Wednesday, January 4, 2012

To tri or not to try?

As a lead in to the "off season", I have experimented with a few cross-training workouts, in an effort to take some time away from running.  I have done some cycling (which I haven't done in a LONG time) and some swimming (which I haven't done much of since pre-marathon training this summer). 

I realized that I like these workouts, and am thinking about making the jump to multisport - but it's a very difficult decision to make.  Here's what I have come up with so far:

  • Triathletes tend to injure themselves less than runners do, as you are doing a wider variety of workouts and not stressing the same muscles and joints over and over again.
  • Keeping it interesting.  Part of me believes that if I have a number of different workouts to do, I'm less likely to get focused on just one of them, and lose interest, as happened with running after my two marathons.
  • Winter training: I hate treadmill running (even in the winter), but can stomach the spin bike or the pool a little bit better.  I have learned to accept treadmill running as a necessary evil (due to my longer commute, and the availability of a gym at work) but don't love it.


  • Cost.  I own a mountain bike, which I hardly ever use - but would need a road bike if I got serious about cycling.  
  • Time:  I am currently balancing a demanding job, a long commute and the demands of a family with a spouse that works and 2 small children.  Is this really something I have the bandwidth to take on now?
  • Focused improvement.  I've heard it said that with triathlon you tend to get proficient at a number of sports, but your level of proficiency doesn't dramatically increase with any one of them.  I feel like my running still has a lot of room to improve, and I have a number of goals that are still on the table from last year (like my sub 4 hour marathon).  I don't know that I'm ready to give up on my running just yet
Would love to hear some thoughts and perspectives from runners and multisport athletes out there!


Anonymous said...

I started w/ sprint tri's just to see if I could finish w/ out dying. Once I finished a few and realized I was not dead, I started rewarding myself with a new piece of gear/equipment as I conquered each new goal. It's an expensive sport, but also very rewarding.

Samantha said...

If you enjoy swimming and cycling, I would say definitely keep doing those things. I am only saying "no" to doing a try because of the cons that you listed. Maybe make that as a goal for 2013? But if you have solid running goals I would think that training for a sprint tri in the spring would be ok, but doing any tri training after that wouldn't help your running goals.

Not a tri-er,

Robin said...

Hmm... I think I may have saw this coming with all your swim/bike workouts on DM!

A friend once told me that triathlon is kind of a "higher class" sport than, say, running, because the time and money costs seem to be much great than those of just running. You mentioned that your running already has room for improvement, and that with tri training, you don't improve at any one of the three sports that much. If I were in this position... two young crushers and all, I think it might be wise to incorporate triathlon activities for improvement of overall fitness and as a way to get over a temporary loss of "running mojo." However, it might be more practical to look at actually training for/racing tris when the crushers are a little older/more independent because of the time committment. By that time, your running will have improved even more. And if you've incorporated biking/swimming as workouts already, you will already have made some progress!

Unknown said...

You're over analyzing it. Sign up for an Olympic triathlon and do it. See if you like it. You don't need a new bike for it. There were plenty of people on non-road bikes doing the NYC tri. In terms of time it shouldn't really add much time as you'll be doing shorter runs and working on speed that will free you up to ride your bike and swim.

T said...

I'm anti-tri. I'm bad enough at one sport without needing to add an extra 2 sports!

You know, there are a few duathlons in Central Park, and they even have a fat tire division. Like this:
I'd be totally willing to do that with you if you wanted peer pressure. It's still multisport, but less of a leap and not quite as much gear needed.

Ansky said...

One of my goals for 2012 is to do a duathlon. I don't love swimming but I enjoyed cycling in 2011 and want to get better at it. I'm leaning towards getting a bike trainer so I can ride my bike indoors during the winter. Go for it!

baker said...

Well, I made the jump from Run to Tri without knowing how to swim and having a crappy bike. The first Sprint I did I was hooked and well, you know the rest of the story.

Time wise, its easy because you really just replace all your run workouts with a mix of the 3.

Personally, there is a great reward in Tri for people who are run rooted (meaning you). After the challenging swim and bike portion of the race you finish on home turf, your feet.

Mitchel Johnson said...

I ran off and on for 10 years before getting into triathlon 2 years ago. To your points:
My experience has been what you suggested. I’ve been healthier and the legs have been better as a triathlete. The varied workouts (nutrition, swim, bike, run, and weights – and yes I put nutrition at the front on purpose!) do keep it interesting. I can’t imagine how my legs would feel if I was to go back to running 5 days a week and occasionally lifting weights only in the off season. I think it is easier to get into triathlon coming from a running background, though running off the bike will be a new experience.

Regarding your Cons: I say do a Sprint first and see if you like it. You could use your mountain bike before spending money on a road or tri bike (there is a difference in more than the handle bars). I’ve seen lots of people use all different kinds of bikes in sprints to one guy on a uni cycle! Also, most sprints are in a pool so you wouldn’t have to worry about wet suits. So that discounts the cost ☺

Unless, you’re an elite runner I say you can continue to improve your running as a triathlete. I certainly have and I know many others that have improved the running. Don’t get me wrong your triathlon race day running may suffer some until you get used to running off the bike. But, I don’t compare my half marathon times to my 70.3 races. They are two different animals. But, my training runs are better now than when I only was a runner and I continue to set run only PRs. I think the bike helps my running turn over rate, too. Swimming helps the cardio and makes me feel stretched out.

Time will come into play when you get into 70.3 or 140.6 distances. I’d bet you could keep similar training times for Sprint and Olympic distances as to what you’re doing now. If you do a sprint then go after an Oly distance. Maybe borrow a road bike or you can pick up a used one. Craig’s list is a good place I’ve heard for used bikes. During IM Louisville I saw a few mountain bikes and a lot of road bikes so it’s not necessary to have a tri bike. If you go after a IM distance is when time will become a factor but maybe not as much as you’d expect. Most do a long run and long ride on the weekends. Talk to a coach to find out how much time he thinks is required per week if you get to thinking about going long.

Anonymous said...

My random, rambling thoughts:

I get a *much* bigger sense of accomplishment when racing a tri than with a running race.

Tri's require so much more operational planning than running with all the gear and equipment and can be a lot of fun if you are into that sort of thing: getting everything to the start and executing transitions.

Definitely is an expensive habit.

If you are serious about it, buy a road bike. I don't recommend doing a tri on a mountain bike. People do, but it is much harder. Even if you decide not to tri, having a good road bike is useful for cross training and you live in a great location for bike rides.

Agreed that duathlons are a great segue to tris, and a great way to practice the transitions. I've done the NYTC one in Central Park several times and am registered already for the March Madness. Very informal event and very challenging.

I still can't swim but I don't let it stop me. I'm consistently almost last in my age group in every tri, but again, for me the sense of accomplishment trumps all else.

Time committment is a big deal, and it is really hard with a family and demanding job, I have personal experience there! But if you start with a sprint, the committment is not bad at all - just means less overall running. I recommend the Harriman State Park one by NYTC on June 10. Philly Tri was my first, but then run the sprint on Sat and Olympic on Sun.

Ann said...

I have to say go for it. The pros far outweigh the cons on this one. The fact that you do not get injured as much is key and completely true. Also, I disagree with not being able to make huge improvements in any one area. I made huge improvements on the bike last year, didn't get injured and had a blast to boot. That being said, the time spent is difficult. We struggle with that as we are both runners and triathletes and we have three small children and two demanding jobs.

btaylor72 said...

I agree with many of the posts, and especially Mitch. In regards to hurting your run, I think that's not true. 2011 training for me was all for tris and my running pace has improved by about 1 min/mile in that year. My specialty before tris would've been the bike, and I'm still improving there (over 20 mph avg at Boulder 70.3 all zone 2). And for sprint and OD tris, I don't think the time would be more than marathon training.

The hardest part to fit in may be swimming if a pool isn't convenient. But to me, it was worth the jump. I'm addicted to triathlons now and couldn't imagine just running every day, even though I love that part. Good luck with whatever you decide.

Unknown said...

I am injured. I was a fat ass. Then a runner. Then a triathlete and runner. I am now an injured sort of fat ass, but not as bad as before I started exercising again. When I return to form, there is no doubt I will do both. There are thousands upon thousands of us that do both. I was never as fast a runner as when I was training for my triathlons. Best of luck.