Tri 101: So You Want To Do A Triathlon?

I get a lot of questions from friends and clients who are thinking about doing a triathlon, but don’t think they can do one. Of course you can! Anyone can do a triathlon!

First, let’s back up and start from the beginning. The sport of triathlon is actually a multisport competition of three consecutive sports: swimming, biking, and running. There are a few variations of the sport though, such as duathlons (run-bike-run), aquabike (swim-bike), and Xterra [swim (sometimes kayak)-mountain bike-trail run].

There are several triathlon race distances:

  • Sprint – 750 meters (~0.5 miles; can vary) swim, 20km (~10 miles; can vary) bike, 5k (3.1 miles) run
  • Olympic – 1.5km (0.93 mile) swim, 40km (25 miles) bike, 10km (6.2 miles) run
  • Half-Ironman or 70.3 – 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
  • Ironman 0r 140.6 – 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run

The first modern-day triathlon event was held in Mission Bay, San Diego, California, on September 25, 1974. The race was sponsored by the San Diego Track Club and had 46 participants. The first modern-day long course event, later named Ironman, was the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon. The idea of the Ironman was conceived shortly after the 1977 Oahu Perimeter Relay race with many participants from the Mid-Pacific Road Runners and Waikiki Swim Club, whose members would often debate if swimmers or runners were the most “fittest” athletes. US Navy Commander would sometimes argue that cyclists were the fittest because recently Sports Illustrated declared Belgian cyclist, Eddy Merckx, had the highest maximum oxygen uptake. Collins, who participated with his wife in several of the Mission Bay triathlons in San Diego, suggested they settle the fittest athlete debate through a race combining three exisiting long-distance competitions: the Waikiki Roughwater 2.4 mile swim, the Around-Oahu Bike Race (115 miles), and the Honolulu Marathon (26.2 miles).

On February 18, 1978 fifteen men started the first Ironman race and only 12 men finished. Gordon Haller became the first Ironman by finishing the race in 11 hours, 46 minutes, and 58 seconds. The first woman competed in 1979. Ironman and the sport of triathlon really became big after Julie Moss crawled across the 1982 finish line on national television to take 2nd place.

Triathlon debuted in the 2000 Olympics at the Sydney Games. Simon Whitefield of Canada and Brigitte McMahon of Switzerland were the first man and woman to win a gold medal in the sport of triathlon. Paratriathlon will debut at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The sport of triathlon has boomed in recent years and will continue to grow in future years. Just this past fall, triathlon became an official NCAA sport for women!

Next post: Equipment

~ Happy Training!

A Year in Review: 2013 – Part I

Since today is the last day of 2013 I should probably start my Year in Review posts. Hmm… I’ll keep this one to more of the highlights and photos. But, 2013 was a good year. It started off a bit rough, but ended with many good things happening. I can’t complain.



January was a month of ups and downs. I just finished my MPH degree in December and began my job search. Some decisions made by my boss at work made me extremely stressed since I wasn’t sure I was going to have a job. This caused me become sick often, which hindered a lot of my tri training, which began on the 1st of the year. Things at the gym were also unusually slow so professionally and financially I was stressed. However, I got my degree in the mail so it made things more real!


Picking the pace up!

Picking the pace up!

I ran the annual Mid-Winter Classic 10-Miler again. It went way better than my disaster of 2012 race where I ran sick and came really close to DNFing. However, I still treated the day more of a training run than anything because I was learning I lost all my running aerobic fitness over my Fall running hiatus due to plantar fasciitis. I also learned important lessons in time management. Working three jobs and training for an Ironman is not fun or easy to do.


My mother, my sister and I (1989)

My mother, my sister and I (1989)

Azul and I celebrated our One Year anniversary. I love that bike! I also celebrated the 4 year anniversary of my mother passing, which is never easy to do. I miss her everyday.




I started April off with a bang! I ran the Race the Runways Half-Marathon again, this time as a training run. It was insanely cold and windy, but I had great company throughout the race. The next day I developed a 102 fever and was out for a couple of days. Go figure! Towards the end of the month I began to develop a bit of a twinge in my right knee. I also went to the USAT Level One Coaching clinic and became a certified coach!


Tammy, Myself, Marisa, and Beth - all taking home hardware after a great race!

Tammy, Myself, Marisa, and Beth – all taking home hardware after a great race!

That twinge in my right knee developed into full-fledge IT-Band issues that plagued me for the rest of the summer. I managed to race the PolarBear Tri… barely. Miraculously, I placed 3rd in my age group.


Okay, not from my rides this week... but from the Patriot Hald Aquabike

Patriot Half Aquabike

My run training was extremely limited. I saw my chiropractor at least once a week to help heal my IT-Band issues. I dropped down from the Half-Ironman to the Half Aqua Bike at the Patriot Half. I had a good day, pacing myself like I would at Lake Placid. However, I almost ran over both turkeys and geese on the bike.



I became an Ironman! I celebrated yet another epic 4th of July with my favorite family and began my final build to the big day. My Ironman day went as planned. My knee held out to mile 18ish of the run before I was forced to walk the rest of the way, but I finished my goal, and that was to become an Ironman.


Enjoying a day at the beach

Enjoying a day at the beach

August was a recovery month. I spent a lot of time with friends and family. Towards the end of the month I began running again slowly just to rebuild my horrible running fitness. I had several promising job interviews. I also left my job at the gym I was working at to go off on my own to start my own business.


An example of pubis symphysis seperation - clearly an extreme case (Source)

An example of pubis symphysis separation – clearly an extreme case (Source)

I finally got offered a job! A great deal of stress was lifted off of me. I continued running easily until my pelvis decided to twist itself again. Awesome. I then began another running hiatus and began my yoga addiction.



Hot Yoga Time!

I became addicted to hot yoga and it was fabulous. I saw my chiropractor at least once a week to convince my pelvis not to split into two. I was happy as a clam at my new job and I joined the Junior League of Portland, Maine.


One of my favorite quotes of the year!

One of my favorite quotes of the year!

I continued with my yoga binge, loving every minute of it. I was slowly cleared to return to “normal” training. I mostly rode my bike, but ran a few times. It hurt.


Skiing at Shawnee Peak

Skiing at Shawnee Peak

I skied for the first time since my mother died almost five years ago with a friend. More to come of this in the next week or so. I’ve slowly been building my aerobic base again, mostly through cycling.

~ Happy Training and Happy 2014!!

Year in Triathlon – 2013

I always enjoy writing yearly recaps. It think it’s fun to look back and see what I have or have not accomplished over the year. I plan to do a longer and more involved post next week about my year, since some pretty big life events occurred. In the meantime, here is a fun running/triathlon related year review questionnaire from Miss Zippy.

Best race experience?


Hands down, it was Ironman Lake Placid. Even though my race day expectations weren’t quite as I imagined at the beginning of 2013 (thank you IT Band/knee!), I went into the day with the goal of just finishing and enjoying the day. You can catch up on my race reports and reflections here:

IMLP Race Report I

IMLP Race Report II

Ironman Lake Placid: The Why, The Data, and The Photo I Carried

Lesson from Yoga: Just Breathe…

Best run?

This one is hard to pick since I wasn’t able to run a lot due to my IT Band problems all year. The one I remember the most was the 3 mile run of the PolarBear Tri in May. My IT Band/knee went right before the race so I honestly went into the race expecting to DNF. I hobbled out on T2 with intense pain in my right knee, but somehow managed to ignore the pain and run through it to finish 3rd in my age group. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have run and just taken the DNF, but my ego got the best of me.

Race Report: PolarBear Tri

My best runs probably occurred the end of August into September where I was finally able to resume running relatively pain-free. I just focused on slow, steady HR-based runs to regain my aerobic fitness, then my hip decided to revolt and I was laid up with hip issues again. Overall, not the year for running for me!

Best Bike?

Okay, not from my rides this week... but from the Patriot Hald Aquabike

Patriot Half Aquabike

Hmmm… once again, none really stand out to me this year. I did log a lot of miles on my bike this year. There was one 3+ hour ride the first weekend of June, where it was 90+ degrees, and I succeed to get a nasty sunburn on my back. Ouch! The bike leg of the Patriot Half AquaBike was a fun course and I really nailed my race plan for IMLP. I also got attacked by turkeys and geese in the middle of the road!

Race Report: Patriot Half AquaBike

I rode to New Hampshire one day for an 90+ mile ride. It’s always fun to say that I rode to another state. My first 100+ mile training ride was another decent ride. I rode from my house in Gorham up the coast to Bath and back. I think I went through at least 7-8 water bottles that day.

Oh yea, I rode my bike 109 miles on Sunday...

Oh yea, I rode my bike 109 miles on Sunday…

Best swim?

I think my IMLP swim was my best swim of the year. I swam conservatively and outside the cable line in attempt to not get punched and/or swam over. It caused me to swim a little extra distance, but I met my goals and was comfortable the entire time. Plus, I got to swim with my closet 3000 friends! 🙂

Excited to swim in Sebago Lake

Excited to swim in Sebago Lake

Best new piece of gear?

My Garmin 910XT! I still suck at using it during races. Hello 112 mile T1! Ha! But, in all seriousness, I really love it, especially the swim function.

Happy birthday to me!

Happy birthday to me!

Best piece of running advice you received?

The best piece of advice I received this year was just prior to IMLP when a friend told me to enjoy the moment. You only get one first Ironman and it worth it to step back and suck the moment in. I wrote about that experience HERE.

Most inspirational runner?

I read Kilian Jornet’s book this year and he is a remarkable runner and adventurer. You can read my book review here on Run or Die. I am also a big fan of Lauren Fleshmen. Not only is she a superfast runner, a new mom, wife to pro triathlete Jesse Thomas, but she wrote this awesome piece on bodyweight perception and the media in her piece called Keeping it Real.

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?

Accomplishing, challenging, and thought-provoking

How was your 2013? Did you meet all your goals? What was the most memorable moment for you?

~ Happy Training!

Race Report: Patriot Half-Ironman Aquabike



Patriot Half!

I signed up for this race back in December hoping that I would have a good solid race before my final build to Lake Placid. However, sometimes life throws you curveballs and you just need to change your plan. I decided a month ago after my knee/hip issues started that I would drop down to the aquabike. I didn’t really want to, but I decided to be smart and not do anything stupid… like run a half-marathon with an injured leg. 

The week before the race I managed to come down with a nasty cold (again). I succeeded to do absolutely nothing last weekend in order to get rid of the cold. It helped, but my nose was still pretty runny and I pretty much lost my voice. I hadn’t been in open water yet either. Luckily, one of my co-workers offered (okay, maybe I bribed him) to kayak for me Thursday night so I could try on my wetsuit and get in the water for a bit of swimming. This week was pretty crappy weather-wise. Lots of rain so the lake was freezing. It was also windy and choppy. I lasted a whole 7 minutes in the water. Yikes! Hopefully race day will be much better!

Excited to swim in Sebago Lake

Excited to swim in Sebago Lake

I headed down to Massachusetts on Friday night and stayed at my coaches house. I got to see her herd of puppies. They are completely crazy and lovable at the same time! I had a pretty good night of sleep. Going into this race I wasn’t really nervous. At this point, mentally I was considering this more of a training day than a pure race. The ultimate goal is Lake Placid so I treated this as a day to a) complete my first real open water swim of the year, b) get nutrition timing down, and c) work on pacing throughout the bike course.


I got up at 4:15 and had a quick breakfast of a bagel with cream cheese and applesauce. No issues with breakfast going down. Guess I really wasn’t that nervous. Got in the car and turned the GPS on. Had issues with the GPS losing satellite the entire drive to Freetown. Awesome. I made it with plenty of time. Got my race packet. Racked bike. Set up transition. Felt like I was missing everything since I didn’t need my running shoes. Took Azul (my bike) for a quick spin. Used the porta-potty. Put on the wetsuit. Quick warm-up in the lake. Water temperature was about 60 degrees. Waited about 40 minutes until my swim wave went off.

The Swim:

I was in the last wave with both men and women aquabikers and the relay peeps. I seeded myself in the semi-middle third row back. The gun went off and so did we. I found open water pretty quickly. I didn’t have any major issues of anyone swimming over me or kicking me. I kind of wish that they did in a way so I could “practice” for Lake Placid! The first third of my swim was rough. I couldn’t settle in. My stroke was horrible. I’m sure I looked like a dying fish out of water. Finally, I was able to settle into my swim stroke and was making my way towards to first turn buoy. It felt like it took forever to get there! As you got further out into the lake it got a bit choppy. I made the first turn and headed for the second one. I could see that I was passing a few people in the previous waves so I was feeling okay about my swim, but I knew that I was slow. Before I started the race I set my watch to beep every 10 minutes during the swim so I had an idea of the time. The second beep went off shortly after I rounded the first buoy. I made it around the second turn buoy and started to pick up the pace towards “home.” The third beep went off and I knew I was looking at a 40+ minute swim. Definitely very slow for me, which I was slightly bummed about. However, I guess that’s what you get when you haven’t swam open water since last August. Finally I made it shore!

Swim: 42:02 (2:00/100 yards) 5/12 AG; 20/49 OA


Did my hair. Did my make-up. Just Kidding. I had a hell of a time getting my wetsuit off. It took forever. Best part of it was the fact that I managed to strain my left calf muscle while taking my suit off. Awesome. An hour later…

T1: 3:53 min

The Bike

The course is a two loop 28-mile course that is relatively flat with some rollers. It was a pretty course with views of lakes and nice houses. It reminded me a lot of Pumpkinman and a little bit of the Maine Rev3 course. It took me a bit to settle into the bike. My head was still a bit cloudy from the swim. The first couple of miles had a bunch of turns so it wasn’t very fast, but I did managed to pass a few people right off the bat. I concentrated on staying in my power zones and riding the course smart and consistently. My goal was to do the first loop a bit easier and then pick it up for the second loop. About 10 miles into the course I passed a woman and she asked if I was on my second loop. I laughed and told her I was only on my first loop. She said “oh, you have a pointy helmet so I thought you were on your second.” Thanks for thinking I’m super fast lady! I just might have to wear my aero helmet from now on. Ha! Shortly after that I came upon two tom turkeys trying to cross the road. Both were running around in the middle of the road like deer in headlights. Great! Luckily, they moved quickly to the side of the road and I was able to pass them without coming to a complete stop. At this point I started to play cat and mouse with an older woman named Shirley. This would go on throughout the entire ride. I would pass her and then she’d get a second wind and pass me only to have me pass her later on down the road. Great fun and a great motivator! Around mile 15 or so we came up to a road between two lakes. Just as a came around the bend a flock of Canadian geese and baby geese were trying to cross the road. Seriously! Turkeys and now geese! I kind of made a “no no” sound to get them to stay on the side of the road so I could pass and one of them hissed at me! I didn’t think Geese could hiss! Yikes!

I kept moving and soon Melissa passed me like a rocket! I skipped the bottle exchange at mile 18 and kept plugging along. Soon I passed by transition and headed out for my second loop. I picked up the speed and started focusing on passing anyone I could. At this point the headwind picked up again. It was there on the first loop, but definitely picked up a bit more on the second. This time I passed both mile 10 and 15 without any birds trying the cross the road. I did see a turtle at one point. Around mile 45 or so Shirley and I started playing cat and mouse with a man named Craig. Right around this point the bike traffic started to pick up a bit and becoming a bit of a cluster-f***. The roads were a bit narrow and there were cars trying to pass. Things got a bit slow. At this point I was getting frustrated and finally when I had a chance I just put my head low and hauled ass by about 10+ cyclists. Shirley and Craig were long gone at this point. I passed the bottle exchange again and knew I had roughly 10 miles left. At this point I picked it up again. I passed a bunch of people knowing that I didn’t have the run. In the final miles I saw the elite men heading to the finish of the run looking strong. Then I saw transition and was done. It was a nice feeling knowing I didn’t have the run now. But, I sort of missed not being able to run….

Bike: 3:11:56 (17.5mph) 6 AG; 29 OA

Overall, I felt good during the race. I was a bit disappointed with my time overall. I was slow, but I haven’t been training much in my half-ironman zones. That coupled with my cold, I did the best I could on that day. I was just glad that I didn’t have any major coughing spells during the swim or bike. Looking at the results afterwards there were a lot of slow bike times. I was really hoping to go sub-3 on the course and it is definitely within my capability. I think the headwind played a role in the slower times. I compared how I did in the aquabike to my age group for the Half and I would have placed well there if I didn’t have my knee injury. But you never really know. I did accomplish my goal of the day – to have a good solid ride. My VI for the ride was 1.09, which is really really good for me! I was happy about that. My legs felt good at the end, minus the calf strain. Now, onwards to my final build to Ironman Lake Placid!

Overall: 3:57:48.6 6/12 AG (Women under 44); 10/28 Females; 26/49 Overall

My awesome Garmin watch tan lines!

My awesome Garmin watch tan lines!