Prepare before taking triathlon plunge

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew Opdyke
  • 97th Intelligence Squadron
Many people plunge into a triathlon well prepared and filled with confidence, while others may find swimming, biking and running long distances a daunting challenge. On Aug 1, 2010, Omaha will host an annual triathlon, so there is plenty of time for potential athletes to shake off the fear and safely prepare for the challenge.

A basic triathlon event consists of a 1.5-km swim, a 40-km bike-ride, and a 10-km run. The biggest triathlon event, the Iron Man challenge, consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles on bike, and a 26.2 mile run.

2nd Lt. Lindsey Myhr, 55th Maintenance Squadron accessory flight commander, has completed both.

Lieutenant Myhr completed the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Iron Man race, in Jun. 2009, placing sixth in the 18-24 year old women's division. She reflected, "It was amazing... After months of hard training and one very long day I had checked off a life goal to become an Iron Man. I completed the race in 13 hours 26 minutes and 8 seconds, which was slower than I had anticipated, but a finish in an Iron Man is a finish, right? It was pretty emotional."

"It was fun!" She said after she placed first in the women's division of the Offutt Triathlon, "It was nice to officially end my season with a win."

Marcy Jameson, Health and Wellness Center exercise physiologist, offered some advice to help aspiring athletes prepare for such an event in a healthy way.

"The very first step every triathlon enthusiast should consider is whether they are a beginner, intermediate or advanced athlete," Ms. Jameson said. She added that athletes should consult an exercise physiologist or a physical trainer prior to beginning any rigorous training program.

"The key to reducing injuries while training for a triathlon is cross-training," said Ms. Jameson. "Each week should consist of a mix of biking, running and swimming, while slightly increasing duration and intensity."

Lieutenant Myhr explained that she would train for four months in advance, gradually building up the number of hours she spent training, and then she would have a short taper before each event.

"Appropriately planned exercise schedules shouldn't increase intensities more than 10 percent per session," Ms. Jameson said. "Athletes should also have one to two days of rest per week to allow the body to recover."

The final week of training should taper in intensity and include appropriate rest days in preparation for the big event, she said.

"Check your gear before the race," Lieutenant Myhr said as she humorously recalled another helpful safety tip.

"I was holding onto my bike with numb fingers when I realized that I hadn't tightened the aero-bars enough after my permanent change of station to Offutt," she said. "They kept bending downwards when I went over any bump. I kept trying to blow on my hands to warm them and I made sure to continue pulling my handlebars up and not to put too much downward pressure on them."

Lieutenant Myhr said she found the cold weather as another competitor on her 112-mile cycling and 26.2-mile running legs. She recommended staying in the mental game despite the length of a race or the weather.

Another very important aspect of training that both Ms. Jameson and Lieutenant Myhr identified was a well balanced and nutritious diet, a key to any exercise regimen.

"An effective diet includes an appropriate balance of lean protein, complex carbohydrates and at least 30 percent caloric intake from heart-healthy fat," Ms. Jameson said.

"Proper hydration is extremely important while training for any endurance event," she added. "A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces of fluid each day."

While water is the preferable choice for hydration, Ms. Jameson said sports drinks may also be used to maintain energy and electrolyte balance while training.

Lieutenant Myhr summarized it best as she emphasized, "Make sure you include brick workouts in your training (bike-run combos), practice your nutrition plan before race day, know the routes for all the legs of the race, and keep your head in the game. And above all," she said, "have fun!"

For more information about training for a triathlon or any endurance event, contact the HAWC at 294-5977 or 294-5958.

Web sites recommended by the HAWC for use toward building triathlon-level physical endurance are: www.runnersworld.com, www.beginnertriathlete.com and www.trinewbies.com. For more information about the Omaha Triathlon, visit www.omahatriathlon.com. For more information about other triathlons in the Omaha area, visit http://www.trifind.com/NE.html(Sergeant Opdyke is a volunteer writer in the 55th Wing Public Affairs Office)