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Andrew Smith 05-08-2006 01:21 PM

I could have sworn I just posted this in the triathlete thread, but it doesn't appear to be there. I'm looking at training to do a sprint triathlon, but I'm having trouble structuring my split. I take BJJ Tu/Th from 5:30-9pm and I can't miss that. I also do Kettlebells on Mon/Wed from 7-8pm. My problem is structuring the split so I don't burn out too quickly. I am also wondering what I should be shooting to obtain each training day (ie long run on Mon, intervals Wed, hills Fri etc etc). If anybody could help me with this, it would be greatly appreciated.


19yrs old, 5'11 165lbs, tennis and soccer player, decent run times (5k ~23-24:00), decent biking, crap swim technique

Garrett Smith 05-08-2006 08:18 PM

Simplest advice:

Get your swim time set aside first. Work on swim technique and find an instructor to help you.

Your multiple fitness goals and commitments right now are looking like a setup for under-recovery.

If you are only concerned about finishing the tri, just concern yourself with getting your swim better.

Eugene R. Allen 05-08-2006 10:48 PM

Doc is right about the swim. If your swim is crap, your race will be crap. Remember that you are moving through the water at 2 or 3 miles an hour at best. All those people that get out of the water before you are going to be on their bikes going 17 to 25 mph and creating a rather gigantic gap on all the crappy swimmers. You lose lots of time in your race with a lousy swim. Check out the Total Immersion swim program and improve your swim stroke. Swimming is ALL about efficiency and TI makes that happen. Get to a TI clinic if you can and/or look for a Masters swim program in your area.

Work on your transitions. I have been beaten out of the water by lots of people that leave in T1 because my transition is better. Being fast in transition is free in that it comes with almost no energy cost.

CF is great training for sprint distance triathlon. You can do a sprint with just a little bit of training because it is so short. Your race will likely be 300 to 600 yards for the swim (maybe 800 but not usually that far) a bike of 13 miles or so and a run of about 3 miles. Transitions are critical in these cases because this is a very fast race format.

So, improve your swimming and learn to get out of your wetsuit in a hurry...assuming it is a wetsuit legal race. Next, make sure you have a bike that fits you. More important than anything else about the bike is that it fit. Learn to get aero - 80% of your energy at 18 mph and faster is spent overcoming wind resistance. Don't give the wind very much to push against.

Do bricks. Every time you ride your bike get off and immediately do a quick run of at least a mile. Teach your legs to run off the bike because under race conditions you will hammer the bike and when you start to run you will feel like your feet are on backwards as running will feel very foreign for a little while.

Keep up your CF workouts because they will help you directly in this race. Do longish workouts of up to an hour or so to get used to hammering for that length of time. You will be at it for 1:15 to an 1:35 minutes depending on how fast you are so you have to be able to really suffer out there on the race course. When you're done, be done...don't leave any of your race on the course.

Tunde Decidis. Hammer till you drop.


Andrew Smith 05-09-2006 06:33 AM

Thanks for the advice guys. I'll def. have to focus on my swimming technique. What about structuring the training schedule? Should I be looking to bike 3 days out of the week, run 3, swim 3, or should I be looking at setting aside 2 days a week for each leg of the sprint?

Garrett Smith 05-09-2006 08:31 AM

However many sessions you are able to perform in a week, I'd make 50% of them swimming, ie. 4 swim/2 bike/2 run; or 3 swim/1 bike/1 run; or even 2 swim/1 bike/1 run. You may dislike swimming, I understand--I was a sprint swimmer, I don't like distance swimming. You need more time in the water. Just because there are three legs of the triathlon doesn't mean your training ratios have to reflect that. Spend the *majority* of the time on your weakness, your strengths will naturally show through.

Relax. You may (obviously) be a hyper-competitive person. It's your first triathlon. It's going to be a PR no matter what you do. Remember that. It's exactly the reason I love when a completely new (to me) WOD comes up. Whatever time I get, it's a PR, and I'm nearly guaranteed to beat it next time.

The brightest stars burn out the fastest.

Andrew Smith 05-09-2006 08:52 AM

Hahaha yea I just need to take everything in stride and not rush anything. I enjoy pushing myself, so I need to make sure I don't push myself too hard and burn out like you said. Mr. Allen and yourself have been a tremendous help. One last question. On my biking days and running days, should I be focused on running the race distances as fast as I can, or should I be throwing in longer distances at a slightly slower pace, or intervals, etc etc?

Garrett Smith 05-09-2006 09:24 AM

I'll defer to Eugene for the best advice here.

Now that the WOD is my main exercise, I'll tell you how I would train for a sprint tri. Note that I have completed three sprints and two Olympic distance tris, and I am only competing against myself. I'd rather be the CF-strong sporadic triathlete and improve my times than concern myself with comparing to others. Triathlons are something fun to do for variety, as well as show the real world applicability of CF.

Since I'm a good cyclist, I would do one bike ride a week (it's a very hilly ride on a fixed gear, takes me about an hour total for ~15 miles, I'd ride to the top ~35', do my mile run, take a walk with my mom and wife, then ride home ~26'). That would likely be the extent of my non-WOD biking and running.

I'd try to work in two swim workouts a week, concentrating half the workout on form. The other half would be a mixture of interval and LSD work. I looked at my first triathlon this way--if I can get out of the water, it's all downhill from there (I was that concerned about an 825m swim).

BTW, unless you've got the money to burn, I'd suggest you don't geek out on all the super-slick triathlon gear until you've finished at least one race and you've decided you like it. I sold my tri bike a long time ago, I'll be doing my next one on my fixie (I might even get some clip-on aero bars, who knows?).

Nicholas Burgett 05-09-2006 10:16 AM

I'm not going to be able to add anything extra that is of use to you from the technical standpoint that Eugene and Dr. G haven't already covered. I can however fill you in on my personal experience with triathlons as they relate to the advice given above as well as your question about the distances.

Whenever I've had a subpar performance in a tri, be it from not attaining a PR to flat out cracking like an egg on the run, I can almost always attribute it to a lack of preparation in the swim. One of the hidden "gotchas" that I had to learn the hard way is to respect the swim portion of the tri more than the cycling and running portions. It's a hard lesson and one that is easily overlooked.

By nature, from time spent in the race standpoint, the swim will generally comprise about 10-20% of the total time out on the course. For example, let's work with the typical sprint distances that Eugene described above. Assuming an 800m swim, if you are a fairly slow swimmer or new to swimming in a tri, a 2:30/l00m pace would not be unexpected. For 800m, that would mean you would be in the water for 20 minutes. Based on the 5k time you posted, I would assume that you should be able to hold about 18-20 mph on the bike for a typical 12-13 mile leg. This gives you ~40-45 minutes on the bike. Add in a 25 minute 5K, and a an estimated 5 minutes combined for T1 & T2 and you're at around 1:30:00 for the total race. In this example your swim time makes up a little over 20% of the total time.

The lesson that I've learned the hard way that I'd like to pass on to you is that you don't realize the amount of energy you expend during the swim portion of the race. It's completely out of proportion with the amount of time you spend.

Nicholas Burgett 05-09-2006 10:25 AM

Sorry, prematurely hit the post button.

Anyhow, because swimming is a full body exercise, you can end up burning a lot of glycogen and losing a lot of fluids if you're not properly trained and prepared for the swim. I completely agree with Dr. G in that if your weak point is the swim, you should spend about 50% of your tri-specific training getting ready for the swim. Getting out of the water with energy to spare is a much better feeling that the alternative.

As to your question about the distances, I would suggest the following: use the WOD's for your interval, intensity training and extend your distances a little past the distances for the race. This works for me from more of a mental preparation standpoint than anything else.

Eugene's point about doing the bricks is golden advice. You need to be familiar with how your legs react to running after hammering the bike. When starting out doing bricks for the season, I judge my running distances on how long it takes me for my legs and body to finally accept that "ok, I guess we're running now". For me that ends up being about a mile or so into the run. Trust me, your body and legs will adjust, but you're better off knowing when and where that adjustment happens for you before your race than during.

Hope some of that helps.

Eugene R. Allen 05-09-2006 11:00 AM

Wow - what a golden resource this place is. Spot on stuff from Doc and particularly insightful stuff from Nicholas regarding how much the swim can destroy your race if you are not properly prepared. In my first race I got out of the water and promptly fell down. I was so dizzy from turning my head to breathe that I could not jog/walk/stumble in a straight line to T1. I not only couldn't find my bike, I couldn't find T1 and had to be pointed in the right direction. I've gotten a little better since then and can now find T1 pretty well and since I've gotten though 5 Alcatraz swims I guess my swimming has improved too.

Here's my typical swim workout format:

500 pull with buoy to warm up.
250 under water swims with fins. Swim 25 at a time underwater, breathe for a few seconds at each end and go when you can. Lung scorcher.
250 Tabata swim intervals swum as 10 x 25 on 30 seconds. Swim a 25 as fast as you can and send on the 30 seconds.
250 more underwater swims.
500 drill swum as: 100 swim on your side with hands down to the side switching sides each 25. 100 same but with bottom arm extended. 100 6 kick hand exchange (like a very slow catch up stroke) 100 catch up, 100 fist drill.
250 slow pull with buoy working on a long perfect stroke.

All of that remains the same for each swim and the only part that changes is the main set which is anywhere from 600 to 1200 yards. For example: 6 x 100 on the 2 minutes is a typical one where I do a 100 every 2 minutes. A real lung burner is 25 x 4, 50 x 2, 100 x 1 repeated 3 or 4 times. A great distance set is 50 hard, 100 easy, 150 hard, 200 easy, 200 hard, 150 easy, 100 hard 50 easy. For my own sanity I really mix up the main set because following that blue line of tiles can get pretty boring.

The key is that swimming is neurologial practice, it is skill work and not mindless water frothing. There are three skills you must master: Swim Balanced - be sure to press the T and keep your head well down in the water to keep your legs afloat. The T is your chest at the nipple line. Get a feel like your swimming downhill. Swin Long - don't take your pull until your recovering arm is ready to enter the water. The catch up drill is good for developing this. Swim on your Side - slip through the water sideways and you make s smaller hole. Be hydrodynamic DO NOT try to be powerful. If you double your speed you quadruple your drag so forget trying to overcome your swim weakness with power. Learn to get a proper feel for the water (fist drill) and glide as effortlessly as possible. TI is all about these concepts...that's where I got them.

As to structure - after a dozen years and races from sprint to Ironman and frightenly huge amounts of money spent on bikes, heart rate monitors, a computrainer, computer programs, shoes, aerobars and all of that - I want what Doc said, "I'd rather be the CF-strong sporadic triathlete and improve my times than concern myself with comparing to others. Triathlons are something fun to do for variety, as well as show the real world applicability of CF." My body was begning to waste away from all that long distance work and I was starting to sport that 3 flies from a Unicef commercial look. No more. I have lowered my gaze from the ultra to the long course as my max distance (full to half Ironman) and will concentrate on speed over a 2 1/2 hour Olympic distance with an occasional 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 hour half irn race and forget the 12 hour sufferfest that the full Ironman is for me. So, speed and power rather than aerobic endurance and boredom tolerance.

Stay on the WOD and you will learn to suffer. You need that to do well in a tri. Swim as often as you can get in the water until 4,000 yard workouts are no big deal. That sounds like a lot know but you swim endurance will eventually tolerate that.

I'll get back with some workout structure specifics next time. I have some people showing up for the morning workout.

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