Thursday, July 19, 2018

Time to try a tri?

BikeWalkLee Column
The News-Press, 7/19/2018
by Ken Gooderham

Looking for an achievable challenge? Something that will make you stretch to reach your goal, but is well within the skill set of even the moderately fit? An event that lets you work on some new skills while still being able to draw on your existing ones?

Maybe it’s time you tried a tri.

Your best bet to begin with is a sprint triathlon, which typically includes a quarter-mile swim (even up to a half-mile), a 10- to 15-mile bike and a 5K (3.1-mile) run. There are longer distance events, of course, up to and including the famed Ironman… but for your first attempt it’s wise to keep it simple.

Having three sports in one event makes tris more accessible, since most participants typically have some background in one of the three and can develop their skills in the other disciples pretty quickly (thanks to the short distances involved). Most training plans project you could be ready for the race in just six weeks… a dedicated six weeks, to be sure, but still a reasonable time to train.

Having smaller doses of three different disciplines keeps it more interesting (and more accessible, since training distances can be bearable). It’s also can be easier on your body, since you’ll be asking it to something different every day (which can cut down on injuries).

How do you set out to complete your first tri?
  • Find a race: Something local is often best, so you train in the conditions under which you’ll compete. Of course, “destination” races are also a big draw, going to compete in a unique or iconic locale can be an extra incentive. Just don’t set your sights on a hilly course and only train in the flat terrain of SW Florida. You have a few choices locally in the months ahead – Venice, Captiva, Siesta Key, Naples – that combines reasonable training distances with very attractive courses.
  • Find a plan: Training schedules abound, all with a mix of swimming, biking and running to get your body ready for the sprint ahead. All of them enable you to build to the endurance you’ll need to finish without the burnout you’ll want to avoid.
  • Find some help: Need motivation to train? Sign up with some friends to race together, and it makes the effort all the more fun. Need help in a particular discipline? You can work with a coach to improve your skills in any of the three sports… although most people find the swimming the most intimidating, particularly if you’re not used to the open water.
  • Find your gear: Yes, you can spend a ton of money on tri equipment – but you don’t have to. You just need gear that works (and you are comfortable with) and that will work with the changing activities… bike shorts can double as a swimsuit (or vice versa), running shoes are OK for biking too, quick-dry apparel is essential when you’re going from wet to dry to wet (sweat) again. A few musts: You almost always have to wear a swim cap (which the race organizers provide) and bike helmets are a must.
  • Find your motivation: Yes, it’s a race – but it also is supposed to be fun. The allure can be the sense of accomplishment, the chance to compete with/against friends, learning a new sport – whatever makes it fun for you will make it achievable as well.

Some final thoughts:
  • Fueling your body is crucial, even in a short event such as this. Know what works with your system while you train, and use that to guide you during the race (meaning don’t try anything new). And, it’s SW Florida… so hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
  • All your training will probably take place outdoors, so sunscreen and conditioner will be your new best friends (particularly if you do your swim work in a pool).
  • Transition – the time between each leg of the race – takes planning, both to bring in what you’ll need and to make the shift from one leg to another as quickly as possible (if you’re seeking to make or break a personal record in the event overall). Think it through, and try things out prior to race day.
  • It’s not essential, but it’s smart to look for a race sanctioned by USA Triathlon, the nation’s governing body for the sport. You usually find a safer and smarter-run race in a sanctioned event, since the organizers need to meet certain standards personally and for the event.
  • Know the rules and the course. There may be volunteers (be sure to thank them) along the course to help guide you, but it’s the athlete’s responsibility to know the course and abide by the rules. You’ll be told where and when you can get on and off your bike (mount and dismount lines), for example – that’s for your safety and the safety of those around you.


Ready to ride or run?

Run?  Two runs upcoming: Eagle Lakes 5K, July 28 at 7 a.m., Eagle Lakes Regional Park, Naples (; and Fort Myers Track Club Summer Social, July 31 at 7 p.m. at Millennial Brewery, Fort Myers (
Ride? Critical Mass rides ahead include the Cape Coral ride July 27 and the Saturday Slow Roll in downtown Fort Myers on the morning of July 28. Lights required for night rides, helmets recommended for all; details at You can also join the no-drop Wakey, Wakey! Sunday morning ride leaving from Fort Myers Trek. The ride is sanctioned by the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club, so helmets are required, no ear buds, and no aero bar use while in the group.

Both? Upcoming events include:
  • Saturday, Aug. 11: Naples Junior Tri, 8 a.m., North Collier Regional Park (
  • Saturday, Sept. 8: Venice Sprint Triathlon, Sharkey’s on the Pier, Venice
  • Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 15-16: Galloway Captiva Tri, with the kids’ events (three age groups) Saturday and the sprint tri Sunday.
  • Saturday, Sept. 22: (“The Original”) Siesta Key Sprint Triathlon, Siesta Key (



Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at 


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