Top 10 MYTHS about TRIATHLONS

Ode to a Potato!
I used to be a Couch Potato – but that is true no more!
Now I am a TRIATHLETE – I’ve evened up the score!
I SWIM
I BIKE
I also RUN
I’m REALLY glad when I am DONE!
I’ve SURVIVED – alive and well.
Even if I kinda smell.
Now it’s time to tell my tale.
But first, a NAP must prevail!

Who would believe that me, a busy working mother and entrepreneur would, at 46, begin competing in triathlons, but it’s true! I am going to share with you some fun facts and information that will show you that perhaps you, too can become a triathlete – or basically accomplish the IMPOSSIBLE. Here are my:

Top 10 MYTHS about TRIATHLONS

MYTH #1. You need to be an IRON MAN to be a triathleteFALSE! There are 4 different types of triathlons.The IRON MAN is the longest - 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling and then you get to run a full marathon!My nephew – a nationally ranked triathlete completed his first IRON MAN in just under 15 HOURS!!! 

You may have heard the term HALF-IRON MAN, which is as you might have guessed half of the distances of the full IRON MAN.

But what many people don’t realize is that there are 2 other lesser levels of competition; The SPRINT triathlon which is typically 500 yards of swimming, 12 miles of cycling and 3.1 miles of running or a 5K - is a better choice for first-time triathletes. 

More challenging than the Sprint is the OLYMPIC distance - a 1-mile swim, 25-mile bike ride and 6.2-mile run 10K. This distance became an Olympic sport in 2000. I have been doing this distance for the past 4 years. Gwen Jorgensen of the US won the Women’s Triathlon event in Rio, in just under 2 hours. My personal best (called a PR for some bizarre reason) is 3 hours and 25 minutes for the OLYMPIC distance. Obviously, I didn’t make the team!

MYTH #2. YOU NEED TO BE IN PERFECT SHAPE in order to COMPETE. FALSE! The wonderful thing about Triathlons is that size and shape or gender doesn’t matter. It’s about the desire to challenge yourself to do something you never thought possible.  About 60% of triathletes are Male and 40% Female - a percentage which has grown from just 27% in 2000. What’s the reason for this increase? In a large part due to women-ONLY fundraising races. In fact, that was how my triathlon journey started as I organized a triathlon team to raise money and awareness for Hydrocephalus, a condition that my brother-in-law endures. Before he became disabled after more than 250 brain surgeries he was a world-class marathon runner and a back- up for the Olympic team. Our Tri Team called the Brainy Macs, has raised over $10K in support of the Hydrocephalus Association.

MYTHS #3 - #4 - #5: You need to know how to SWIM-BIKE-RUN in that order.FALSE! FALSE! FALSE! The truth is you don’t need to be able to do ALL of these skills as you can participate in a triathlon as a RELAY team! So even if you can’t swim, or ride a bike you can participate! And yes, you are allowed to walk the run portion of the race!

MYTH #6. I am too OLD to be a Triathlete. False! Triathletes also come in ALL ages, The Average age of a triathlete is 38. In fact, the fastest growing age group is 35-44-year-olds! My goal is to one day win my age group – this may require me to still compete when I am 70 years of age… but hey, at least I have a shot!

MYTH #7. You need a lot of EXPENSIVE EQUIPMENT to compete. FALSE! The nice thing about your first triathlon is that you probably already have the gear you need. Your equipment can consist of a bathing suit, a pair of goggles – you don’t even need to have your own bathing cap as the race coordinators give you the specific color-coded bathing cap designating your particular heat - usually based on your age or ability, or gender. A basic road bike will do, and most of the time you can borrow one of those from a friend or rent one from a bike store if you don’t own one. And then sneakers – which are usually part of your wardrobe anyway. But, of course, a good running shoe is recommended for training.

MYTH #8. All Triathlons are created EQUAL. FALSE! The best thing about Triathlons is that they are becoming more and more popular, so much so that there is probably one to fit every geographic need and skill level. So whether you want to do a flat desert run or a challenging mountain bike terrain, or you don’t particularly enjoy swimming in the ocean like me, you can find a triathlon that fits your style and taste!

MYTH #9. You need to spend every day training. FALSE! But if you’ve been a couch potato for a while, it's good to give yourself about 12 weeks to get in shape and minimize the chances of injury. 10 years ago, when I was inspired to do my first Triathlon, I had not even run a 5K before. But I took it one step at a time and began with a Couch Potato to 5K training program I found on-line. If you can commit to training 4-5 days per week for a TOTAL of ONLY 2.5 - 4 hours per week—that's plenty of time to get in shape.

MYTH #10. Triathlons are NO FUN! I must say that when I first started the feeling of FUN really didn’t enter my mind I was nervous about the rules and anxious I could finish. But now the euphoria of actually finishing combined with the cheers of a supportive crowd of inspiring fellow triathletes does make it FUN! It’s as simple as finishing, beating your own time, and sharing the camaraderie. 

Participation in triathlon sport has grown substantially over the past 10 years- from just under one million Americans to over 4 million in 2016. So how about you? Can you picture yourself doing the impossible? If I can do it – so can you!

Carrie OesmannComment