Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Six Disciplines of Triathlong

"Make friends with pain, and you will never be alone." Ken Chlouber

Everyone knows the three main parts of triathlon - Swim, Bike and Run.

I've always kind of considered the fact that there are really two other parts to doing triathlons as well. And know I'm discovering yet another part to being successful. Lets look at the six parts.

1) The Swim - this is the first discipline of the race day. It's pretty self-explanatory. You have to get through the swim before you can continue. It doesn't matter what kind of stroke you use (and let me tell you, after being a swim angel at the Danskin tri earlier this summer, there are all kinds of strokes used in the swim). There is a lot of debate about how much time to spend on improving the swim, but you do need to be able to get through swim and still have energy for the bike and run.

2) The Bike - again, pretty straight forward. You can technically do the bike on any kind of bike, but as you get better, you either have a road bike or a tri bike.

3) The Run - or the walk. Whatever way you can get through this part on your own two feet is good.

As people first get into triathlons, these three are usually the only thing they focus on. As they improve times in each discipline and/or increase distance, they start focusing on the fourth aspect.

4) Transitions - between the swim and the bike and between the bike and the run, you go through transitions to get ready for the next discipline. These are known as T1 and T2. In the beginning you don't really care what your transition times are, but soon you start to see that if you can cut time from here, your overall time gets lower. You start looking for ways to cut time - go sockless on the bike and/or run; do a running mount to get on/off the bike, etc. Some people have lost out on a podium spot because they had a slower transition time than a fellow competitor. When you're trying to get an award, transition times count.

Once you've got all that down and really start looking at longer distance tris, the fifth part comes into play.

5) Nutrition - For the sprint and even Olympic distance tris, you can probably get by with water and gatorade as nutrition. You may even have thrown in a gel here or there. And you start watching what you eat for breakfast to make sure it doesn't upset your stomach. As you increase distance to the Half Ironman distance, nutrition plays an even bigger role. Mess up your nutrition at this distance and your race may be ruined.

At my first half ironman, the temps were close to 100 degrees. It was HOT out there on the course. I had never experimented with salt tablets and wasn't going to for the first time in a race, but I probably needed some. I was sweating like crazy and losing electrolytes faster than I could replace them. Because of this, I ended up walking most of the "run". Since then, I've experimented with ways to avoid this problem. And with an Ironman looming on the horizon, nutrition is even more important. How do you prepare your body to work for you for anywhere from 10-17 hours and not have any "real" food? It's all about the nutrition. You have to figure out how much your body can take in and process. If you don't take in enough, you won't have the energy to go on. If you take in too much, your stomach will revolt.

With all of these taken into account, you should be set to go. But what I don't think a lot of people think about is the sixth part of triathlon.

6) Injury/Recovery - as you increase distance the potential for injury increases and you need to know how to prevent it or how to recover from it when it happens. This is the part that I never figured into my training plan and am now having to do that.

I mentioned in my last post that my back was hurting me the day before and during the Lake Pflugerville Tri. On Monday I went to my chiro thinking that if he could get a good pop out of my back I might be fixed. That wasn't the case. And based on what he saw, he told me to rest. Well, that just wasn't going to happen without another opinion. A guy in my office has had success with an Airrosti practitioner, so after confirming insurance coverage I called for an appointment.

Airrosti is a different approach to things and I liked the philosophy behind it. My first visit was kind of like a deep tissue massage/physical therapy session. He evaluated my range of motion and strength several different ways and then went to work trying to loosen up the tight area in my back. After that I went across the hall to foam roll and stretch. Then I was told I need to foam roll EVERY day and I need to stretch and ice the area.

Every day? Yeah, I know I need to, but who has the time? I'm already doing all I can to get in the workouts in between work and the kid's activities. Add in stretching and foam rolling and that adds another 30 minutes at least to the day.

But if stretching and foam rolling will keep me able to do my workouts, then I'm willing to do what I can to get that time in. If I have to stay up a little later I will. I've been doing a pretty good job of getting it in during the past week, but I keep getting new moves/stretches added to my routine of things to do. I can tell the difference from foam rolling and I've seen a big difference in the pain level and range of mobility in my back since doing these things, but I need to keep doing them.

To be successful at the Ironman distance, my triathlons have six parts to them - not just three.