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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Cardio ‘Cat: Gear up for triathlons

Arms thrashing and legs kicking their way through the water in a sea of people. Road bikes, tri bikes, all kinds of bikes, speeding around corners. And lastly, a mad dash with whatever is left in their somehow still-moving bodies.

In the near future, I want to take on a triathlon, and it will be my first one. I want to do it because the idea terrifies me a bit, to be honest, especially the swimming part.

I am a fine swimmer, but the pressure of having to transition seamlessly from three different sports and also find my way through the water with hundreds of other people scares me. But I want to do it because I haven’t before.

If you, like me, want to try a triathalon but are slightly intimidated, read this beginner’s guide to becoming a triathlete.

Triathlons are complex, intense and challenging, but they don’t take long to train for. I know it will keep me entertained for a while, and I’m itching to cross another finish line.

Step one 

Choose a race. I have been unable to find any triathlons before next spring. I plan to first complete the “Dirty Duathlon” at Folsom Lake in February, which consists of four miles of running and six and a half miles of biking.

Starting in March, there are plenty of triathlons to choose from in places like San Francisco, Napa Valley and Auburn, which aren’t too far from Chico.

There are different distances typical for triathlons:

· Sprint: 400 to 750 meter swim, 20 kilometers of cycling and about a five kilometer run

· Olympic: 1.5 kilometer swim, 40 kilometers of cycling and a 10 kilometer run

· Half iron: 1.2 mile swim, 56 miles of cycling and a 13.1 mile half marathon

· Iron: 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles of cycling and a 26.2 mile marathon, all in one day, a total of 140.6 miles

Step two 

Get gear. One of the reasons the duathlon appealed to me is because it is a mountain biking course, and I don’t currently own a road bike. Triathletes need decent, tinted goggles, a durable swimsuit for training, a bike suited for the race, a helmet and probably a swim cap.

Good running shoes are necessary, and bike shoes and sunglasses are your choice. A bike pump is definitely a good idea and extra tubes and other parts for fixing a flat for a road bike is a good precaution.

For racing, some triathletes keep triathlon-specific shorts and a top for the entire race. If the water is cold where I’m racing, I’ll definitely be getting a wet suit as well.

Step three 

Train. Someone who’s out of shape can be ready for a triathlon in 12 weeks by training for four hours per week, said Gale Bernhardt, a former USA triathlon team coach, in her article on Two workouts a week should consist of swimming and the other three of running and biking.

I am a fan of fitness apps for logging my miles, tracking my route and syncing my music. The apps First Time Triathlon and My Tri Swim Coach have some of the best ratings for beginner triathletes.

First Time Triathlon offers a 12-week training program for a sprint triathlon and My Tri Swim Coach has a plan with drills, warm-ups and cool-downs.

In a previous column, I talked about how to drink and eat well before, during and after a race. I believe that nutrition is the most important part of exercise.

It is important to hydrate well before, during and after workouts with water and some form of electrolytes. Also, make sure to eat something before, have energy snacks or gels during and reload on carbohydrates and electrolytes after training and racing.


Risa Johnson can be reached at or @risapisa on Twitter.

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