MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
Triathlons, where athletes must swim, bike and run, can be rather intimidating for beginners, because it challenges a person’s ability to compete in continuous disciplines that demand completely different motor skills and strengths.
The Marine Corps Marathon’s inaugural Quantico Tri, which consists of a 400m pool swim, nine-mile bike and a 5K run on paved roads around the base is scheduled for Aug. 18. To help first-time runners who will compete in the race, veteran triathletes, Maj. Adam Brill, associate counsel for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and Jennifer Cortesi, who placed third in the 2012 Standard Duathlon Nationals in Oro Valley, Ariz., offer tips on proper training and preparation.
The good news for beginners, according to Brill, who has competed in more than 20 triathlons since 2007, is that MCM’s event isn’t as difficult as more notable triathlons, like the Ironman race where athletes must complete a 2.2 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a marathon.
“The Quantico Tri is actually an ideal triathlon for beginners because the distances are very short [compared to most triathlons],” Brill said.
Not only are the distances relatively short, athletes also don’t have to swim in a large body of water like an ocean or lake. Plus, the bike and run portion isn’t on rigid or steep terrain.
But even though the Quantico Tri isn’t as arduous as the Ironman race, it can still be challenging for those who aren’t properly prepared.
Cortesi, a Springfield resident who has completed seven marathons, six triathlons and four duathlons, said the four main components to consider when training for a multi-event race are physical training, mechanical readiness, hydration and nutrition.
According to Cortesi, physical training, particularly running, should include distance runs and interval sprints, where the body is working in shorter but harder segments, which can make a workout more effective.
Practicing technique is another area that she encourages athletes to focus on, adding that it can prevent injuries and improve performance. One common sign of weak technique is differing the amount of strength on one side of the body.
“[For example] if you’re continually pulling one side of your [arms or legs], it will weaken the other, which can cause compensation injuries,” Cortesi said.
But injuries aren’t the only obstacle new triathletes have to overcome. Another challenge can be getting used to choppy water during the swim portion. With potentially hundreds of arms and legs flailing on all sides, Cortesi said staying calm and focused can be tough.
“One good trick [during training] is to find someone to swim with you in the same lane while you’re in the pool,” Cortesi said.
Along with physical preparedness, comes gear and mechanical readiness. Athletes are advised to bring goggles that won’t fog, wear comfortable clothing that can transition into each event and take their bike in for a professional inspection a few weeks prior to the event.
Additionally, Cortesi said participants should be well hydrated a few days before the event and during. Along with hydration is proper nutrition, which should be rehearsed to prevent energy loss or a troubled stomach.
“Plan and practice what you’ll eat before the race so that you won’t have an upset stomach,” Cortesi said. “Bring whatever you’re going to eat on race day, and don’t rely on your hotel [or other vendors].”
After training, Brill said there’s nothing left to do but enjoy the race— a race he believes avid runners, like himself will grow to love.
“I love triathlons because it gives you a chance to have fitness without having to think about it, unlike longer runs where you have a lot of time to think about how much it hurts,” Brill said. “If you’re a running fanatic and you thought about trying triathlon, this will be an ideal event.”
The Quantico Tri is currently sold out.
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