As an ambassador to USA Triathlon, I am always trying to think of new ways to reach out to the community and encourage participation in our sport. Sometimes, I tell my own story about how I became involved and what triathlon has brought into my life as a mother, wife, athlete and coach. Most importantly, however, I like to focus on the dreams and achievements of others and help support them in their personal goals in the sport. So, as I was brainstorming for ways which I could make an impact and also be more involved with our local short course events and athletes, I decided it would be fun to ask a few brand new triathletes to share their stories with me and see if they might be willing to let me write about their experience on the way to their start lines this summer. Peggy Schockey, the race director for Loveland Lake to Lake Triathlon in Loveland, Colorado, has been extremely helpful in this process and sent out an e-mail to some of the registered athletes in her race who have mentioned they are first time participants. I was lucky enough to have two women reach out to me and volunteer to let me tell their stories. And, what remarkable ladies they are and what wonderful stories they have!!
Olivia Seng and Bethany Balderrama will both be participating in the sprint distance race at Loveland Lake to Lake Triathlon in Loveland. Colorado on June 23rd. They have graciously agreed to chat with me throughout the next four months and share their training updates, questions, concerns, excitement and anticipation so that I can help support them and also write about this special experience in both of their lives. Each of these incredible ladies has a different story to share, a personal reason for training and racing, unique goals for herself and individual challenges to face. I had the pleasure to chat with both Olivia and Bethany on the phone this week and learn a little bit more about why they registered for Loveland Lake to Lake, what their life is like outside of training and what their personal support crews look like. I also had the chance to answer any questions they had about the sport. In this post, I would like to introduce Olivia and Bethany!
Race– Loveland Lake to Lake Triathlon
Age Group– 20-24 years old
Hometown-Fort Collins, CO
Job– Olivia is a Sophomore at Oklahoma University of Science and Arts in Chickasha, Oklahoma . She is currently studying Political Science.
Current/Past Sport– Volleyball. Olivia has played the game since 7th grade and is playing on a full athletic scholarship in college.
Why Triathlon? – Olivia has always enjoyed running and loves the pool workouts she does for volleyball training. She now wants a new challenge and to be able to focus on some fun and varied workouts. She is ready for a new challenge outside of volleyball.
Current Training – Olivia is training for her first half marathon right now. She will be running the Equinox Half Marathon in Fort Collins, Colorado on March 25th with her Mom. Then, she will begin a 12 week triathlon specific training plan for LL2L.
Why the Loveland Lake to Lake Triathlon?– Olivia chose LL2L as her first triathlon because it has a beautiful race course, it is local to her hometown and she heard great things about the race.
Strongest race leg- swim, bike or run? The run. Olivia is most comfortable with this discipline of the three and she has run a lot in the past for volleyball training.
Most excited about? – Olivia is a self motivated and committed athlete. I could tell just from talking to her on the phone! She is looking forward to the accomplishment of crossing her first finish line in triathlon and hopes to take on the longer distance events in the future. And, she is one of the most enthusiastic young ladies with whom I have ever chatted! She is excited about every part of this triathlon experience!
Any worries? Swimming and cycling are new for her. She is a little bit worried about whether or not she will have the correct gear for her race and how she will feel training in these two disciplines.
Who is her support crew? Family and friends. Olivia’s parents and two older brothers all live in Fort Collins so she says that she will have them at the race to cheer her on.
What questions does she have about the sport?
Here are some of Olivia’s questions for me. I answered these questions personally by phone when we chatted. I have them outlined here in yellow.
Since this is my first triathlon, how much should I invest in gear?
Triathlon can be an expensive sport as it requires gear for three sports for not only racing the event but also the training that leads into the event. I suggest that beginner triathletes keep it simple. If their first race is a sprint (which is the distance Olivia is doing), then you can keep the cost down by using what gear you already have and perhaps renting or borrowing things like a wetsuit for the swim. I rode a second hand oldie Trek with downtube shifters for my first triathlon and I borrowed a wetsuit from a friend. As time went on and I was certain that I wanted to continue in the sport and do longer events, I considered purchasing items specific to my race and the goals I set for myself. Often, you can find great deals online on triathlon gear through discount sites, general sales, Facebook groups set up for selling gear and Craigslist. Short answer- prioritize for yourself. Spend what you can afford and what seems reasonable for you given your personal goals.
Transitions? How do they work?
This is one of the most frequent questions I get from new triathletes. Yes, transitions! There are two transitions in your race- T1 (transition 1) which happens as you finish the swim and prepare to bike and T2 (transition 2) when you finish your bike and begin your run. Each transition is timed separately from the swim, bike and run segments of your event and those times are included in your final race result. I always remind my athletes to take a walk around transition on race morning and be sure they understand where the “swim in”, “bike out”, “bike in” and “run out” are located. It is super important to know where you are entering and exiting in relation to your bike set up. So, get a good visual and walk through to familiarize yourself with the lay of the land.
The faster you can get that swim gear off and the bike gear on and hit the road, the faster your finish time will be. The same is true when changing from bike to run. Practicing your transition is important. The more familiar and comfortable you are with the process, the faster you will be on race day. You set up your transition by your bike in the transition area prior to race start. You have a spot just to the left of your front wheel to lay out gear. For a sprint race, this means bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, running shoes, race belt with number, visor/hat, nutrition for the run (Gu, chews, etc.). As you come in from the swim, you remove your wetsuit, goggles and cap. Be sure to put them in your designated space and not throw them in someone else’s area. Then, you focus on putting on your bike gear. Remember, you can be disqualified for moving with your bike if your helmet is not on and clasped. I always put my helmet on first, then sunglasses, cycling shoes and I grab my bike and go. Your timing starts for T1 as you hit the transition mat at the end of the swim/entrance to transition and it ends as you hit the “bike out” mat heading to the bike course. Be aware of the mount and dismount lines for the bike. This is where you get on and off your bike. And, be sure to keep that helmet on and clasped until you have racked your bike in T2. Same thing the second time around- the faster you can take your bike gear off and get those running shoes, race belt and hat on, the faster your time at the end of the day. So, be sure to practice, practice, practice.
Training- swimming, biking- programs?
You have a lot of options here. Hiring a certified triathlon coach who is a good match for you is always a great idea. A coach can design a personalized plan for you and really help you stay accountable to your training, keep you safe and injury free, provide important feedback on form and technique and generally provide support throughout your season. Or, you can choose to train on your own and follow an online program or one from a book. Now, with our USA Triathlon and Ironman My Time to Tri program, you can find a training program which will work for you personally by visiting the website and answering a few questions. There are also other great resources on the website at http://www.mytimetotri.com. It’s always a great idea to find some training buddies as well to give you an added boost of motivation.
Personal goals for the experience? Olivia has some great ones: to have fun, make new friends, challenge herself in exciting ways, learn more about the sport and feel a sense of accomplishment.
Race– Loveland Lake to Lake Triathlon
Age Group– 30-34 years old
Hometown– Windsor, CO
Job– Bethany is Mom to two beautiful little girls and a high school counselor in Greeley, CO.
Current/Past Sport– In Bethany’s own words, “I was never very athletic growing up. I thought I wouldn’t graduate high school because of the required 12 minute mile run. I loved to ski and have completed challenges like the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (total of 39 mile walk) in the past, but always dreamed of being a runner and being able to participate in all of the fun races I had seen my friends do.”
Why Triathlon? – After having her first child 4 1/2 years ago, Bethany decided she wanted to start training for her first 5K. She has since gone on to run several more 5ks, her first 10K last September, she climbed her first 14er and has also lost 40 pounds on this personal journey to better health and fitness. Triathlon seems like a logical next step and one challenge which she is excited to undertake this summer. Amazing stuff.
Why the Loveland Lake to Lake Triathlon?– Her neighbor raced LL2L last year and it is also the closest triathlon to her home so it feels familiar.
Strongest race leg- swim, bike or run? Bike and then run and swim. Bethany has completed several 5Ks. She joined the Windsor Masters Swim program last September and loves it! So, she is starting to really enjoy all three disciplines in the sport.
Most excited about? – Accomplishing her goal and proving to herself that she can do anything she puts her mind to, and hopefully inspiring others in the process.
Any worries? Bethany has a few. They include coming in last, getting in the way of more experienced racers, cramping up. Just the unknowns.
What questions does Bethany have about the sport?
Bethany sent me the following questions and I answered them in yellow.
1. Is there a nutrition plan you follow or recommend? Or any supplements?
I generally suggest to athletes that they follow a well balanced diet and focus on whole foods as their primary source of nourishment. If athletes are looking for a full nutritional plan, I refer them on to a certified nutritionist.
2. If you are sick/don’t have time/ not motivated one day, is there a good alternative to a full workout or how to deal with that?
If you are really sick, then your body needs rest to recover and doing any serious training will only prevent your body from healing. It needs that energy to get well. You risk a more serious illness and further delays in training if you push through illness. Balance of life is very important so if you do not have time to get a workout in one day, it is not the end of the world. Consistency is the key. Pick up your training plan on the day you return to training. A shorter workout is fine every once in awhile. Do what you can manage. Some is better than none.
3. How do you prepare/ practice for transitions?
Great question. In training, you prepare your body for the race transitions by doing “brick” workouts. These help prepare your body and mind for the change of disciplines and how you handle these physically as well as mentally- swim to bike and bike to run. The bike to run bricks are extremely important as they train your legs to get used to running on legs fatigued by the bike. When you do these workouts, set up your transition area with all of your items and practice as you will be doing on race day. The more you practice for yourself, the more self-confident and quickly you will be able to move through the removal of one set of gear and the application of the next. Run through your race day checklist and make sure that you have everything that you need, set it up on a transition towel by your bike and go through your steps on every brick workout to familiarize yourself with the process.
One more for good measure…. how do you practice for open water swim after practicing entirely in a pool.
Obviously this can be tricky for those athletes racing in early season events in Colorado since we do not have many Open Water Swim options available before Memorial Day. That means that the bulk of swim training for us happens in the pool. But, as soon as OWS sites like Boulder Reservoir, Aurora Reservoir and Chatfield Reservoir open, it will be very important to make the time to get in the open water to get a feel for swimming in your wetsuit and swimming the distance of your race continuously. Chat with your coach at Windsor Masters and ask about OWS options in Fort Collins and Greeley as well. Make time to get in there at least once a week in June leading into LL2L. Yu will feel much more comfortable and at ease on race day. Also, remember that you get to choose your spot at the start of your swim wave. You can find a quiet spot off to the side and in the back so that you do not get caught up in the mass of arms and legs at the start of the swim. This will allow you a calmer start to the race.
Personal goals for the experience? Bethany has a few personal goals for herself- To finish! and to feel proud of herself with whatever place she gets.