For 2008 I have put together a Multisport training course to replace the Periodization for Cyclists course that had a 5 year run at the RAC. That course was a little sketchy at first, but evolved into a pretty serious training vessel for many a cyclist that went thru it. However, the last two years the course has been made up of only a few 'cyclists' with the rest of the participants being those interested in training for multisport events or century (100 mile) rides. This is one reason for the creation of a multisport training course. Another reason is my desire to try and get more people on the right path of training for a multisport event--people that would otherwise just sign up and suffer thru it potentially causing more harm to oneself and possibly others at the same time. Too often people are choosing triathlons as something they just wake up one day and decide to do. Years ago it was century rides or charity rides that inactive people targeted as something to 'get in shape' for. That wasn't so bad. It was one sport to learn. I rode in the MS150 12 consectutive years. The first year with just 2 other friends and hardly any experience. We all did it on our mountain bikes with under inflated tires, got sunburned, but survived. I actually recruited hundreds of people over those 12 year to join me in the event. We sometimes trained together, shared tips, and had a great time. Many continue to do charity rides of many miles and succeed in their goals to 'just finish' the event. Now its triathlons that your average person sets their sites on to 'just finish'. Multisport events have become the new 'charity ride.' Hundreds of people with no experience in bike racing, running races, or swimming competition think that they can just go out and try a tri. Well, they can. However, should they? The simple answer is "No." However, if they prepare for it properly, then "Yes." As you may or may not know, I instruct cycling classes at the Rochester Athletic Club. Every so often someone will come up to me and tell me they are going to do a triathlon and they are wondering what I know that I can tell them--tips, training info, etc. I can not just start rattling off information so I first ask "What is your experience in sports? Cycling, running, swimming, etcetera." Most of the time they have no experience in any of the 3 sports that are in a tri. Some times they don't even have a bike yet, but are "planning" on taking a cycling class. So, basically they don't have a bike, don't train on one indoor, have never ran a 5k event, and for the most part have never competed...in any sport. Not a good way to get into training for a tri. Needless to say, some of these people wait till a week or so before the event to start preparing. As a result, but not a direct result from the previously mentioned person(s), I would hear the complaints from experienced triathletes who don't care too much for some newbie that starts in front of them in the swim, kicks them in the head in the water and cuts them off or kicks their stuff around in the transition area. I realize that everyone was a 'newbie' once, but please do your homework. That is what the Intro to Multisport course is designed for. For people who want to get into multisport, but don't know where to start.
I had entered numerous bike races (XC, road, TT, CX) and several 5 & 10 k running races prior to my first duathlon. I didn't do them in preparation for a multisport event--I was just enjoying competition in things that interest me. When I look back, I have been gradually moving toward multisport events for a couple years. My switch to multisport comes as a result of many things. First, I got married, and now have two kids. I can't just go off and do 2-3 hour rides every evening. However, running almost daily is easy to do. You can leave right from home--take the kids or the dog and unless you are training for an Ironman you can keep the runs short. Swimming, well I've never been a swimmer, but Jace (our son) is a great swimmer. Mom would take him, not I. Now I can take him and have some fun at the same time. One of the major factors, as mentioned before, riding only takes a lot of time, time I don't have anymore. I used to train 12-15 hours a week for heavy training weeks, and about 6-7 hours for a recovery week. That was in 2002. Those numbers have been chopped down every year since. This past year I trained at about 9.5 hours on a heavy week, and 3-5 for a recovery week. My road racing results were not too great (I did move to cat 3, though), but my duathlon results were fairly decent. So, training time has been reduced, but its actually easier to train on less hours for a multisport event than it is for a road bike race. Now you're thinking... "Wait a minute, training for road racing takes more time than training for a tri that involves 3 sports...?? How is that...?" Well, to compete in road, you have to be able to keep up with the best in the field, respond to attacks, and chase down breakaways if necessary. You have to be able to sprint, climb, descend, accelerate, and corner as well as most others or you'll be dropped. Once dropped, you're basically chasing down a field that may just keep getting farther away. In a tri or duathlon you go at whatever pace you can, or want, sustain. Sort of like a mountain bike (XC- ie, cross country) race. There are other differences as well. Drafting doesn't play a part in tri's (unless its a 'draft legal' event--which are usually on the pro level) and you may be able to make up time in one of the legs of the event that you are strongest at. In a road race, you may be the best sprinter, but if you're dropped it doesn't matter in the end. I love road racing and on a competition level I believe that you will never know your true cycling ability unless you've raced in a mass start road race--or a crit to really test you. You can be the fastest guy in the bike split in a tri, but that doesn't say a whole lot about how you ride. Both sports are different and require different abilities and skills. Many roadies will never attempt a tri/du because they hate running, aren't good at it and they may say that they sink in the water. Many triathletes will never road race either--for fear of being 'dropped', fear of crashing in the peloton, poor climbing, etc? I don't know... The good thing is, is that just like the way roadies and off-roaders were at odds with each other in the late 80's and 90's, but are now many times one-in-the same, once strict triathletes are getting into other disciplines of cycling and cyclists from other disciplines are crossing over to multisport. This will help all disciplines in the end.
As I said earlier, I have switched to multisports recently so I am fairly new to this world myself. My first multisport event was a canoe, bike, run in 2003. I did little homework to prepare, but what I did do was teamed with an experience cayaker for the canoe leg (you had to do that section as a team). I had researched transitioning a little so I was ok there. In the end I finished pretty well, but that was not enough to peak my interest in multisport. It wasn't until the 2006 Treadman Duathlon that I took a serious interest. I prepared well, did my homework, trained right, and did my best. And so the switch was being flipped. I have competed in a half dozen or so multisport events (including a 'mock' tri) and am now going to share my experience with others on a very 'beginner' level to give those with an interest in multisport a way to get some practical training, experience, and preparation for their first event.
More to come about the course in future postings....