FAQ [updated]

FAQ [updated]

Post by Larry Chapm » Wed, 14 Sep 1994 00:23:31

[added Q/A for "brick"]

1) What are typical events in a summer triathlon?
2) What are the standard distances?
3) What equipment should I plan to take?
4) How Do I Train?
5) Why do so many triathletes get upset about wetsuit usage in races?
6) Why is the "Olympic distance" triathlon 1.5k/40k/10k?
7) Why is the swim leg of a triathlon relatively shorter in time than the
   biking or running legs?
8) What's a "Brick".
9) What should I read?
10) Various addresses

1) What are typical events in a summer triathlon?


2) What are the standard distances?

                  SWIM     |    BIKE       |     RUN
                km     mi  |  km     mi    |   km    mi
                           |               |
Jr. Youth      100m        |  5    3.1     |   1    .62
(7-10 yrs)                 |               |
                           |               |
Sr. Youth      200m        |  12   7.4     |   3    1.9
(11-14yrs)                 |               |
                           |               |
Short          .3-1 .24-.62| 8-25   5-15.5 | 1.5-5  1-3
                           |               |
International  1-2  .62-1.2| 25-50  15.5-31| 5-10   3.1-6.2
                           |               |
Olympic        1.5         | 40            |   10
                           |               |
Long           2-4  1.2-2.5| 50-100  31-62 | 10-30  6.2-19
                           |               |
Ultra          3.2+  2+    | 100+   62+    | 30+    19+
                           |               |
Ironman              2.4   |        112    |        26.2


3) What equipment should I plan to take?

  Towels (sit on in transition area, dry off, wipe feet)
  Bucket (with water to wash sand off feet)
  Swim cap
  Petroleum jelly (crotch, ***s, underarms)

  Bike shoes
  Bike shorts
  Bike jersey/singlet
  Gloves (probably not in a short race)
  Cycling glasses
  Water bottles
  Spare tires/tubes
  CO2 cartridges
  Tool kit
  Floor pump
  Frame pump
  Bike lube

  Running shoes

  Race number
  Race information
  Writing instrument
  Money/credit card
  First aid kit
  Fluid replacement drink
  Energy food
  Misc. warmer cloths (tights, jacket, helmet cover, etc.)

4) How Do I Train?




       The  following  sections  describe how to train for  triathlons  for
       people with little or no triathlon  experience, but the  information
       is  general  enough  that it can be used for  almost  any  endurance
       sport.  First things first.  You need to gauge your current  fitness
       level.  Get  a  physical  done  by  your   physician.  Ask  yourself
       questions  such  as, "Do I work  out  regularly  (3 or more  times a
       week)?", "How far can I swim/bike/run  comfortably?", and "Do I have
       any  medical  conditions  and/or  injuries  (e.g.  asthma,  strained
       ligaments)  I should be aware of?"  It is  important  to  understand
       your current  fitness level so that you can properly train and build
       onto your fitness without becoming injured.

       You should  determine  your training  heart rate ranges.  First, you
       need to know your maximum  heart rate  (HRmax).  You can estimate it
       using the following formulas:

                       Women:   226 - AGE   = HRmax
                       Men:     220 - AGE   = HRmax

       Be aware that the above  formulas only give  estimates - your actual
       maximum  heart  rate may be higher  or  lower.  There  are  tests to
       determine this, but the formulas give a good starting point.

       Now you should find your resting  heart rate  (HRrest).  This can be
       done by taking the  average of your pulse for a few  mornings  after
       you wake up but while  still in bed.  From these two numbers you can
       determine your training heart rate ranges using the Karvonen method.
       The  formula  below is used to find your  heart  rate at a  specific
       exertion level (from a range of 0 to 100%).

          (HRmax - HRrest) x (%effort) + (HRrest)  =  HR%effort


          HRmax = 220 - 26 = 194  (assuming a 26-year-old male)

          HRrest = 45  (averaged over 7 consecutive mornings)

          HR_80% = (194 - 45) x 0.80 + 45 = 163

       Using the table  below, you will know what your heart rate should be
       for certain  types of workouts.  In the beginning of your  training,
       you'll  mostly be  training  in the lower  ranges.  As the races get
       closer,  you'll  begin to explore  the higher  ranges of your  heart

               Level    %effort        Type of Training
                 I     60% - 70%    Overdistance, Endurance
                II     71% - 74%    Endurance, Speedwork
                III    75% - 80%    Endurance
                IV     81% - 90%    Intervals
                 V     91% - 100%   Race

       A PLAN

       Would  you try to build a new home  without a  floorplan?  You don't
       want to train without a plan, either.  With a plan, you know exactly
       what you need to do to achieve  your goals.  The plan also  prevents
       you from  overtraining,  which is discussed later, and allows you to
       fit training in around other  activities  and work.  You may want to
       base  your  training  on the  amount  of time you have to work  out.
       Instead of trying to run 5 miles over your lunch  hour, you may want
       to plan on running 40 minutes and not be late for your 1:00 meeting.
       Know how hard or easy you want to work out - use your  heart rate to
       make yourself work harder or to keep yourself from working too hard.

       Your plan doesn't need to be detailed, but it should be flexible for
       those  unplanned  for  instances.  Keep a training log with notes of
       what you did each day and how you felt.  You  should  also  write it
       down so you can compare  notes later when you create a plan for next
       season.  The following  sections  divide up the season into 5 parts:
       Base,  Intensity,  Peak, Race, and  Recovery.  After  reading  these
       sections, you should have a better idea of how to plan your season.


       Before you start  "real"  training,  you'll want to  strengthen  and
       prepare  your body for the stresses it will need to handle.  This is
       done by doing easy training and slowly increasing the amount of time
       or distance spent  swimming,  biking, and running.  It is not a time
       to see how  fast  you can  run 5  miles  or to be  hammering  in the
       biggest  gears on your bike - these  types of  activities  will most
       likely lead to  injuries.  This is because it takes  longer to build
       up the  strength of your  ligaments,  tendons,  and muscles than the
       time it take to build  up your  aerobic  capacity  (i.e.  lungs  and
       heart).  Base building will slowly but surely strengthen the muscles
       your need to do your chosen sport.  Most of this training  should be
       done in heart rate zones I and II.  You  should  avoid  training  in
       zone III - in this zone you can build your  endurance, but your body
       doesn't  recover as well and can  become  depleted  over a period of
       time if you  continue to train at that level.  Zones IV and V should
       be avoided  until you have built up enough  strength  to handle  the
       higher intensities.

       You can prevent  injury by following  your plan.  Depending  on your
       current  level of fitness, Base  building can last  anywhere  from 6
       weeks  to 26  weeks.  Follow  the  10%  rule -  never  increase  the
       distance  more than 10% above the maximum  distance you have done in
       the last few weeks.  For example,  you rode your bike 100 miles last
       week, you wouldn't want to ride more than 110 miles this week.  Base
       building  workouts should seem easy, but may leave you tired.  It is
       important  to get enough  rest and eat  properly  during  this time.
       This may also be the time to put  yourself  on a  regular  schedule,
       fatigue can creep up unnoticed at any time.

       Don't worry about speed or times yet, that is what the next  periods
       are  for.  At the end of the  Base  period,  you  should  be able to
       easily  cover the  distances  you want to race.  For  example,  if I
       wanted to do an Olympic distance  triathlon such as the Sun-Times in
       Chicago,  I should be able to swim 1 mile,  bike 25 miles, and run 6
       miles.  Even if you can  cover the  distances  now, you would  still
       want to have some sort of Base period to prevent injuries later.

       Plan on spending more time training in the sports you are weaker in.
       For  example, if you  already  run 10K's,  you'll  probably  want to
       devote more of your time to swimming and biking.


       Now  that you  have a Base of  fitness,  you're  ready  to add  more
       Intensity  to your  workouts.  Again, most of the  training  will be
       done with your heart rate in zones I and II, but now you should also
       be doing some  speedwork  and  intervals  where your heart rate goes
       into zone IV for short periods of time.  The Intensity period should
       be no longer than your Base period.

       To  improve  performance,  push your body just above  what it can do
       comfortably, and then allow it to recover.  This translates into the
       hard/easy  training  method.  If you do a hard  workout one day, you
       probably  want to take it easy the next day or even take the day off
       as rest.  This will allow your body to recover and rebuild, and your
       muscles will become  stronger as you adapt to the greater amounts of

       Intensity  can be achieved in  different  ways.  You may want to try
       some  fartlek  work in the  beginning - going hard for a few minutes
       when you feel like it.  Or timed intervals - go hard for X number of
       minutes  with Y number of minutes  rest.  Running or biking up hills
       is also a good way to achieve Intensity.

       Group workouts are a great way to force yourself to work hard.  Most
       people find they can train more  regularly,  at a faster pace, or at
       greater distances when they have other people to work out with.  Try
       to find a club or  group to  train  with  when  you  want to do some
       higher  intensity  workouts.  Most  cities  have a Masters  swimming
       team, a running  club, and a bike shop  that  knows  about the local
       rides.  You  might  need to do some  searching,  but it is worth the

       Keep in mind  that  group  workouts  usually  end up being a  higher
       intensity  than workouts done  individually  due to the  competitive
       genes that seem to surface  when groups of athletes get  together to
       train.  The 5x100 Easy set in the pool becomes  5x100  Sprints.  The
       group ride turns into a classic  cycling road race with  attacks and
       speed  surges.  The  group  run  turns  into a charge on the  course
       record.  If your want an easy  workout or plan on training  in heart
       rate zones I and II, you might be better off going out by yourself.


       A few weeks before  racing, you should reduce the amount of time and
       distance you are training at and  concentrate  on speed.  You can do
       this  by  doing  shorter,  more  intense  workouts.  Races  used  as
       practice  are also  useful.  Do some short  cycling  time  trials or
       running  races,  especially  if  you're  having  trouble  motivating
       yourself  to train - they can be fun and a good  workout at the same
       time.  You should be doing some  training  in heart rate zones I and
       II to keep your  endurance, but a good portion of your training will
       be in heart rate zone IV.

       The idea of peaking is that you have the endurance base necessary to
       finish the race, now is the time to work on performance.


       Depending  on the  distance of the race, you need to take a few easy
       days or more to allow your body to be fully  recovered  and refueled
       for the race.  Everyone is  different  - some  people  need weeks of
       rest,  others  can  train  right up to the day of the race and still
       perform  well.  A good sign of how  rested  you are is your  morning
       heart rate.  If it's higher  than normal or your legs feel heavy and
       sluggish,  you probably  should train lightly or not at all in order
       to be  prepared  for the  race.  A good  rule of  thumb  for  longer
       distance races such as marathons or Ironman  triathlons is to reduce
       your  training  time with two weeks to go before  the event to about
       70%, and with one week to go reduce your  training  even  further to
       about 30% of your normal time.

       If you're racing every weekend, you really don't need to worry about
       adding much  Intensity to your  workouts  during the Racing  season.
       Races can be your hard workout - train lightly to keep active and to
       keep your  endurance  between races.  If you're not racing much, you
       need to keep doing some hard workouts or race  simulation to keep in

       As far as what to do during an actual race,  experience  is the best
       factor.  For specific  help, pose your questions to  triathletes  in
       your area.  Some helpful hints for a triathlon are listed below:

          * Plan and pack  what you are  going to wear and use  during  the
            race the night  before.  Create a  checklist  to make  sure you
            haven't forgotten anything.

          * Arrive  early  enough to the race site so you can scout out the
            transition  area and  course.  You may want to even do this the
            day before if it is a long race or you are unfamiliar  with the

          * Leave more time than you think you will need for  setting up in
            the  transition  area,  warming  up, and  waiting in line for a

          * Swim  starts  can be scary,  especially  if you are not used to
            swimming in the open water.  Be prepared to get pushed, shoved,
            kicked, and swam over if you want to keep up with the pack.  If
            you feel nervous about the close body contact, start off to the
            side or back.

          * Have landmarks picked out so you can navigate your way over the
            course.  Those big orange buoys that are easy to see from shore
            can be difficult  to see in choppy  water.  Try  sighting  tall
            buildings  or  towers  so you can swim as  straight  as line as

          * About 100 yards from shore,  start  thinking  about how you are
            going to  transition  to the bike.  Think  about what order you
            will put your  clothes  and  shoes on and which way to exit the
            transition  to start  the  bike  leg.  Remember  to strap  your
            helmet on before you get on the bike!

          * For the first  mile or so on the  bike,  spin an  easier  gear.
            This is to get your legs used to going in circles instead of up
            and down.  Get aerodynamic as soon as possible.

          * Concentrate  on catching the person in front of you.  After you
            pass them,  start  going  after the next  person  ahead of you.
            Avoid riding at along side someone at their speed - either pass
            or back off, as people  have a tendency to group up on the bike
            which can lead to packs forming.

          * Make sure to drink  plenty of fluids  during  the bike leg.  If
            the swim was long, you are probably already somewhat dehydrated
            at the  beginning  of the bike.  The bike is the best  place to
            build up your fluid reservoirs for the run ahead.

          * Coming  into the  bike  transition,  practice  the same  mental
            technique as you did when you were  finishing  the swim.  Think
            about how you will transition to start the run - where to enter
            the transition with your bike, how to change shoes and clothes,
            where to exit to start the run.

          * Your legs will  probably  feel  heavy and stiff  when you start
            running.  Try shortening up and quickening  your stride to turn
            your running muscles on.

          * Again, remember to keep drinking  fluids.  Most people cramp up
            or slow down not because  they run out of energy,  but  because
            they become dehydrated.

          * The run turns into a survival  session for a lot of people, but
            try to keep moving and think positive thoughts.

          * Finish strong.

       After the race  evaluate your  performance.  Did you meet your goal,
       whether  it was to run a certain  time,  place  overall,  or just to
       finish?  If you  didn't,  try not to be negative  about it.  Rather,
       ask  yourself  what can you do to improve next time and then work at
       it.  Remember to keep a healthy  perspective about triathlon and how
       it fits into your overall life.


       This period  follows the racing  season and gives your body the time
       it needs to fully  recover from the abuse it took from  racing.  You
       shouldn't  become a couch  potato, or you have to start from  ground
       zero next year.  Do easy  training.  Take time to try other  sports.
       Lift  weights to  rebuild  strength  in muscles  that you do not use
       swimming,  biking, or running (e.g.  your  abdominals).  Don't worry
       about  losing  some  fitness,  but try to keep  off any  unnecessary

       This is also the  time to  evaluate  your  plan.  Did you meet  your
       goals?  Were  they too high or too  low?  Start  planning  for  next
       year.  If you were injured, look at your training log to find things
       you  should  avoid.  (Did you do four days of  running in a row when
       you had only been used to doing two?)

       After recovering, you are ready to start the whole cycle over again,
       beginning with creating a new plan for the next season.


       "If God invented  marathons to keep people from doing  anything more
       stupid,  triathlon must have taken Him  completely by surprise."  P.
       Z.  Pearce, M.D.

       Just  remember,  triathlons are only as hard as you make them.  When
       many people think of triathlons,  they think of the Hawaii  Ironman,
       but most  triathlons are much shorter and can be completed by almost
       anyone  with  the  proper  training.  Finishing  can be a reward  in
       itself.  Just tri it, but be wary of Dr.  Pearce's  warning  more is
       not always better.  If you train  properly,  you'll stay healthy, be
       competitive,  and probably end up finding training is just as fun as
       racing.  Good luck!


        [1]  Rob Sleamaker, SERIOUS Training for Serious Athletes.

        [2]  Triathlete Magazine, June 1991

       (Updated 11/12/92)


5) Why do so many triathletes get upset about wetsuit usage in races?

The basic  issue with  wetsuits is that in  addition  to making  open water
swims safer by providing  the wearer with added warmth and  flotation  they
also provide a speed  advantage.  The speed advantage  comes from the added
flotation  that  puts a  swimmer's  body in a  higher  and  more  "correct"
position.  This is the position  that a good  swimmer  swims with anyway by
using proper technique.

Therefore,  wetsuits  speed-up a poor swimmer with poor body position  much
more than they speed-up a swimmer that already uses good body position.


6) Why is the "Olympic distance" triathlon 1.5k/40k/10k?

As the sport evolved the largest emerging series used these distances.  The
origin is not exactly clear but a 1500m swim is the standard "long" swim
race, the 40k timetrial is a cycling standard, and 10k is the most popular
road racing venue.  The international triathlon governing bodies needed a
distance to promote for the Olympics and picked the "most popular" format.


7)  Why is the swim leg of a triathlon relatively shorter in time than the
    biking or running legs?

This question has been debated endlessly over the years.  Triathletes that
excel in swimming want a longer swim and triathletes that are poorer
swimmers tend to be happy with the status quo.  The basic reason for short
swim legs is that swimming, especially in open water, is the biggest
limiter to people participating in triathlon.  Also, in many parts of the
world, trying to map out a long swim course is very difficult (think about
a 4+ kilometer swim in your average lake).


8) What's a "brick"?

   A "brick" workout, in the triathlon community, is a bike ride followed
   immediately by a run.  It seems nobody really remembers how it got its
   name but a couple guesses are:

        * Bike-Run-ICK!
        * That's how your legs feel for the first part of the run.

9) What should I read?


    Triathlete Magazine
    Editorial & Advertising Dept.
    voice (310) 394-1321
    fax   (310) 458-6248
    ("attn Jeffery Justice" for letters to the editor)

    Inside Triathlon
    1830 North 55th Street
    Boulder Colorado 80301
    (303) 440-0601

    Triathlon Sports,
    P.O. Box 2590,
    Taren Point, NSW 2229
    Tel +61 2 524 1455
    10 issues/yr, $4.95AUS per issue.  Overseas subscriptions available.

    The Apprentice Shop
    Merton Abbey Mills
    Watermill Way
    London SW19 2RD

    Winning International Verlag
    22 Rue de la Concorde
    B-1050 Brussel

    Winning International
    n 449072 R
    16 place du Havre
    75009 Paris


    Ageless Athlete
      by Richard Winett

    Biathlon Training and Racing
      by Ken Souza

    The Complete Triathlon Training Manual
      by Bob Johnson and Patricia Braggs

    Dave Scott's Triathlon Training
      by Dave Scott

    The Fit Swimmer
      by Marianne Brems

    The High Performance Triathlete
      by Katherine Vaz and Barcley Kruss

    Iron Will/Ultimate Challenge
      by Mike Plant

    Mark Allen's Total Triathlete
      by Mark Allen

    The Mental Athlete
      by Kay Porter and Judy Foster

    The Road To Kona Never Ends
      by Dr. Patrick McCary

    Science of Triathlon Training and Competition
      by Glen Town

    Scott Tinley's Winning Triathlon
      by Scott Tinley

    Serious Training for Serious Athletes
      by Rob Sleamaker

    Science of Cycling
      by Ed Burke

      by Bob Anderson

    Training and Racing Biathlon
      by Mark Sisson

    Triathloning For Ordinary Mortals
      by Steven Jonas

    Triathlon - A Triple Fitness Sport
      by Sally Edwards

    Triathlon - Going The Distance
      by Mike Plant

    Triathlon Training and Racing Book
      by Sally Edwards

    The Two Wheeled Athlete
      by Ed Burke

10) Various Adresses:

    Triathlon Federation/USA
    3595 E. Fountain Blvd.
    Suite F1
    Colorado Springs, CO.
    Tel 1-719-597-9090
    Fax 1-719-597-2121

    ETU President
    Tom O'Donnel
    101, O'Connel Street
    Tel int +35 361 41 88 11
    Fax int +35 361 41 83 12

    Australian Triathlon Association
    Triathlon NSW,
    The Secretary,
    P.O. Box 1112,
    Manly, NSW 2095
    Tel +61 2 976 2444