The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

The plan for the Sprint, and why it will hurt.

I received a comment from a new reader last night inquiring as to why my Sprint is going to hurt:

Is the pace of the sprint triathlon the difficult part or is it just that you plan to really push your limits (as opposed to a beginner who may just want to finish)?
Here's my response, or at least my thinking on this topic:

Triathlons are a bit funny, regardless of distance - the goal of about 50% of the participants is to finish (that in and of itself, being a formidable accomplishment, for even a try-a-tri), 25% are using it to try and better their last attempt or gain confidence with distance so as to step up to longer tris, and the other 25% are using it to go full out and push their limits.

In 4-years, I've never dipped deep into the pain department. My half-iron distance triathlon, was long, and it hurt a bit, but I don't feel like I pushed myself to the edge. In retrospect, I kind of feel like I dogged it a bit, and cruised through most of it. This is probably due to inexperience at that distance, and not knowing my limits, and therefore not wanting to blow up - a good rookie strategy I suppose - as I'm grateful to have a) finished and b) finished in good spirits.

However, for the upcoming sprint - I have decided to go full out. Wire to wire. The type of full out, where I know it is going to hurt. Where I know my body will be screaming. I've been able to do this on a few 5K runs before, and I got quite good at doing it at the sprint duathlon training level - but never at a real triathlon event before.

I tried it this year, at a swim-run event. But, I wussed out on the swim (I still set a PB), but I didn't feel confident enough to hammer the whole way; I also blew up on the run. I attempted to go fast, but went out far too aggressive and couldn't finish what I started -- which is always the danger of pushing ones self outside the comfort zone.

But - if your question is more like, "Is the pace of Sprint Triathlons too hard for beginners?" I would answer unequivocally - "No".

In fact, the term "Sprint Triathlon" is somewhat misleading - and in fact, the word "Sprint" totally turned me off that distance when I started out. I looked at the distances, and being a fairly competent swimmer, I was sure I could handle the Sprint distances - but I misunderstood the event to be an all-out sprint - something, I wasn't about to throw myself at. And being a rookie, I didn't want to get in the way of the other triathletes. I thought that the sprint event would be on a different route, or that the try-a-tri route wouldn't interfere with the sprinters: not the case at all. In most local events here (Ottawa area), there are Olympic Tri, Sprint Tri, Try-a-Tri and Duathlons all runing at exactly the same time on exactly the same route.

I wish you luck with your Triathlon endeavours - and I feel the need to share this info as well: In my estimation, at any given race (in the Ottawa area), I would bet that 20% of all participants are first-timers and 50% of all participants are new to the sport within the last 3 years. So don't be shy, and get out there.