Training Tips: Huntsville Sprint Triathlon

sprinttrilogo400Like most things, triathlon can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it.  I’m going to go over a few basic things I think you need to know, then, if you have specific questions, please ask me.
The race will be located at the Brahan Springs Natatorium (Nat).  The Transition Area will be set up in the Nat parking lot and it is where you will rack your bike and layout your gear.  You’ll be assigned a race number (just like in a running race) so when you arrive at the Nat, you need to enter the Transition Area, and find your spot.  For this race, the racks are numbered to correspond to your race number. Sometimes, it’s first come, first served to find a rack in triathlon.  (I personally like pre-assigned bike racks, that’s why we have them for this race.) Race parking is in the Milton Frank Stadium parking lot.
You’ll get body marked in the transition area when you first arrive.  This consists of placing your race number on your shoulder, thigh and calf as well as your age, with a sharpie marker.  You don’t wear your race number for the swim portion, but need to have it on for the bike and run.  You can either pin it to your shirt (if you plan to wear one) or you can purchase a “race number belt”, attach the number to that and then clip it on when you’re in T1 before you get on the bike.
Make sure your tires are inflated correctly (check your tire pressure EACH time you ride), place your gear into an easy one to get you started on the bike when it’s time to ride, rack your bike at your assigned number and then lay out your gear.  Bring a towel or mat to lay on the ground to put your stuff on.  Always layout your gear on the side of the bike where the wheel touches the ground.  If you have a water bottle holder on the bike, fill your bottle and place it in the holder, ready to go.
You need to think about what clothing you’ll be doing each part of the race in.  Because this is a very short race, you don’t need anything fancy. Many athletes start with a swimsuit for the swim, then pull on a shirt for the bike and run.  The swim is 400 meters. The pool will have the lanes running lengthwise (50 meters) so you will complete 8 lengths of the pool. Most times the lanes are not set like this at the Nat and you can only practice in lanes that are 25 yards long, so this will probably seem long to you on race day.  That’s okay. Take your time, relax and enjoy the swim.  TIME IS NEVER MADE OR LOST DURING THE SWIMMING PORTION OF TRIATHLON. The whole goal of the swim is to come out of the water relaxed, warmed up and ready to bike and run. Besides a swim suit, you need a pair of well-fitting goggles. These are important.  Athletes will start two swimmers at a time, side by side. This race is chip timed. You are seeded in the race according to the swim time you listed during registration. You will swim down lane 1, touch the wall at the end, cross under the lane line to lane 2, swim to the end, touch, cross under, and repeat this process until you’ve swum 8 lengths and are ready to exit the pool and head back to transition.
Transition 1 (T1) is the time it takes to go from swimming to biking.  Get out of the pool and walk, run, or jog back to transition to your bike. (Try to find something to help you remember which row it’s on before you leave it the first time.) When you get to your bike, pull on a shirt if you want to wear one, get your helmet onto your head and CLIPPED, pull on socks and shoes and sunglasses if you wear them, then WALK or RUN your bike out of transition.  You cannot get onto your bike until after you cross a big line on the ground that we call the MOUNT LINE.
If you’ve put your bike into an easy gear, it will be easier to get started riding after the mount line. The number one rule about the bike, is you MUST have a helmet on your head and clipped if you are on the bike.  This rule will get you disqualified if broken. Safety first. Always. You are going to exit the Nat, turn right onto Drake and follow the course.  One lane will be coned off for biking and there will be police officers at each of the turns and intersections helping you. There are a few biking rules that are important: only pass on the left, announce when you are passing, no drafting (riding closely behind someone else), and no blocking (riding along side someone else).  All of these can draw a penalty of 2:00 minutes or greater, up to disqualification. The bike distance is 7 miles – quick and easy. Wear your helmet. Be safe!
Transition 2 (T2) is the time when you finish the bike and head out onto the run. As you come back towards the transition area on the bike, you will be instructed to stop and GET OFF of your bike prior to the DISMOUNT line that will be marked on the pavement. Then walk or run your bike back to your assigned spot and rack it. Remove your helmet and you are ready to run. Your legs are going to feel wobbly. That’s okay.
The run course is a 5K, basically two 1.5 mile loops around the lake at the Nat.  It’s a great course: dirt, gravel, grass and some sidewalk. You’ll be able to see lots of people and spectators can watch you too. You’ll hear the music we have playing and there will be tons of people cheering.  Try to start with an even pace to let your legs adjust to running off the bike. There will be a water station half way around the lake. You must complete the loop twice and you will finish under the Team Rocket finishline.
You get your race shirt AFTER you complete the race.  The motto for this race is: To Finish is to Win. There will be a table under the pavilion where you can get your shirt, as well as post race food and drinks.
In triathlon, a very general rule of thumb for any distance race you’re preparing for (Sprint to Ironman) is the 3x3x3 training plan. This means you should try to run 3 times per week, bike 3 times per week and swim 3 times per week.  More than likely the swim will be the hardest to schedule, but maybe you have a neighborhood pool that is opening soon, which will make swimming a little easier. You are already probably running three miles at a pop, so now it’s a good idea to go for a bike ride, then hop off the bike and run 1-3 miles to get used to that feeling in your legs when you transition from biking to running.
Here’s a link to some beginner triathlon information:
Also, the Huntsville Sprint Triathlon website has good race specific information as well as the maps of the transition area layout as well as the swim, bike and run courses:
It’s fun to try new things, even if it can be a little intimidating. I’m excited you’ve chosen triathlon as a new goal. Good luck!