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5374 Views 7 Replies Latest reply: Jun 22, 2011 3:30 PM by Julie Ann Hackett
Laura in LA Rookie 2 posts since
Apr 14, 2010
Currently Being Moderated

Jun 20, 2011 10:39 AM

Training alone for first Olympic distance triathlon

Hi Active Community!


I've been wanting to do an Olympic distance triathlon for a long time and I decided I just need to do it at the end of this summer. No more excuses. I'm not exactly a beginner - I played varsity soccer, swimming, cross country, and track back in high school and I have since completed two sprint triathlons and a marathon. I grew up riding my bike to swim practice and playing soccer in the afternoon every summer.


My biggest obstacle in training is that I'm doing it alone. I have a book with training advice and work outs for different levels, but I don't have anyone to ride my bike with or swim in the ocean with. I have access to a pool, I own a road bike, and I run frequently. I do not have a wet suit and I'm a little afraid of riding my bike around streets with cars. I live in LA and I do not have the time to sign up for something like Team in Training since I'm leaving for grad school before their planned races.


Here are my questions:

  • SWIM: Is it important to train in open water before an open water race? Is it important to try out swimming in your wet suit before the race? What kind of wet suit should I buy for California open water races?
  • BIKE: I've barely ridden my road bike so I'm pretty new to it but I've done a lot of spin classes. What are the major differences between the two? Are spin classes adequate substitutes for training on the bike? Are there beginner cycling groups in LA I could join for a small price?
  • RUN: Should I sync up my Nike Plus on a track? Do you guys use those to train?


I'd love to hear from other beginners and other more experienced triathletes. Thanks so much!



  • Kyle39 Legend 202 posts since
    Sep 8, 2008

    While you'll probably have to do most of your swim training in the pool, it would be VERY beneficial for you to get some open water experience.  I usually work out alone because of my schedule, but open water swimming is one thing that I will NOT do by myself.  Hopefully you have a local triathlon club or some group that has group open water swims.  There are just certain aspects to open water swimming that you can't get in a pool (sighting, the fact that there are no lane lines or walls, etc.).  Some people (including me) get panic attacks the first time they try to swim in open water - better to learn how to cope with it and get it behind you in training than on race day.


    I've never used a wetsuit, so sorry that I can't help you there.  (No, I'm not superman, I've just never swam in cold water).


    Biking indoors vs. outdoors is kind of like swimming indoors vs. outdoors.  Spin classes will help you with pedalstroke technique, general base fitness building, and cadence practice, but there's nothing like the open road - the resistance is just different and on the real road you can't really control the hill that you're climbing.  Try more residential streets at first, or if you can find a large industrial/office park that's kind of quiet on the weekends (as long as it's not in a high crime area).


    I haven't used Nike Plus; I use a Garmin GPS watch for biking and running to measure my pace and heart rate.  But it's certainly not a bad idea - it's always nice to have a good idea of how fast you're going.


    Also, don't be afraid to start with a sprint-distance tri for your first time.  It's a bit easier to handle - especially the swim.


    Good luck!

  • lvziggy Amateur 18 posts since
    May 4, 2011

    Hi Laura.  Just a piece of advice from a beginner.  I only have 3 open water swims under my belt, mostly train in a pool, and I would say with certainty you should try an open water swim before your event.  It is nothing like swimming in the pool.  With the waves hitting you in the face and the currents pulling you around every which way, you'll be glad to be at least somewhat prepared for how you will react to all that.  A friend of mine had a complete panic attack in her first open water swim and couldn't finish it.  As for a wetsuit, I like the long sleeves and legs for both the warmth and buoancy they provide.  The buoancy (I know I'm not spelling that right) also helps me with my nerves in the water.  As for the spin vs. road bike, with a road bike you have to be able to use the gears and brakes, which you don't need on a spin bike.  They can get confusing if you're speeding down a hill toward a turn, only to have to go up a hill all of a sudden once you've made the turn.  If you're in the wrong gear you might find you can't pedal hard enough to get up the hill, or worse, you can pop the chain off the sproket.  Definitely get some practice on the road bike.

  • kakkoon Amateur 24 posts since
    May 10, 2011

    Hey Laura...


    First of all, welcome! I love this community. I am sure you will find a lot of answers not only in your posts, but in others beginners questions. Things that you didn`t even think of, probably someone did and there is an answer to you.

    Well, I am a beginner, I did only one sprint triathlon last week. But I found something in common that is trainning alone.
    I was in doubt about getting into a team or not, and in the end, I didn`t had the time or the money to pay for the trainning.
    What I did is research, research, research....and it worked pretty well.


    About the swimming, the trainning is in a pool...but is good that you swim one or two times in the ocean to know how it feels! For me the waves made things a little confused at first, but when you got used to the ocean at the day you are swimming (it changes everyday it`s mood lol) you can just keep a good rithm).


    The bike I can`t say anything because I still own a MTB...and I have no idea how it feels to ride a road bike!


    Abou the running... YES... anything that can track your trainning....and you can keep it and see it after in your computer is great. I use ENDOMONDO for my Android has a GPS...and Through this app I track my trainnings, time, distance, everything...wich kept me motivated!


    I always trainned alone, except for the bike, that my boyfriend and his friends train together...but they had a completely different rithm, so I think I just end up kind of alone too, lol


    Try to train with the cloth you want to wear in the race....try to filter all the information you get, so you know what is good for you and what isn`t...Everyone says a lot of stuff...specialy when you do things on you own, this stuff can get into your mind and someimes if you don`t filter them, they might not be as good for you as you thought!


    I own a wetsuit for Surf and I wor it at the race was just fine...really!
    Something that helped me a lot, was my boyfriend...even though I trained alone, at the race day he was there, taking  pictures...and cheering my name with his bike  at some points of the curse.
    What I suggest you to do, is to have someone to support you at the take care of your stuff, and just be there as company..and not only as a cheering person, if you know what I mean.....

    Sorry abt my english, I know sometime I spell things wrong LOL...


    My best friend lives in LA, she was willing to start trainning for a sprint, but I guess she just didn`t..... so I guess she won`t be a good company..maybe on the running... I will ask her...


    Be strong...I think that people that train alone tend to have a stronger mind...if you know what I mean... at that movie "Spirit of Marathon", a woman that train with a team says that she question the sanity of those who train by they`re self LOL !!!! I just belive we have a stronger mind!!!!!!!



    Keep tri...have fun trainning and at the day of the race...this was the most precious lesson I got from this comunity!



  • mjm 62 Pro 91 posts since
    May 18, 2008

    Hey Laura,I also train alone and do pretty good usually top 3 in my age group 45-49 I'll break it down but remember everyone is different SWIM- I train for time,figure how long it takes you to swim a.25 mile [e.g.15min] so Olympic dist about 45min of swimming.Hit the pool until 45mins is easily done.I switch strokes to relax 20 freestyle-20 breast stroke the counting helps you relax your breathing.

    BIKE-you have to get outside even if you have to drive to a good cycling spot.Check with your local cycling shop for bike freindly roads in your area.The Run-practice bricks[cycling to running],you still have a 10k run to go but by doing bricks you get your legs ready.Also remember to take in most of your fluids on the bike,best of luck and let us know how you're progressing,Mike

    Cape Coral Yacht club sprint 1:03

    FGCU sprint 1:03

    Columbus Marathon 3:50-2010

    Gator Half Ironman 5:43-2009

    Venice sprint 1:09/25th overall

    Captiva sprint 1:04

  • Amigold Legend 185 posts since
    Nov 14, 2007

    Laura, great for you to start your Oly training. I did my first Oly last year after doing two sprints, I just did my first 70.3 this past April. Nearly all my training is done alone. My work schedule just won't permit me to join training groups as I never know when I'm going to have free time to train.  Training alone can have a lot of good things going for it. You learn to listen to your body, you learn to encourage yourself, you learn to be your own best coach and best critic.


    I think you've gotten good advice here and I don't want to repeat it.  However, I'm going to emphasize that you are gonna have to do an open water swim before your tri. That's not a good idea, it's just a must. There's simply a lot of difference out there; the biggest one being peering out in the mist at the impossibly far turn bouy and having your body say--oh, that again--instead of -- holy $#%$%.  And you are correct you do not want to train by yourself in open water.


    What I did was work with an on line coach who met me out at a lake for my first OWS swim.  However, my backup plan was to drag my spouse (who is a good swimmer) along with some life jackets and position him out in the middle of my chosen back and forth place (I chose a swimming beach early in the season, and hardly anyone was there.  You do need to try to get out beyond wading water but there is no reason you have to swim out to sea--just pick a back and forth swim and do it several times paralell to the beach).  If you don't have a spouse, you have friends.  Some of them would love to be your swim buddy I'm sure. They don't have to swim next to you, just be within 100 yards of you and prepared to take action if something goes whacky, which it won't, but you know what I mean.  You might even borrow a friend with a surfboard to paddle along with you, or just rent a board (I know California has plenty of boards!).


    If the rules permit wearing a wetsuit at your race, DO IT.  On your first Oly, you need all the  help you can get. A wetsuit provides bouyancy and it's nearly impossible to sink in one, even if you try, so mentally you will feel a lot better about being out in the water knowing you are going to float no matter what. They also increase speed slightly.  I recommend a full one, unless it's just going to be too hot to handle one of those. You can rent one, but don't rent a surfing wetsuit. Go to the bike store and rent a tri wetsuit.  No reason to go through all this training and not give yourself full advantage of everything you can.


    Finally, you gotta--GOTTA get outside on that bike. I love my spin class, and it helps me with certain things, but it's not even close to what riding a road bike outside is like.  You've got to get yourself comfy with wind, hills (up and down--sometimes going down a big hill can be scary), using the brakes correctly, turning, etc.  Nearly every bike shop in the US has group rides on weekends, many of them for beginners or semi beginners, and most are free of charge.  Check it out. Find a REPUTABLE high end bike shop for this.  Then also ask them about local biking paths away from the traffic where you can go out and practice alone, if you have to, without worrying about becoming the next target of a texting driver.  So my answer is NO--it's not the same as spin, and not even close to the same. You'll be glad you do spin because it helps the muscles and cardio, but it's not going to get you where you need to go on a 24 mile bike.


    I don't use the Nike plus so I'm not sure about that. You'll probably want a simple stopwatch at the least, and of course there's all kinds of goodies  out there to strap on your wrist and bike that tells you your speed, pace, distance, calories, watts, and how many dirty dishes you left in the sink. I adore these gadgets myself--I use a Garmin for the bike and run and a cheap Timex for my swims--but a lot of people do without them.


    I think you are gonna have a blast.  Keep us posted!!!






  • Julie Ann Hackett Legend 226 posts since
    Nov 20, 2007

    Active actually has really good training programs that you can buy for about $30 and they let you select the distance you are training for and your experience level.  Don't be afraid to join a training group or 2 because you don't have time.  You're not required to go to all or even any of their training sessions.  If you want something that doesn't involve fund raising, join a tri club.  Look online for clubs in your area or ask your local bike shop or tri shop who they recommend.  They usually have all kinds of traingings going on during the week at different times.  I belong to a free club just so that I can meet up for open water swims if I need to.  Also my local bike shop leads group rides (again free) at least 3 or 4 times during the week.  I'd really recommend doing some group rides so you get comfortable riding with people all around you.  Start chatting it up with people you meet at the pool and maybe you'll find someone to train with.  I'm always asking other swimmers if they are training for anything to see if I might be able to join them for a run or a bike ride or have some company at the lake.  I kind of live out in the boonies so I love meeting other triathletes to train with and they usually know a great place to get in a long run or ride that I've never been to.  Good luck!

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