Putting on your wetsuit: it’s not for sissies

I’ve been getting quite a few questions about wetsuits lately, and thought it would be helpful for those of you who don’t train in a group to see a demo of the best way to put on your wetsuit.

My best experience putting on a wetsuit is always at dawn on a beach somewhere, when no one else is around and the suit slides right on.  The worst are usually mid-morning, on a beach somewhere, when there’s an audience of non-athletes who are just trying to find ways to amuse themselves. 

Now, fair warning:  this model (provided to us by Xterra) seems to just slip right in to her suit.  I can honestly say that never, in my 12+ years of racing, have I “slipped in” to a wetsuit.  But she’s got the idea right.  It’s like pantyhose, only tighter. It’s like a hot, thick, pair of leather pants with a chubby liner.  Right.  It sounds appealing, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s not all bad.  Just remember the following tips before you try this at home:

1) Never, ever ever, ever ever do this when you’re hot and sweaty.  At least try to start from a position of cool, calm dryness.  If you can’t, well, just be prepared to be dripping when you’re done.

2) Consider using Body Glide around your ankles to help with the on/off of legs (I glide up the back of my calves).  You can also use something called “Suit Juice” which is a godsend if you can find it. 

3) Body Glide the underside of your arms (the part that lays flat against the rubber by your bra) if you’re wearing a sleeveless suit. 

4) Body Glide the back of your neck where the suit ties up – this is especially true if your suit is a bit big on top (as mine is because I had to size up). 

5) Don’t get into your suit more than 30 minutes before your start.  Otherwise, it’s like a sausage-fest-bakeoff in the morning heat and you’ll have worked yourself into a hot state before getting in the water.  Put it off and then put it on.

6) Take one last bathroom break before getting in the suit.  Yep, didn’t think of that, did you?

7) If the suit is a bit short for you in the legs, that’s okay – the most important part of hte fit is to not have a gap underneath your crotch.  Pull the legs up if you must, but if there’s space between the suit and your crotch (the low-rider syndrome), shimmy the suit up until it’s even, and then test by connecting the back closure.  If the suit is pulling on you in the front, try to adjust, swim in it once for testing, and decide if it’s the right size for you.

That’s it from here.  Enjoy the video.  I’d put one up of me doing it, but I just can’t afford the hassle of becoming the wetsuit pinup model 🙂


Last minute tri advice? No problem!

Special thanks to Stephanie, who supplied the starting point for today’s post.  Stephanie writes that she’s been convinced by a merry band of triathlete hooligans to compete in her first race a full MONTH before she originally intended.  She wonders if I have any advice for her, and I’m happy to oblige!

Will I stand out like a woman with a baby stroller in the “Expert Security” line at the airport as a Plus Athlete?

Okay, so perhaps I’ve got traveling on the brain, but the question I get a lot – and is similar to the one Stephanie asked – is pretty normal:  Just how out-of-the-ordinary am I, as a Plus Athlete?  Will people stare?  I mean, I’m used to being B-I-G-G-E-R than others, but am I going to feel like a freak of nature?

In short: it all depends on you.  What I’ve found is that if you’re doing a Sprint Triathlon, there really are people of all shapes and sizes out there.  If you’re familiar with the bell curve, I think that applies here – 10% of your racers are super, super fit.  20% are merely super fit, or just a smidge heavier than the average (which comprises 40% of the runners).  And that last 10% are folks who carry more than a fair share of extra poundage.  Okay, maybe it’s more like 5%, but you get the idea.  You won’t be alone – especially if your race is a women’s only race, which tends to be VERY open and encouraging of women of all shapes and sizes. 

The other thing I’ve consistently found is this:  the spectators are amazing.  Simply amazing.  They will actually cheer HARDER for you because you’re bigger – because they know, watching, that it’s incredibly difficult to complete a triathlon, and you are inspiring THEM with the fact that you’re doing it.   So if someone cheers for you when you leave the swim (and they will – by number) smile, and say THANK YOU.  Or whatever makes you feel good.  Just realize they’re not going to mock you – they’re really just going to support you.  On the course, you’ll find the same thing – riders who are more experienced or thinner will go out of their way to tell you “good job” because they admire what you’re doing, and they want the sport to feel inclusive. 

How you handle that attention is up to you.  Some people are okay with the fact that others are looking at you in some skimpy tri wear.  Some are less comfortable.  I’d encourage you to think through what your response will be, and to own the fact that you’re doing something amazing in your body.  If you exude pride on race day, you will FEEL it, and it will help you perform better – I promise.

Any tips for the swim?  How does one execute a chop block in the water, and any tips for not drowning?

Two questions here that deserve answering, really:  first, how do you survive the craziness of a mass swim start, and second, what if I panic in open water? 

The open swim start has a few variations, so before you get worried about what it will feel like, let me share them with you.  First, some triathlons do a “mass start” where you go off in waves of 25-200 people.  This start is what most of us think of when we think “crazy”.  If you’re a first-timer, start at the back, and line yourself up with the series of bouys that you see heading into the distance.  Then, after the masses have kicked for a few seconds (or 20), get into the water, and go.  They’ll have cleared out, you’ll get to swim behind them, and you won’t be swimming over (or getting swum over.) 

The second type of start is a timed interval – where you start on a beach, and someone goes into the water every 3-5 seconds.  This is a bit more of an “on display” start as everyone watches you run into the water (which I always thought was an invitation for me to hold my hands over my chest so the girls wouldn’t knock me out, but that’s me).  It’s also far less stressful because the water is mostly clear.  Yes, you’ll get swum over, but it won’t happen as often. 

The second question here is about managing the fear in the deep water.  If you’re a regular open-water swimmer, this probably isn’t the biggest issue for you. But if it’s got you concerned,  think of it like this:  there is a USA Triathlon requirement that for every 75 swimmers in the water, there are X number of lifeguards.  All races must meet these requirements.  (I think it’s 1 per 75, but I’ll have to check).  This means that generally, on most courses, IF you get into trouble, there is a lifeguard or a boat nearby.  Per the USAT rules, you can sidle on up to that boat or guard, ask how the weather is doing, and hang on for a chat – as long as you aren’t moved forward by that boat or guard.  So the thing to remember about the deep water is that there will always be someone within swimming distance of you – and even if you’re having a hard time, you can tread water for a few minutes, then make your way over to them, hold on, regroup, and head back out there. 

No race director wants you to be unsupported in the water, so you should feel going in that you will have a safety net.  That said, keep your eyes on moving forward – and on those bouys – to feel like you’re breaking up the swim into manageable chunks.  Sometimes if I’m worried about how long the swim will feel, I set the interval on my watch to go off every five minutes, knowing, for example, that when it beeps twice, I’m usually halfway through my swim.  You might want to do the same – it’s a nice reminder that you’re making progress and moving forward on your own.

I think I might require some food on race day.  Any thoughts?

Ah, food.  Race day food is something that presents a special challenge when you haven’t had a chance to train with it, so I’ll just share a few tips. 

First, if you can, road-test your pre-race food with at least a few workouts before the Big Day.  You’ll want to test out whether your toast sticks with you for two hours; or whether you need some peanut butter on that bagel. 

I generally go with two pieces of dry toast (Cinnamon Raisin, thank you very much) and have a half of a banana at least 2 hours before the race.  The night before is important too – have something that won’t upset your stomach, (pasta or a sandwich with some protein); throw in some greens, and dont’ forget the water. 

My friend Lisa has an approach you may also find helpful if you have used it before – she has one Clif Shot or Gu about 30 minutes before the race to top off her carb stores and she says that for a Sprint race, it’s really all the fuel she needs.


So that’s it for my race advice for Stephanie, and anyone else thrown into a race this weekend!  Thanks for asking, and good luck with your race!!!

The Follies File: Chicago Triathlon Race Report

By 9 a.m. this past Sunday morning, I’d had more Up Close and Personal moments with strangers than the last trip to the Cubbie Bear.  My car had been searched when I parked at the Aon Center (just up the street from the start).  I’d shared a pre-race blanket with friends Lisa and Joe.  I distributed makeshift toilet paper to a whole line of eager athletes waiting for a porta potty.  I’d seen the inside of more than one armpit as it swam by me in Lake Michigan.  And two very kind guys provided me with some theme music as I stripped out of a wetsuit in the broad light of day.

What was I doing?  Oh, just participating in the world’s largest triathlon, the Lifetime Fitness Chicago Triathlon, home to over 10,000 athletes this year.  As I racked my bike on race morning (where I would need to shoot the gap between a baby tree and two bike racks to get out later), I couldn’t help but think that this was going to be a true test of my training.  What I didn’t expect was to have such good memories on the back side.

The weather Sunday was HOTT.  I keep saying HOTT with two “T”s because I believe it accurately conveys the extra degrees involved.  By the time I hit the run, the temp was over 90, and the Heat Index was over 100.  But it’s what happened before that that really matters.

Let’s start on Friday at the Expo, shall we?  I ran into a friend there, Joyce, who has also been coming back from a foot injury – or trying.  We were talking about how hard it is to stay upbeat when you’re just trying to get better – and I laughed as I told her about the story from the weekend before, when I had flatted out on the course at Danskin, and found myself with only a tampon in my saddle bag – but no air – to inflate a new tire.  “The lesson I learned there”, I said “is that if you’re riding by someone on a course who’s standing next to their bike, the question to ask isn’t ‘Are you okay?’ as you go by..it’s “What do you need?”  We laughed, talking about it, because we’d both zoomed by people before who were in trouble, but now we had a slightly better idea how to help.   Keep that nugget in mind – I’ll come back to it.

Then it was Sunday morning, and I was up and atem.  Vowing NOT to find myself in Air Tampon land again, I packed one of my two water bottles with extra tubes, and air canisters, before the race.  The other bottle, I filled with water.  Keep that nugget in mind – I’ll come back to it.  I had a moment of unadulterated superiority when I realized that bringing my headlamp was an act of genius as there wasn’t NEARLY enough light in Transition, and then promptly tripped over myself leaving the area.  So much for that.  As you can see from the pic below of the walk down Monroe Harbor – it was kind of dark out there!

Got in and out of Transition by 5:00, and headed down to the start, where I hung out with Lisa and Joe (who awesomely brought a blanket, otherwise it would have been Goose Poop Anonymous on my butt that morning.) 

And then I was just waiting for the swim.  The nice thing about training with a big group is that it was like Old Home Week at the swim start. I ran into a bunch of friends from Chicago Endurance Sports (thanks Liz, Jayme, Caronina, Coach Mike, Alice, Alexis, Trina…well, the list goes on!)  – and the SUNRISE!!!  Let’s just say that the sunrise almost makes the 3:30 wakeup call manageable.

By 6:15, there were thousands of participants, family and friends wandering.  Really, it’s a little overwhelming if you’ve never done a race before – they don’t call it the World’s Largest Triathlon for nothing.  When you have to plan for a 30 minute window for the Porta Potties, you know it’s big.

Lisa went off first, around 7:15, and I was up next, at 8:00.  Perhaps my most shining moment of the day was when someone emerged, confused, from the Porta Potty and reported that the TP was running out.  Surrounded by 200 of my closest competitors, I ran back to the snack shack across the lot and grabbed a stack of napkins, returning to pass them down my chosen line.   As the dude behind me said “that was an MVP moment”.  Yes, yes it was.  Sorry to all you suckers in the other line!!!! 

Holding onto my cap for dear life before the swim.

The rest of the day wasn’t as MVP, but it was occasionally funny – and fun.  After being ankle-grabbed and swam over on the swim, I emerged victorious to find fellow CESer Trina pulling me up out of the Swim Exit – complete with a smack on the ass.  Now THAT’s encouragement!  Then, as I was walrusing to the Transition (which is about 1/4 mile away in Chicago from the Swim exit) I decided to stop and strip.  Um, yeah.  See, it was already HOTT and I could hear my thighs making music in the way that is usually reserved for cordoroy pants in winter.  I figured if I didn’t strip, we might have some serious issues with conjoined legs, and who needs THAT on race day?  So, I stopped, dropped, and stripped.  Two guys from Team in Training were across the path watching (with averted eyes, I’m sure), and gladly told me that it was my day, and I should do as I pleased.  When I looked up, I told them politely that I expected a little something in return for this exercise, at which point, they serenaded me with some lovely Porn Music.  Oh, come on, you do too know what I’m talking about.  Or you’ve heard about it, at least…

And then there was the bike.  Really, I TRIED to plan, but I realized at about Mile 15 of Mile 26 that I was going to be out of water since I had only ONE bottle full of fluids (and the other averting the air/tube disaster).  So at the top of Lake Shore Drive (at the Foster turnaround), I pulled over, and asked a volunteer to hand me a discarded bottle.  What?  I was out of fluids, I was thirsty, and I was willing to contract Hepatitus B to have some damn water, people!  There were 15 bottles on the ground, most dropped by people who couldn’t stand having a warm bottle of anything on their bike anymore – I was not so picky.  After one discard (pink Accelerade, I think), we found some water, poured it into my bottle, and off I went.  “Is that vodka or water?” the volunteer asked.  “Warm water!” I smiled.  “Yumm!!!”  And the sick thing is, I meant it!!

Sufficiently hydrated, I hammered out (well, that could be an exaggeration) the remaining miles of the bike incident-free.  I saw lots of folks with very expensive bikes on the side of the road, and had my own mental game of whether to stop and help, or continue on.  I asked a few “What do you need?”  But most were so suprised to be asked that they couldn’t answer, and I was past them too fast to stop.   And secretly, I could hear my friend in my head saying “some days, you have to put yourself first, and today is that day.”  I had trained for too long to add a thirty minute stop to my day, and so I put my head down and kept going, but not without a serious amount of Catholic Guilt on my back.

My friend Joyce, though, she was awesomeness personified.  Riding in the Sprint competition, she was racing on Sunday as best she could – but when she saw someone stopped, she told me later, she remembered the question.  “What do you need?” she asked.  “AIR!” the person responded.  So Joyce, as cool as she is, pulled over, stopped, and helped another racer change their tire.  She saved someone’s race day – awesome, right????

By the time I got back in for the run, it was close to 11:00 and it was HOTT.  Still.  I know, broken record.  Somewhere, Joe was pilfering water off people’s bikes in Transition (they had completed the ride, really!), as he, too realized he was going to be light on fluids.   But I was heading out for the run and realizing that my calves were tight and I was nearing lightheadedness.  Rather than hear the ugly call of “MAN DOWN” as I plummeted to the ground, I slowed to a walk – I mean, SLOOOOWED to a walk – and headed out for the 5k. 

People were SOOO cool on the side of that path.  I mean, super encouraging, even though we all must have looked terrible.  Some nice lady said to me and the guy next to me “You’re doing so well, you look GREAT!!!”  and as he ran by, he looked at me and said “I don’t know what she’s smoking, I look terrible.”  I had to agree – but hey, we were out there, and that was something.

When I turned to come back into the finish, I had been on the path for 28 minutes.  Under Doctor’s orders, I was limited to the 5k run/walk, and that’s what I did – but I still felt a little guilty coming into the finish so quickly.  I found out later, I wasn’t the only one who cut the run, but still.   When I crossed that line and grabbed that medal, I’ll admit, I was pretty happy.   

Two days later, and I’m still a little giddy.   Turns out, I’m not the only one.  I came in yesterday to find that David Wallach of the ChicagoNow blog Pace of Chicago had worked with a local videographer to capture the Chicago Triathlon on Sunday.  Overnight, the dude (Mike) put together this amazing video.  If you really want to know what Sunday felt like, I think this is it.  I may not be a pro, but this was my race, too. 

And THAT’s  a pretty good Sunday.   Official finish time: 3:37:44.  Not bad at all for a Plus Runner.

It’s not about the race

One of the most amazing things about writing here is that I come into contact with all these people who are trying to change their lives.  They’re embarking on running programs for the first time at age 35.  They’re re-discovering the joys of biking with their kids.  They’re off the couch, and excited about doing it, and there is no WAY, once they’ve made that decision, that ANYTHING is going to stop them.

Like, for instance, an injury.  Or, clothes that don’t fit.  Or, people who say “you shouldn’t do that so soon”.  These people, my people, (if I may be so bold as to call you “my people”, since I pretty much share the same exercise DNA with y’all)…anyway, we people have hearts of gold but damn, we are T-I-R-E-D of people thinking we do nothing but eat bonbons and watch Jersey Shore.

So when we decide to get moving, we move with some purpose.  We set out a plan. We stick to that plan.  And sometimes, we forget that what took us 2, 5, or 10 years to create can’t be un-done in a day.  Or even in 60 days.  We forget that our bodies are living, breathing things, that are not exactly following the plan our hearts and minds have set out.  So the body, it protests.  It complains.  And sometimes, it breaks.

I thought of this all last week as I was offiically discharged from a few months of physical therapy as a result of a running injury years in the making.  Dr. Chin and the awesome folks at The Running Institute of Chicago (I know, you’ve heard me talk about them, but I have to give them props) and the amazing Joel Nourie at Accelerated Rehabilitation Center’s West Loop location did their best to cure me.  They gave me good PT for the Plantar Fasciitis.  They diagnosed a problematic nerve in the ankle and eventually helped it calm down with some cortisone.  And they gave me a realistic Return to Running program, which I gleefully kicked off about 4 weeks ago.

My problem (if you can call it that) is that I had my heart set on doing the Chicago Triathlon this coming weekend.  You know, the one with the mile swim, 26 mile bike, and 10k run at the end?  Yeah, that one.  Only, as I approached Dr. Chin’s office on Thursday to be “discharged”, I knew that I hadn’t done enough distance to be able to say – without fear of re-injury- that I could do the whole 10k – without injury.  I was only up to about 3 miles of run/walking – and the jump to 6, which woudln’t have bothered me two years ago – was just too big now.

Not surprisingly, he agreed.  He, and Joel, and pretty much anyone who’s watched me rehab would probably have had the same answer.  Why risk it?  Why risk the run, increasing by almost 100% the amount you’re running in one day – only to get injured and delay for another 6 months something you’ve worked so hard to fix? 

And here’s where 10 years of running and racing kicked in:  I agree with them.  Why WOULD I risk it?  Why would I risk NEVER running again to run this week?  Why would I risk having that level of pain again when, with some patience and a little bit more work, I could run next month?  There’s just no reason.  But I know I’m not alone in weighing the decision carefully – in saying “hey, I’ve trained all summer for this race – and if I drop it, what have I spent all that time on?  What do I have to show for it?”  I know right now, in doctor’s offices and PT facilities all across Chicago (and heck, across the country), there are many people who, new to running or new to activity, are feeling the effects of too much, too soon – or too much, too often – and are being met with angry diagnoses of stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and a variety of other things that are killing their fall race calendar.

So what do you do, if you’re one of those people?  Do you risk it?  Do you find some way – ANY way, to keep going?  And if you quit now, what do you have to show for all that work?

If you find yourself asking that question – and really wondering what it was all for –  allow me to give you an answer:  You have months – MONTHS – of hard work and training to show for it.  You have the knowledge that you did your long runs, or your core work, or your half marathon or marathon training program – with a dedication and commitment that maybe, just maybe, you never had before.  Maybe you have stronger friendships, or healthier relationships, or less stress over the past few months.  Perhaps you have tighter abs, and sexier hammies, and a blonder ponytail.  (I’m just saying.)  Or maybe you just have some awesome nights where you slept like a log because you were so gloriously, awesomely tired, that you just fell into bed, and woke rested and happy. 

No matter what you spent your time training for this season, you’ve gotten something else out of it – other than a medal or a race. 

So if you happen to be one of those people who is breaking – right now – just stop.  Stop hurting yourself and your body.  Take a breath.  Shed those tears when the doc tells you you’re hurt – you’ve earned those.  But do the work you must NOW do to recover.  There are a lot of you out there right now, and you must not lose sight of what you’ve done this summer.  It’s not about the Chicago Marathon, or New York, or that upcoming triathlon.  It’s about building a healthier body – which will help you exercise for life

As for me, I’ll be there Sunday, doing the Chicago Triathlon.  I’ll swim my mile, and bike my 26.  But when it comes time to do the 10k run, I’ll take advantage of paying my $150 race fee, and I’ll run/walk my short little 5k.  And at Mile 1.5, I’ll turn around, and head home, shorting the run.  Yeah, it might hurt a little to do it – but last year at this time, I wondered if I’d ever run again.  So I’ll take 3 miles.  And I’ll come in smiling.

See you on the path.

Update: The Danskin Tri Shorts are IN!


Danskin 7″ Triathlon Short – $48, available up to a Size 22 (essentially)

Just got a call from the most excellent client service representative at Danskin (Gina, thank you!) who has informed me that they’ve just received a shipment of their super-functional, wicking, great-fitting 7″ triathlon short. 

They have a limited stock, but there are about 150 of them in currently in a Size XXL, and another 300+ in an XL, so if you are looking for a short, check this one out.   REI, which previously had them in stock in an XXL and XL, is out of stock in this 7″ model, but still has the 5″ model in.

Click here to access the page on Danskin’s site (you cannot navigate there from the main site – there is a problem with the indexing on the online catalog, which is tech speak for “no one connected this short to the main page”).

Xterra Wetsuits 1/2 Off

Just got a note from Xterra saying that for the next 5 days, they’re offering their sleeved wetsuits for $199 and sleeveless for $149 – a 50% discount on mid-season pricing.

If you need a suit and have been holding off, I’m a big fan of the sleeveless suit, and the price point is really good…

Enter the code SUMMER50 to get it going on.

Alert: Danskin XXL Tri Shorts Available at REI!!!

Okay kids.  As you know, finding triathlon clothing for women over a size 14 is tough.  Danskin, who (in my humble opinion) offers the best Tri short in that category, their 7″ Triathlon short, has not re-ordered stock for their online store yet this year.

I spoke with a rep from Danskin today, and they are not going to have new stock in, and available online, until at least July.  (They’ll call and let me know when it’s live). In the meantime, GOOD NEWS.  REI is stocking the 7″ Triathlon short in a Size XXL online ($48) , and you can order it now.   It comes in plain black, or, if you prefer a shorter inseam (5″), you can get it in a Black/Aqua combo in an XL or XXL as well.

If you are planning a later season race, I would suggest that you purchase your shorts now if you can.  These are fantastic training shorts, and they can usually fit up to a Size 20/22 (depending on where you carry your weight.)  The folks at Danskin let me know that REI is the only group carrying this stock, so if you want in, you’ll have to go to REI to get it.

I know you’re thinking “Wow, do I really have to spend $48 for a pair of shorts?”  The short answer is no, you don’t.  But your life will be much easier if you do.  You can wear these puppies in the swim, on the bike, and on the run, and you never have to change clothes. The legs have silicone grippers, so they’ll stay put.  The fabric is quick dry with flat seams, and is comparable to what you’d get with the Big Boys, Zoot and Tyr.  And the 7″ inseam is modest without being crazy long.

You may also notice that REI is stocking the Skirt Sports Tri short in an XXL as well.  My professional (er, non-professional) opinion is that the Danskin short is a better fabric, construction, and all around better short than the Skirt Sports option.  SkirtSports is trying valiantly to serve the larger market, but unfortunately, their materials and design just aren’t up to my standards.   Simply put, you’re not getting $60 worth of shorts with their design.

As for Danskin, I’m a big supporter of these shorts.  After years of trying to wear Men’s TYR shorts and looking for something with a better fit, I found these.  I wore them last year and am a Raving Fan about how well they work.  So if you need shorts, go get em.

See you on the path!

UPDATE!!!!  As of 7/7, Danskin has received their shipment!  Check here for details!

The Triathlon Checklist – Putting the “A” in “Type A”

The night before the first triathlon I ever did, I spent at least three hours laying out my stuff.  It was All New then, the idea that I was going to be swimming, biking, and running, without a time-out in between those events.  At the time, I operated on a somewhat simpler approach: I swam in a bathingsuit with a bra underneath. I threw on bike shorts in transition, and a tee shirt. I put on socks and gym shoes and sunglasses, and that was it.  Okay, so it took me EIGHT minutes the first time, but hey, I did it.

These days, I’m a little more precise.  After realizing that the “finish time” actually includes those eight minutes spent in Transition, I try to make sure I have everything organized and laid out before I ever get to the race.  It keeps me steady on race morning, and lets me settle in the night before (well, at least I can try).  So what’s the organizing principle?   Simple: there’s the Night Before. And The Morning Of.  Or something like that. 

The Night Before

The night before any race – especially your first – you might take one of two approaches.  Maybe you’re a Fly By – as in Flying By the Seat Of Your Bike Shorts – kind of guy or girl.  Maybe you think “I’ll get up in the morning and throw some stuff in a bag, and that will be that”.  And maybe that will work for you.  But for me, I like having a plan, and even more, I like having a list of things to check off.  As someone said in a meeting this week, I put the “A” in “Type A”.  Read into that what you will, but the bottom line is that I don’t like surprises on race morning. 

The Night Before then, is about prepping the race bag, and the car (if necessary) and the food, and the bike.  I designed the attached checklist to summarize the things I usually do when getting ready, and you’ll see it’s broken down into a few areas (Head, Body, Feet, Food, Bike, Car, and Timing).   It might make more sense to think about things as you’ll need them in the course of a race, in which case, you’ll have to read between the lines!

The basic thing to remember about the night before is this: if it’s your first race, you’re going to be nervous.   If it’s your twelfth race, you’re going to be over-confident.  In both cases, a checklist helps you remember the little things that will, otherwise, slip your mind.

After doing races for so long, of course, this list is built to suit ME. You might not need all this stuff. Indeed my friend Lisa, a master of efficiency, can show up with NONE of this and still kick my ass.  The other key to remember is that you don’t NEED all this stuff to race well.  All you really need is your body, some clothes that let you do your thang, and the basics: a bike, goggles, and running shoes.  In most cases, the rest is there if you need it.  So don’t get psyched out.  Just know what kind of race you’re running, and prep accordingly.

The Day Of

Race mornings can be a little bit much.  I’ve literally RUN to Transition before (Wendy’s Triathlon, forgot to put gas in the car, forgot my watch, lost my chip, and walrus-ed into a wetsuit in a not-so-attractive manner before stumbling into the start).  And I’ve been two and a half hours early for my start (every Chicago Triathlon I’ve ever done, because Transition is such a challenge and you have to be there early when there are 7,000 racers getting ready).  

But what if you’ve never done one of these? What should you expect on race morning?  Truthfully, that’s a whole other (very fun) post. But for now, you should remember the basics:  it’s like any other early-morning workout. You’re going to need your gear, and your fuel.  Make sure you have them in order, and make sure you get your stuff set out in Transition, and you’ll be fine.  I’ve added a few basic tips to the checklist (pack a fuel bag the night before; lay out your stuff in Transition on a towel so you can see it – but not a beach towel, people, a hand towel) but mostly it’s just a trigger for you to make sure you’re not missing anything.

If you do forget something, don’t hesitate to ask around.  Most seasoned athletes pack backups – backup tubes, backup goggles, backup saline.  I’ve given out all three in Transition on race morning, and always gotten them back. 

In the end, this preparation will maybe save you some time.  But it really only works if you practice your Transitions during your training session.  Yes, that means running up to your stuff, wet and out of breath, and finding out what works best for YOU.  Practice a few times (at your race site, even if you can) and you’ll find that after a few attemps, you’ll get smoother at getting out of your wetsuit, putting socks on wet feet, and running through Transition in your bike shoes. 

Here then, is your checklist – use it, save it, trash it, or change it – whatever works for you.  And in the end, just remember, it’s not this kind of preparation that determines whether you finish – it’s all that other training you’ve done – on the bike, in the pool, and on the path. 

PlusRunner Tri Checklist

See you out there.

Scratching the Triathlon Itch

I was at the Chicago Cubs home opener today at Wrigley Field when a friend of mine starting giving me shit.  Ed, who is a lovely, funny, and very smart man, told me that I really had quite a different view of “leisurely” activities than he does.  I had mentioned that the upcoming 57 mile ride at Little Red would be pretty easy – all things considered – as there was only one really brutal climb, at Mile 54.  Ed pointed out that “easy” was sitting in a green seat at The Friendly Confines, not pedaling through the mountains of Utah.  And I had to agree.

But, if you’ve been struck by a desire to challenge yourself – or, to simply stay active – setting goals and trying to knock them down becomes a bit addicting.  I know, because I can’t go through a Spring season without signing up for new races, and trying to plan my summer around trying just. one. more. race.

If you’ve been bitten by THAT bug, you may be one of the ten people who’s asked me in the past few weeks how to get started in triathlons.  Perhaps I’m overstating the case, but all of the sudden, it feels like EVERYONE has found out about my favorite, secret sport.

And what’s not to love?  Triathlon is a great starter sport.  Aside from the mastering of three disciplines, and the sometimes overcomplicated lists of gear, if you can swim, bike, and run, this is a sport for you. 

But say, for argument’s sake, that you’re new to triathlon, and want to train.  Where should you get started? Do you need a training group if you’re only doing a sprint? Can you train and work – or even, travel – at the same time?  And what about the gear? 

In the next few posts, we’ll talk about some of the unique issues surrounding triathlon, but for today, I just want to share some online and print resources to help you understand the training approach, and how you might begin to accomplish a goal of completing your first tri.

Training Schedules and Guidance

When I first started doing triathlons in 1999, I pulled down a free, easy schedule from www.trinewbies.com . (at the time, it could fit in a single graph. It’s safe to say things have gotten a bit more detailed since then.)    I think I used an 8 or 10 week schedule, which called for morning and evening workouts of less than 45 minutes each.  I stuck to it, but not too close…and it got me through my first race. 

Today, there are a variety of programs out there, including free guidance at www.beginnertriathlete.com (Sprint programs here).

If you want a more detailed read, combined with a training schedule, and some advice on how to avoid purchasing too much gear, check out Joel Friel’s book, “Your First Triathlon”.  For less than the cost of dinner at your favorite restaurant, you’ll have a good guide to help navigate your new sport.

Do you travel for work?  Find it hard to work in a workout?  Looking for some additional detail about how to cross train (this is you, my running friends).  If so, I’d highly recommend “Triathlon Training in Four Hours a Week”.  Sure, more than four hours will give you a better time, but if you’re working within some constraints (um, children?) this is a good book which will give you a ton of knowledge about core exercises and training, while letting you pick and choose from what you need.

Next up: finding a local training group – what to look for, and how to make the most of your training experience. 

Until then, read up, and take a look at that summer schedule. I’ll just bet there’s a race with your name on it.

Deal Alert! Tri apparel you need to check out!

I know, I know, I’ve been a delinquent poster these past few weeks! Forgive me, please! I’m back at a full-time job and it’s been an interesting ride!

But fear not, readers! I was wandering the lunch web today and found a couple of steal-of-a-deal-deals you need to know about if you’re racing this summer.

The All-in-One Women’s Tri Top (Zoot! In Sizes That Fit!)

First, REI Outlet has listed a Women’s 09 Tri Top (impossible to come by during the season) in an XXL (which equates to a Size 14-16, measurements of 43-45 bust, 37-40 waist, and 44.5-47.5 hips). Rather than assume you know if you’re a “14” or a “16”, grab the tape measure and see if this MIGHT fit you, because if it does, it’s a PERFECT addition to the tri wardrobe. It will solve all your problems as a “one stop top” you can wear in the water, on the bike, and on the run.  Keep in mind, it’s going to be “slimmer” but it will be worth it in the water and on the bike. 

You don’t have to be an REI member to shop there (though I recommend the one time joining fee because they have some of the best clothes out there for larger men and women). AND you can ship free to a store in your area, but right now, they’re also offering free shipping.

Zoot TriFit Tank Top ($44.95 down from $70.00). Sizes XS-XXL.









The Tri Shorts You’ll Want All Summer

For the guys, Zoot is offering their Tri Zoot 8″ triathlon short in a Size XXL for a SUPER steal, too, at $42.00. They include the leg grippers of silicone (but not those sexy quad muscles pictured below).  Also, a couple of stash pockets for your gu’s, and a nice, “it’s not really a chammy” chamois to give you just a stitch of comfort on the bike.  If you don’t own a tri short, and are wondering if you should buy one before you start training, the answer is yes.  Buy these, because this is the best price you’ll see all year.

This is last year’s model, so you’re getting a break on the price (these are normally $72.00). Click here, or on the picture below to link to Zoot’s site for purchase.  Measurements: Fits 38-40 Waist (I would think you could probably stretch that an extra inch or two, but don’t hold me to that…)

For more apparel guidance, check out the “most frequently read posts” at right, or on the “what to wear” page above.