Monday, November 1, 2010

Swimming, the beginner triathletes nightmare.

Few people venture into the world of triathlons with a strong swimming background. Your typical beginner is usually a runner, and sometimes a cyclist. Your very first steps into the world of swimming may be in a pool, trying to get across those first 25 yards without passing out. With some practice, time, and some times a coach, you find that swimming is really not that bad.. until your first swim in the ocean, also known as open water swim (OWS). I have friends, and a wife, who wouldn't dare swim in the big bad blue ocean. They ask, "What's up with all these crazy people swimming in the ocean? Must have missed shark week this year!" Truth is, it is the complete opposite. Contrary to popular belief, a shark/whale/stingray/grouper/eel/crab/shrimp/jelly fish is NOT watching you from the depths waiting to attack. Not once has any form of marine life come within 10 feet of me, except for hog fish! They seem oblivious to their surroundings and stay in the same spot regardless of who is trying to spear them. (You fellow spearmen know what I am talking about)

Swimming is about taking one step at a time. If you don't have someone to teach you, a good option is to do some research online. Watch some videos on youtube, do some reading and take this knowledge to the pool. It is best to focus on the freestyle stroke, since it will be your primary discipline in the water. Swimming is mostly about technique, once you have a good grasp of it swimming will become easier. If you find yourself having a hard time learning on your own, then a coach or masters program may be for you.

Swimming or Triathlon coaches will teach you one on one. They will take the time to review your stroke, and teach you different techniques and drills to improve. Most beginners report dramatic improvements when they go this route and highly recommend it. Coaching fees range, it is best to contact several coaches and see what is within your budget. Your other option is a "masters program". This is usually a class run by a coach in a public pool and tends to cost a lot less. For example, one of my local masters programs is just $12 a week, for 4 classes. While you may not get the one on one experience, this is still a great option to learn. Search Google for local master programs and what their practice times are. You can visit and see how it's run, speak to the coach, and get a better feel for what to expect. You will find members of the program to be very welcoming and helpful.

Once you have mastered the technique, there are all sorts of different drills and workouts for swimming. A few months ago someone on suggested a website called - It is free to register and will ask you several swimming related questions to gauge your level. Once completed, it will generate different workouts for you according to time, level, and fitness. It is a great tool to keep your workouts fresh and entertaining.

If the only thing standing between you and becoming a triathlete is swimming, the only way you will overcome it is by facing it. The important thing is to not overwhelm yourself and take it one step at a time. Once you get the hang of it, you will enjoy the benefits of swimming and even find yourself looking forward to it. If you happen to read this post and it helps you make that jump, I ask that you pay it forward by helping one other person get over their fear of swimming/water and in turn ask them to do the same.

Happy Swimming!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ironman 70.3 Miami

After finishing my first post last night at 4:30am, I realized that Ironman 70.3 Miami was set to begin in less than two hours. With some not so thoughtful consideration I woke up the wife and enticed her to get dressed and ready with the promise of breakfast at her favorite bakery. We arrived at BayFront Park with just minutes to spare before the male pro wave started. Above is a picture I took with my phone while I made my way to the swim start. There were thousands of competitors and spectators lined up trying to get a glimpse of the first wave, what a sight! Being that this was an Ironman branded event, more often than not registration will fill up quite quickly. Unknown to me in the morning was what a disaster this race would turn out to be.

WTC, the company that owns the Ironman brand, posted on facebook this afternoon congratulating the two winners. What followed was an overwhelming stampede of angry replies from all angles. Some of the complaints included missing bike racks, aid stations running out of water, no water at all on the bike course, participants being pushed off the dock on top of each other, poorly planned bike route, and even course distance being longer than advertised. As it stands right now, 99% of the people replying are vowing never to race an Ironman branded race again if things don't shape up. I look forward to WTC releasing some kind of press release with an explanation or a plethora of excuses.

You would think such a high profile event would be more professionally planned. One thing I noticed when I arrived was the distance the athletes had to run once they exited the water and were on their way to transition 1. I estimate the run was approximately 500 yards of brutal cement sidewalk. Below is a picture I took of the first two male pro athletes out of the water. Sorry for the blur, they were THAT fast!

You can see a good example of what type of surface the athletes had to run on. At this point I was still oblivious to what was going on with the event since it was the first one I attended. However, seeing all this running and hearing several people complain as they passed by hinted it was going to be a long day for some.

This worries me some because my training plan will conclude with the brand new Olympic distance series the WTC will be running next year. The first race of the series will be here in Miami. I will keep my options open and look forward to some changes to ensure future events are worth the hefty price tag on WTC events.

I have to get my training on track, I have been slacking lately with all sorts of excuses and responsibilities. I have this next week off and plan to get some good training in. I will leave you with a picture of T1 (transition 1), which in my calculations had over $3 million worth of bikes.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My first post as a triathlete, or should I say, rookie triathlete.

I first entertained the idea of triathlons in 2007, it was back then when I registered at and looked around the forums for hours at a time. I can't remember exactly why I did, but it took 3 years and a few changes in life to finally take the plunge. Back in April of 2009 I achieved one of my ultimate goals, becoming a career firefighter. In firefighting, there is a tradition where you are known as a "probie" or a "rookie/rook" during your first year, hence the naming of this blog. During this time you work your behind off and earn your spot in the firehouse, not leaving much time for anything else. It has been 6 months since I completed my rookie year, and my schedule has finally allowed me to take on a new hobby and lifestyle, triathlons. I plan to use this blog as an outlet to share all my experiences with both new and experienced members of the online triathlon community. I will focus on both training and informative videos and findings, so feel free to check back often for updated posts. I hope to make this a valuable tool for fellow rookies hungry for any information they can feed on.

This is where I have to take a minute and give credit to a few people, specifically my wife, family and friends. My wife for supporting me no matter what kind of crazy ideas I come up with. Trusting me in spending hundreds of dollars on bike parts and gear to start training and getting back into shape (other than round) and my family for supporting me and cheering me on throughout my first tri, even my wonderful sister who pointed out that I was the only one walking through the aid station, thanks! Secondly to my close friends Ito, Claudio, and Robert for buying bikes and riding together, and a special thanks to a former fatty, Yasser. He was the one who introduced us to the world of bicycles and in turn let me introduce him to the world of swimming. As a former high school swimmer, it is by far the strongest of the three sports for me, and I have some experience teaching it. With just a few "lessons" and a couple of weeks, Yasser went from not being able to swim 50m straight to a 400m open water swim during our first triathlon in September. Together we trained and completed our first triathlon, the Mack Cycle Key Biscayne Triathlon on September 19th, 2010.

My new hobby, triathlons. Not a cheap choice by any means! I was able to save up and began with a $450 budget. With some patience, luck, and persistence I was able to buy, sell, and trade my way up to my current bike. It is a 2006 Felt B2 frame with Ultegra group and TT3 wheels. In my next post I will explain what methods I used to work my way up from $450 budget to a bike valued at over $1000 without spending an extra penny, with just some patience and luck, and craigslist. Here she is!

I got my fitting done today and I can tell the difference right away, I feel much more comfortable on the saddle. I have this week off from work and I plan on putting it to good use. My next triathlon will be the 1st Annual Key West Triathlon on December 4th. It's a sprint race and will be 750m swim, 12mile bike, 3.1mile run. It will land 6 weeks into my 20 week Olympic Distance training plan that will end with the first race in WTC's new 5150 series race on March 13th, here in Miami, FL.

Short Term Goals:

Train and stay healthy
Complete my next sprint triathlon
Stop drinking Sunkist :)
Work on my running

Long Term Goals:

Train and stay healthy
Get ready for Olympic distance triathlon in March 2011
Improve my Sprint distance times in next years Mack Cycle races

Really Long Term Goals:

Half Ironman

Thanks for taking some time to read my blog! I hope you enjoy it and maybe even learn something from it. Until next time!

Tri Rook