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June 25, 2019

TIME FOR A TRIATHLON Read the latest from Ed Maslowski, click on link


Rochester is a good triathlon city because there are many competing in the sport. That was told to me by a manager of a prominent retail runner/triathlon store just west of Minneapolis. And for good reason, Rochester has many people working in the healthcare profession and the athletic exercise fits their lifestyle. Some runners have considered doing a triathlon, but are held back by one of the events, usually the swim. Don't let that stop you. I've been doing triathlons for over ten years and I'm not a good swimmer. In fact, when I get out of the water I usually look back to see if there are swimmers still in the lake. Sometimes there aren't, which makes me the last one out of the water. But no matter, I'll catch a few of them on the bike or during the run. Even with my slow swim time, this is a good sport and I like it.

Triathlons have three events and are timed from the start of the first event to the end of the last. The order of events are swim, bike and run with transitions in between. In my opinion triathlons offer an advantage over running in that more cross training is involved. Instead of just running which puts the strain on the ankles, knees and hips, triathlons require upper body training used in the swim and less pounding on the knees and feet during the bike.

Triathlons come in a variety of distances. For a first time event the sprint should be considered. Other distances, Olympic and longer can be for another time. Sprint triathlons are usually a 1/4 mile swim, bike ride of 10 to 15 miles (it will vary at different events) and a 5K run. Transition time involves changing gear in a designated transition area.

There are many triathlons in Minnesota. A good source to find them is and scroll to Minnesota. A decision on which to try can be made later as your summer schedule becomes more finalized. Rochesterfest in June has a good sprint for first time athletes. But training should begin now. That means getting to a gym and swimming in a lap pool. Need some help on your swim technique? Well, many of the gyms can refer you to an instructor that can give tips on stroke and efficiency. The stroke generally used in triathlons is the free style. The breast stroke can also be used and is sometimes used intermittently with the freestyle. Swim exercise in the lap pool should be for a minimum of 30 minutes once or twice a week. Swim instructors that I talked to have indicated that the 30 minute workout is fine and two or even three times per week will build up stamina quicker. Work in the lap pool is a good starter but you will need some open water swimming before the actual triathlon. A good place is Foster Arend Park when it opens in summer and a good time is the "Thursday Night Triathlons" or TNT's with the TriRochester triathlon club open to members and non-members. These are mini triathlons at Foster Arend with a short swim (you choose the distance) a seven mile bike ride (less if you like) and a three mile run (your choice there too). The TNT's also gives you a chance to work on transitions. The TNT dates and times will be posted on the TriRochester website during the month of May. At each event a club member will announce the plans for the evening and answer any questions that are asked. This is a good time to pick up a few tips on setting up your transition space, bike placement on the rack, energy gels and other ideas.

You will need a bike. It doesn't need to be a tri bike or even a road bike. It can be anything that has two wheels (that hold air) pedals and handlebars. However, a recumbent bike might not be allowed. A water bottle on the bike is important because it will help with hydration. If your bike doesn't have a bottle holder, a water bottle on a waist belt will get the job done. Other bike accessories such as tire repair kits are nice but not essential. There usually are maintenance persons on the bike course to help with flat tires. You will need an approved bike helmet. This is a must and officials will be watching at the entry to the bike course.

Just like the swim, you will need some practice time on the bike. If you can, do some spinning at the gym. When the weather turns to summer take the bike out and put on some miles. A simple rule is that on each bike outing do at least the mileage required in the event you are considering and add a few more.

Finally the run and this is the part that we're all familiar with. You will need running shoes, which you already have, and a means to attach the bib with your event number. Don't bother with pins (too much time in transition) unless you pin the bib to a pullover shirt and slip the shirt on during transition. A bib belt can be purchased at most running stores at a modest price.

If you find one of the events is particularly worrisome, put together a relay team, one person for each event. Find a good swimmer, a good biker and have some fun. Nearly all triathlons offer registration for relay teams. It will give you a chance to look at the venue and maybe next year you will be ready to do it on your own.

There are some hazards with triathlons and all can be overcome by knowing the hazards and adding a little caution. A follow up column will deal with this.

The goal for a first time triathlon is to finish, not in any particular time frame, just finish. And at the end of it all you may think "that was fun. I'd like to do it again".

--Ed Maslowski

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