really need pockets if you have a race belt and pouch on your bike. Again this is a preference thing. A lot of people like the pockets. I don’t really use my tri short pockets. I tend to use my jersey pockets.
  • Compression – This is a very popular consideration nowadays. People are leaning towards the benefits of compression and even buying compression tri shorts. There’s a lot to learn about compression so I’ll leave that for another time.
  • Material – Tri shorts are made out of all types of materials. It’s an impossible balance to make a short sturdy, comfortable, fast, fast wicking, cheap, cool, and warm when you need it. Just know that you won’t be able to find an all-in-one-tri-short-that-does-everything. The best you can do is focus on comfort an in the long run you’ll be happy.
  • Price – I already touched on this but I don’t think it’s a good idea to skimp here. You will be in your shorts for a long period of time. There is a lot of motion going on down there in the swim, bike, and run. A number of reputable brands have good tri shorts around $60 you can probably spend a little more to get something with a few more extras.
Tri Shorts – Click on this link to see a huge selection of tri shorts.

Triathlon Short Vs. Bike Shorts

“What’s the difference between tri shorts and bike shorts?”, “Why do I need tri shorts?”, “What are tri shorts?”

Working for a triathlon company, I get asked these questions quite often. Three distinct items differentiate tri shorts from bike shorts:

  1. Function: Running and Swimming versus Bike Riding
  2. Construction: How the short is designed
  3. Price: Which is more expensive? It really depends on what quality product you are going to pick.

Function: Whether or not you’re really going to need that diaper of a pad….

Bike shorts often come with the notion of having a “diaper-like” pad. This is based upon the fact that the padding (chamois) in a bike short is much thicker, as well it covers a wider surface area of the short (the pad reaches higher in the front, as well as the back for more cushion support). So why would you need a thicker pad as a triathlete? Simple. If you plan on logging in some serious training miles (let’s say beyond 20 or 30 mile rides) a thicker pad will eventually become a necessity. However, a biking short is just that: made for biking. A short with such a cushion would not be functional to run and swim in.  The bike short is designed for longer training rides. Thus, the need for tri shorts that have thinner pads designed with consideration for running and swimming in.

Construction: Tri and bike shorts have different design features. As previously mentioned, there’s the distinct difference of a thinner chamois in a cycling short but what else separates the two?

  • length:  A tri short tends to be shorter in length (a good 2-3 inches depending on the style). This difference is even more noticeable in some women’s styles.  Triathlon shorts generally range around 6” to 10”.
  • moisture wicking: A tri short is also designed to wick moisture, meaning they’re going to keep much drier and won’t absorb nearly as much water as a bike short. This in large part comes from the difference in the pad
  • shape: The actual shape of the shorts and chamois is designed with running in mind. Its shape moves with you while running, and the pad doesn’t span quite as wide. The cushioning is generally slight, and light enough to become unnoticeable while out on the run (but I’ve found this to be quite subjective among different shorts matched with different people). With most bike shorts you will find the short to mimic the shape of your body in a sitting position. With most tri shorts you will find them to be straight in construction like most pants and running shorts.

Pricing: Cost differences

On average, you’re going to be looking at a slightly steeper cost for a cycling short.

Bike Shorts: More material and a thicker padding usually translates to a little bit more of a cost. So when should you spend the extra cash? When a thicker chamois and longer short can’t be compromised. For many people longer bike training days equate to riding in cycling shorts rather than tri shorts. In this case comfort is paramount and sometimes it’s just not worth the saddle pains.

Tri Shorts: Some tri shorts can get very pricey when you consider the materials, pad, compression, etc… Look to spend between $60 to $100 for a pair of current/in-season/up-to-date tri shorts from a reputable company. For the most part, you’re probably going to want to stick to triathlon shorts for race day and even many training days.

If you’re looking for a best seller as far as cycling short for comfort reasons, check out the De Soto 400 Mile Bike Short.

Need an all around great tri short? Check out the 2XU Comp Tri Short. Get both shorts at OneTri.com

Happy Training.

Triathlon shoes vs. Regular shoes (running)

Have you ever asked “What is the difference between regular running shoes and triathlon running shoes?”

This is an interesting topic, as it should be. At any triathlon, the majority of participants sport running shoes that are recognizable to most of the general public. These shoes have their own 2 minute television ad that’s often not about the shoe, and about something else simply because the brand has so much brand recognition. They’re nothing too fancy, and we’ve all owned one.

But what about those triathlon specific running shoes? What makes them special?

In a short, its the construction for the transition off the bike and into the run.

In any triathlon, particularly in those that are shorter in distance than a half, a transition can easily mean a few places in position when it comes to the final results. This is most apparent in the top group of finishers as the difference between their times often come down to seconds if not minutes.

Triathlon specific running shoes are constructed for easy in and easy out/shifting your effort from biking to running. Zoot Running shoes are the ideal example when it comes to shoes designed specifically for triathlon and transitions. The notable features of a Zoot triathlon shoe are that they:

  • Are Extremely light
  • Have a liner in the shoe that allows for sock -less wear.  The material in these shoes reduces/eliminates odors.
  • Lack a traditional tongue.  This feature often allows for a quick lacing system, or no laces at all.
  • Have a unique heel to toe differential.  The race specific triathlon shoes by Zoot have a 10mm heel to toe differential.  This thickness in the sole encourages a mid foot/forefoot strike that is an extremely efficient running form, particularly when right off the bike.
  • Drainage holes.  Ever get grab hydration at long races?  Ever get soggy feet because you spill water all over the shoe?  You guessed it, blister city.   Water can easily add quite a bit of weight to your shoe when you make a mess at transition after taking off your wetsuit.  Having these drainage holes aides in drying out the moisture during your run.  Pretty brilliant if you ask me.

Here are two by Zoot I like:
Zoot Ultra Speed Shoe

Interested in picking one  up for your next tri sport event?  A little bird tells me OneTri.com carries Zoot shoes and more.