Beginners: Week 13

We shall introduce a new term in your training. Double. It's where you do two events in one day. You may be already doing this, and you probably are, from time to time.

Here's another term: Brick. It's a double where one event follows immediately the other, typically in the order they will occur in the race. The most common is bike-run. As is the case in a triathlon, you finish your bike ride and, as they, say, hit the ground running.

"Brick" is in this case obviously a metaphorical term, and can be construed as an edifice—you build the wall laying one brick upon another—or, if more appropriate, as that thing each of your legs feel like once off your bike and afoot.

Keeping with masonic terms perhaps a closer analogy is a sack of cement. That is the substance you'll swear is coursing through your veins as your cycling muscles are now asked to go back and forth and up and down instead of around in circles. Not to worry. There's a 50/50 chance that sensation will abate within the first two miles of running.

That's the idea behind the brick, to get you used to how it's going to feel transitioning from one event to the next. However, I generally find that its utility as a fitness builder is suspect. A brick will give you an idea how sluggish it can feel to transition from bike to run, but how that sluggish feeling generally goes away in a mile or two. Otherwise, I'd just do your doubles in any order you want, with any amount of time in between the two events that you want.

I'd like you to consider doing a couple of bike/run doubles, to give you a little taste of triathlon. You'll notice that your running mileage is going way down. But, those two runs that are only 15-25 minutes in duration should take place after your bike rides (5 minutes after or 5 hour after, I don't care), which will make them a little more difficult.

But if you do this as a brick, you'll deal with a technical issue that we need to broach at some point. You'll find you have an apparel problem. I'd rather you face this now, rather than the day before your first race.

This will take a little advance planning. Prepare your bike for your ride; fill the water bottles, getting your gels ready, pumping up your tires—whatever your routine is. Before you leave, though, also prepare your running paraphernalia. Get your shoes out, and prepare a water bottle for the run. You can either use a water bottle carrier, or if you don't have one just carry a water bottle (like a bicycle water bottle) in your hand.

You're doing the ride in your cycling clothes. What clothes are you going to run in? As I said, better to tackle this issue now than a day before your race.

Two or three ways to go. You've got to ask yourself, are you going for speed or for comfort? If it's speed, then you'll do the whole race in your swimsuit. If you're a man, that means a Speedo Jammer, I think, or an equivalent garment made by another company. This is a garment that is bike short length, but without the pad.

Ladies, it's the same thing except, of course, your suit will cover a little more territory above the waist, a little less below the waist.

You'll swim, bike and run in this garment. There's the wetsuit during the swim, perhaps, but we'll cover this piece of equipment in a future installment.

If you choose to go this way, this means you'll be bike riding in your swimsuit. Since you don't have the padding you're used to in your cycling short, you may find that uncomfortable. I'd therefore recommend a seat pad, and the two you ought to consider are those made by Quintana Roo and De Soto. They are made for this specific use. Or, you'll need a saddle with a lot of padding.

For the guys, you might want to use a cycling jersey during the bike and run.

The other way to go—better for both comfort and modesty—is to ride in cycling clothing, and then change into running clothing. I competed in a half-Ironman not long ago, and this is what I did. I wore my cycling shorts under my wetsuit, and rode in those (with a De Soto cycling top I donned in the swim/bike transition in which I also ran). When I finished the bike ride, I wrapped a beach towel around my waist and commenced doffing my cycling shorts and donning my run shorts under my own personal "changing tent." You'll see surfers employing this method beachside all over coastal communities.

More recently, though, I've taken to doing my races in "tri shorts." These are like cycling shorts but with a more thinner pad on which you ride. You can do the whole race in these, but for a longer race (which is what I've been doing lately) I swim with the tri shorts under my wetsuit, and then after I take the wetsuit off I throw on a comfortable pair of cycling shorts overtop the tri shorts and ride in both. Then I peel of the cycling shorts after the ride and continue on running in my tri shorts.

In other words, there are lots of ways to make that dog hunt, but just because there are many available clothing options for the race it doesn't mean you can wait until the day before the event to start thinking about it.

Women often wear their swimsuits throughout, but with cycling shorts during the ride and then running shorts during the run (or just the swimsuit for the run). But I'm not an expert in this. You might want to post on our forum asking for other suggestions.

Don't be frantic about your transition. This doesn't need to be precisely like a race situation. My hope is that you'll get the experience of running off the bike, and that you'll start to think about what you're going to wear in your triathlon.