Hey what’s up! My name is Carl Alleyne and this is my first season doing triathlons. The New Jersey State Tri is my third one so I wouldn’t consider myself a beginner but I’m definitely not a seasoned tri veteran either like some of my District Tri teammates.

A District Tri teammate of mine highly suggested the New Jersey State Triathlon so I chose it among the 4 that I registered for in the beginning of the year. He dubbed it as a flat course that was very ideal for fast times. Why the heck not! When I registered, I neglected to pay attention to the “pick race packet up on race day” option. It cost $15 but would’ve saved me some gas. I camped out in Philly at a family member’s house so it would’ve been nice not to have to drive to Trenton the day before the race. I don’t think I’ll be staying at a family member’s house the day before a race again haha. Nothing bad happened but they just don’t understand that I had an endurance race the next day. They “forced” me to eat bbq food which I’m sure wasn’t optimal for a triathlon haha. Furthermore, I had to pry myself away during late night catch up talk to get some sleep.

On flip side, picking up my race day packet on Friday made Saturday race a lot more smooth. I parked my car, placed my chip around my ankle, set up my bike/bike helmet stickers and was ready to head to the transition area. As soon as you walked into the marine park, they had volunteers ready to bib # body mark you on the way to transition. Very efficient! The transition area space for each racer was pretty standard although there was over 1370 sprint racers so the transition area itself was huge!! I did notice the lower number bibs were closer to the bike out exit which was preferable for me.

Onto the race conditions…They weren’t too bad considering it was an east coast race in July. The temperature was around 90 degrees but wasn’t too humid. The water was a non-legal wetsuit temperature of 88 degrees. The designated swim warm up area gave me a feel of just how warm doing a sprint in bath tub warm water would be.

The race day vibe was pretty incredible compared to the other two triathlons I did this year. They had a jumbotron with candid video of triathletes preparing for the race. Well-positioned loud speakers kept the music blasting before and during the race. The announcer was very upbeat and funny as well. The expo sold standard tri/endurance race items but was nothing to brag about.

For the actual race, the crowd and announcer got even more excitable than pre-race. As each race wave was called to the lake, volunteers blew out that Miami Hurricane football pre-game smoke to usher you into the water. Pretty cool! The course was very well marked with orange floats every 30 meters to pave the way. My wave had 60 racers in it so I already knew to get to the side as I’m not the fastest swimmer but also not the slowest. It didn’t actually matter because as soon as the horn blew for us to begin we all clumped up together. It was definitely my toughest open water swim. No exaggeration, I either hit someone or someone hit me every two strokes. There were few times that I remember being able to get into a smooth swimming groove. I had to catch myself and pause about 3 times. Not because I got tired but because my stroke was thrown off that much from physical contact with the other swimmers. It made for a difficult swim but I had still had fun. After the 500 meter swim, you exited onto a man-made sand strip leading to the transition area. That was great because that’s better than running barefoot on wet grass in my opinion. The swim-in transition distance wasn’t far at all. However, the transition area-to-bike out distance was pretty lengthy. I guessed the race organizers sacrificed the short swim-to-transition distance for the transition-to-bike mount distance. The bike course was short (11.5 miles) and relatively flat (it contained some false flats but nothing that I would remotely even call a hill even for a beginner biker). It was mostly flat which did make for several lengths of getting into good unabated sprints. Being my third triathlon and the fact I’ve been putting in some significant “saddle” time, I could see a false flat coming up and adjust my gears accordingly. Unlike other rides I’ve been on. Unfortunately, I underestimated how much the water temp and the 90 degree heat had on water loss and didn’t drink nearly as much as I should’ve during the bike portion. All in all, I felt good with a half mile to go on the bike and thought I could pull a good run time. The bike-to-transition distance was again, quite lengthy but not overwhelming. The only non-positive thing I noticed during the whole course was the amount of turns one had to make in order to get out of the transition area and onto the actual main running course. One of the volunteers even got turned around and directed me the wrong way which I wasn’t too happy about. However, they and my cheering teammate quickly got me on the right track. The running trail went through the park and also contained a couple false flats. Being the newbie I am, I went out a little too hard on the first mile and that made even the slightest rise in elevation very noticeable. I’d say about 60-70% of the sprint run course was shaded. Awesome because I didn’t feel like I was going to overheat.  The enthusiastic water station volunteers were set up all along the course. They even had a sprinkler set up half way through which was optional to run through. The finish was great as it was very well attended by volunteers and spectators cheering on everybody. The loud speaker music and confetti from the volunteers gave me that extra push to finish hard the last .35 miles. In fact, I ran at such a fast pace during that last segment, it made me wonder if I wasn’t running as hard as I could’ve been during the rest of the course. I’ll chalk it up to the race finish adrenaline haha.

As soon as you finish, they have volunteers ready to take racing chip themselves, hand you your hard earned medal and direct you to the shower/sprinkler tent. Man, the sprinkler shower was God sent!! Best part of the race hahaha. Certainly, a much need cool down and got me in a relaxed state. Everyone was very friendly as several racers I “met” along the course spoke to me afterward. The food was pretty standard, except that caramel cookie. Delicious!! Although I didn’t hit my goals, I improved in terms of time/pace on each portion. I know that was, in part, due to the great race course set up. All in all, The New Jersey State Tri was a great race experience and I would definitely recommend it as a future team race.

Triathlons are no longer thought of as a crazy sport for super fit people racing Ironman distances. It is now known that there are many options for the everyday person to get involved in the sport if they desire. I began doing triathlons in August 2014. Like many others, I didn’t think of triathlons as something that was possible for me to do. Yes, I did local races, but I never thought I was fit enough to do a triathlon. Aside from that, I didn’t own a bike and I barely knew how to swim. I was comfortable with the water and could go in the deep end, but growing up in Philly, swimming laps just wasn’t something people in my neighborhood did. When running, I felt bored with no real goal to reach. Plus, I wanted to give my body some kind of rest but wanted to continue with my cardio… And that’s how triathlons were made for me. I quickly fell in love with the sport, the people, and everything that came along with being a triathlete. From that point on, triathlon wasn’t just something I did to pass time, it became a part of my life.

 

Luckily I had a few others that were just as curious about the sport as I was so we were able to learn together, but I still wish I knew a few things before jumping in head first. With that in mind, here are five things you should know before you tri:

 

  1. There are different distances to choose from.
    1. As previously mentioned, triathlons are not just the full Ironman distance, which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. The most common distance options you’ll have to choose from are Sprint, Olympic/International and Half Ironman.
      1. The Sprint distance can vary from race to race, but your typical distance will be a 750 meter swim, 12 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run. This option is great for athletes that are new to the sport and want to test their limits. You’ll also find a lot of faster athletes in this distance as folks try to exert all of their energy in such a short distance.
      2. The Olympic distance is usually 1500 meter swim, 25 mile bike and a 6.2 mile run. This option is best for the athlete that is familiar with the sport and would like to do a bit more than the Sprint distance. The Olympic distance is also referred to as the International distance as it’s the most common option, regardless of country. This is also the distance that is performed by the athletes during the Olympic Games.
      3. The Half Ironman, or 70.3, distance does not change, unlike the Sprint and Olympic options. No matter the race, this distance will be a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run. This is when folks begin to take things a bit more serious because at this distance, you’re not trying to figure out if you like the sport or not. More than likely you’ve done a few races before getting to a 70.3, spent some money on things that’ll make you a bit faster, and the sport has somewhat taken over your life!
      4. And lastly, the most commonly known triathlon event, the Ironman, consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. At this point you’re actually crazy. When you get to thinking of doing a 140.6 (Full Ironman) you should make an appointment with a therapist because there may be something wrong with you! If you need a recommendation just let me know, my therapist and I have discussed this more than enough times!

 

  1. Triathlons are expensive!
    1. If you’ve been participating in swimming, biking OR running events then you’re already familiar with how expensive that can be. That’s only one sport! You’ll be swimming, biking AND running at these events, so the registration prices will reflect that. With that in mind, make sure you create a race budget. Once you figure that out, multiply the amount times two. Between the races, travel, race nutrition and gear, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared to have a successful race season. You don’t want to get to mid-season and realize you’ve spent all of the money you’ve set aside for races. Plus, if you don’t spend it all you can apply it to next year’s season because I’m sure you’ll be racing a bit more! If nothing else, you’ll just have the extra money and who doesn’t like having extra money?!

 

  1. You don’t NEED all of the cool gadgets to race!
    1. Folks get caught up in thinking they need everything that everyone else has that’s doing this sport. You don’t! Don’t go out and spend a ton of money on a bike! Use the bike that you already have, or find yourself an inexpensive bike that you can use until you find out if you actually like the sport. Having a tri-suit is great, but you don’t NEED one to race. Get a swimsuit to swim in, throw a pair of cheap bike shorts on for the ride, then slip those off (keeping on the swim suit) and put on some shorts to run in. Or just ride and run in the same shorts. It may not be the most comfortable thing but you’ll be able to get the race done without spending $100 for a tri-suit. Long story short, keep it as minimal as possible until you know for sure that you want to keep racing.

 

  1. Depending on where you live, triathlons race during a 4-5 month period but is a 12 month sport.
    1. The thing I love most about being a triathlete is that I can train all year. I don’t need to train as much during the offseason, but 12 months a year my training is geared around my season. Being up north, we have a period between June and September where we can race comfortably. That doesn’t mean that I don’t train any other month, but those are the months where my training is focused around racing. During the other months I am able to focus more on technique, or strength training, or anything else to keep my endurance up prior to “pre-season”, which for me typically starts in April at the latest. As a reference, here are some free training plans you can use if you’re looking to participate in a Sprint, Olympic, Half or Full Ironman triathlon:
      1. Sprint: 10 Week Training Plan
      2. Olympic: 10 Week Training Program
      3. Half Ironman: 18 Week Training Program
      4. Full Ironman: Six Month Training Program

 

  1. Your friendships and relationships WILL change!
    1. This is one that often gets overlooked, but is indeed the most important one of them all. As you get into triathlons you’ll quickly learn how much things change. Your body changes, your diet changes, your schedule changes and your relationships change. This is extremely difficult for most triathletes, because it’s easy to fall in love with the sport. That’s great, but there are only 24 hours in a day. As you become more involved in the sport you’ll quickly learn that most of those 24 hours are spent training or recovering. This is how you develop deeper relationships with the folks that you train with. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a team to be a part of like District Triathlon where you all may go for a swim, bike and/or run together then grab a bite to eat or have a drink. While this is all well and good, what does it mean for the friends that you have that aren’t into the sport of triathlon? That’s an individual question for every athlete and there’s no one answer.

 

Now take it a step further and think of this in terms of a marriage. It’s a very difficult thing! A great read on this topic is “Triathlete Love: You Tri, Your Spouse Doesn’t” by Susan Lacke. I can write a full post about that, but long story short, know and do what works best for you and the relationships that you care most about.

 

So while there are plenty more things that you will learn about the sport of triathlon, I hope that these few things help you as you begin your journey of becoming a triathlete!

 

Be>Yesterday