Moving From a Sprint Triathlon Distance to an Olympic Distance

12/19/2012

Sprint distance triathlon to olympic distaceBefore I start this article I want to be clear that doing a sprint triathlon is not easy and it can be more challenging that a olympic and even a half. Because participating in any triathlon is an individual effort, you make it what you want it to be. I know a few folks that all they race is sprint distances. They enjoying the feeling of going all out and their training regimen is focused on the that distance alone. That being said, this article is on moving from a sprint to an olympic distance.

When I began in the sport my plan was to do a sprint, then an olympic and eventually a half. I’m still mulling over moving to a full ironman, but the training time and cost are holding me back. I’ll make that decision around Jan 1.

I began training for a sprint by running and getting in the pool. I felt comfortable on the bike, so I need to spend more time focusing on my weak spots. As I trained, I knew I was going to do a full, so that’s what I was really training for so it wasn’t a big deal to move past the sprint distances. After two months of training I felt confident that I could do a sprint and survive. Instead of signing up for one and paying a bunch of money, I set aside some time every Friday to be my sprint days. I created my own sprint, swim, bike and run in one go the sprint distance. This was excellent, I was able to work on my transitions, and gained more confidence each time. If you can get a friend to join you it makes it even better as long as you set the ground rules – I’m not a competitive person, I like to run my race my way. If I’m feeling good I’ll put on the speed but I don’t feel like it, I don’t. So as along as my partner knows this and is cool with doing the same it works out great.

When making the transition, for most people its the longer swim in open water that holds them back. It’s true that there is a difference, but you can do it. Read our posts on open water swimming, attend a swim clinic, watch youtube videos, there are plenty of resources on open water swimming to help. As far as the distance goes, just spend more time in the pool. You don’t need to be fast, you just need to be comfortable and able. I’ve found that swimming in a 50 meter pool is a huge plus when changing distances. 16 laps feels so much better than 32 shorties. Breaking up your laps in to longer laps is also helpful, instead of taking a break every lap, take a break after two then four laps, this breaks up the swim into manageable segments that helps you feel a sense of accomplishment and eases the counting or remembering of laps. I have a hard time counting laps after 6, my brain gets all mushy unless I say the number out loud after each lap.
I was told once that -in swimming- after a mile its all downhill. I’ve found that to be very true. 16 laps or 32 laps, it’s just about time, not physical effort – this is a personal statement, when I’m going for distance, not speed.

The bike and the run, increasing your distance at the standard 10% rule is a good way to do it, I tend to go 20% on both, but to each their own. Doubling the bike distance isn’t that challenging, but take the time to work your way into it. If you feel absolutely wasted after a ride, you have over done it. Mentally keep in mind that you’ve got to run after that ride, so keep your reserves in check.

Running, on race day that 6 miles can feel a whole lot longer than your training days. Keep that in mind as you train. Run longer distances than your race as you train. Speed drills will help you know how much you’ve got and what your body can do if you need it to. Triathlons are all about the experience of knowing your body and being surprised that you can do more than you thought. Your running will speed increase slowly with time, you’ll get faster as you keep running.

You can do it, finishing your first olympic is amazing, beating your time from that first is even better.

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