So you want to be a triathlete but you are slow, out of shape, can't swim or run, and almost broke.
10) Myth: You need to know how to swim to complete a triathlon
False. Actually to complete a triathlon swim you really need to know one thing:
How to pick the right race for your complete lack of swimming ability. Now-a-days many sprint triathlons take place in an indoor pool.
To complete one of these race (without actually being able to swim) just make sure the pool doesn't have a deep end and preferably the swim is done in a snake fashion. In other words, the swimmers (and of course you) start at one end of the pool and snake though all of the lanes to the other end.
This type of crowded snake swim in a shallow pool will always insure that you, and the rest of the "swimmers", will safely, and of course slowly, walk the entire swim.
Bonus myth: And to be completely honest, as long as the pool is shallow and you are seeded at the end of the swim you'll also be able to walk most of a more traditional lane swim...as long as you make a effort to pretend to swim. Just bend over at the waste and swim with your arms and not your legs.
False. Actually to race a triathlon all you need is the entry fee, some sort of all in one swim/bike/run attire, any bike with two non-flat tires and preferably a couple of working gears, and of course working brakes. Plus you'll also need your dad's twenty year old bike helmet and any ratty towel.
But that's all.
You don't need:
- goggles: you can swim without them
- swimsuit: anything that can get wet and doesn't cling too tightly to your private parts will really do.
- earplugs: and nose plugs, flippers, underwater MP3 player, pull buoy, and all of the other well know swim toys
- wetsuit: especially in a pool or anywhere the water is warm or even cold if you are hardy enough
- bike shoes: you can pedal in bare feet or if you like your running shoes
- water bottle: they'll have them on the course and in your race packet
- power bars: they'll have them on the course and in your race packet
- sunglasses: do as nature intended and squint a lot
- bike gloves: really? You think you need gloves with no fingers to handle a bike.
- race belt: you'll get the old, but reliable, safety pins in your race packet
- running shoes: haven't you heard about the benefits of barefoot running?
- socks: they just slow you down and besides we're not sure about the benefits of sockfoot running yet?
- hat: hair or sunscreen will do
- heart rate monitor: It's called your ears and when you can hear your heartbeat in then you're probably about to blow up.
- watch: you can get your race time when you cross the finish line
False! Actually all you need to finish a triathlon is the ability to walk.
You don't need to know how to swim (see myth 10) and you don't even need to how to ride a bike.
Admittedly it would take you a longtime to walk your bike (say 10-miles) but you could do it. Most small races don't really have time cutoffs. Just pretend that you have a flat and a lot of determination. Or better yet, start right out with a flat tire and just walk.
In fact you don't even need to know how to run. You can push your bike and walk the run. It will make for a long race, but given enough grit you can finish.
7) Myth: You need to be super fit to finish a triathlon
False. You can be a chain smoking, hamburger eatin', Biggest Loser watching couch potato, and still finish a triathlon.
We wouldn't recommend that you start with the iron distance race, but if you want to be a triathlete and finisher just pick a local sprint distance race and take your time. In a couple hours of leisurely swimming, biking, and walking you'll be able to grab a post race beer and burger, and hang that finisher medal proudly around your neck.
Please believe us when we say that the local race directors will love your attitude and business.
False. For the most part fuel is fuel...at least from the view point of your body. Sure, some foods are better and some foods are healthier, but when you are racing a PB&J can be just as useful to your body as power bar.
Of course that doesn't mean that body weight is not the enemy of endurance: it is, but so what?
If your goal is to be a triathlete don't get all tied up in knots about your weight. Of course you would certainly be faster if you had the BMI of Chrissie Wellington, but than again you probably won't be racing Chrissy Wellington...and your daytime job title is not "professional triathlete".
So what if you are a few pounds (or more) above your ideal race weight.
A day spent racing is always better than a day spent...well...not racing.
False. Actually you need to train a lot to be a fast triathlete, but just like with everything in life with triathlon training you quickly get to a point of diminishing returns.
It really just depends on how much you like to suffer. You can be a triathlete without training much you'll just suffer a bit more when you race.
Of course suffering when you race doesn't sound like a lot of fun, but if your goal is to finish a race, as opposed to win a race, perhaps suffering comes with the territory.
Let's face it most triathletes have jobs and a family and spending between 10 to 15 hours a week swimming, biking, and running is not going to happen without losing that job or family.
If you want to be a triathlete don't use the excuse that you can't train to not compete. Train as much as you can. You'll suffer a bit more at your next race, but once again a day spent racing is always better than a day spent...well...not racing.
Next Time: The top ten most enduring triathlon myths of all time (part 2)
Roman Mica is a amateur Clydesdale triathlete who lives and races in Boulder, Colorado. His most recent book is entitled No, Seriously My Training Begins Tomorrow: The Everyman's Guide to IRONFIT Swimming, Cycling & Running, and is available on Amazon.com.