Ever thought of doing a Triathlon? “Tri One” you’ll like it! One of the best Sprint Triathlons is in Madras, OR and it’s called the MAC Dash.
When most of us think of a triathlon, we think of the Iron Man World Championship in Kona, Hawaii that is often televised. We see the massive open water start of hundreds of contestants with an impressive display of colored swim caps, black wet suits, with lots of elbows and feet moving at a violent pace. We see the long solitary bike ride, 112 miles, only to finish with a full 26.2 mile marathon to run. The sheer magnitude of what the human athlete can achieve with proper training is truly amazing.
Well, a sprint triathlon is so very much different. It is a length that is more reasonable and actually fun for the rest of us normal humans. Madras is home to my first multi-sport race and hands down my favorite race. It is all staged at the Madras Aquatic Center with its powerful vistas of the Cascades. It is a pool based triathlon with a 500 yard swim (10 laps in a 25 yd-length pool), then a 12 mile bike ride, followed by a three mile run. The event can be done on an individual level of participation for those 14 years or older or a team event for those 10 or older. There is even a miniature version for kids under 10. The MAC Dash is in its sixth year this September and its organizers and volunteers are second to none.
Many of us have one activity we enjoy more than others. Yet by encouraging ourselves to get out of our comfort zone and try a safe activity, we have the perfect recipe for cross training success. Triathlons, particularly the sprint variety, can be done well into our older years with the correct training.
On a personal note, the MAC Dash is responsible for showing me how much fun the three disciplines can be. My first MAC DASH consisted of me riding my old mountain bike converted with some skinny tires and a larger chain ring – I called it my “FRANKEN BIKE.” It was so much fun that I realized how much I was missing by focusing just on mountain biking that I actually set aside my ‘single track’ preference to look into road cycling. I purchased a used road bike and now road cycling is a major part of my active lifestyle. I was also reminded of how great I feel when I swim more regularly. Having always been the recreational runner that jogs three to five miles, now I had a sense of purpose with a goal in mind with my runs.
Participating in the inaugural MAC Dash was so much fun, that I’ve enjoyed 10 sprint triathlons since. Sprint triathlons are the perfect venue to try something new with friends and family while working toward a fitness goal. The MAC DASH is so well organized with its committee and volunteers in a breath taking venue that a good time is guaranteed. If one of the disciplines is not your thing or you’re not quite trained up for all three, think about teaming up with a friend or family member, create a funny team name and have a good time! The only person you’re competing with is yourself in that, “Can I have more fun than last year” approach.
Tips and Considerations
I do not claim to be an expert USA Triathlon coach, but here is some advice that I’ve received from experts or learned the hard way:
- Fitness Level: Do you need a checkup? Are you in good shape for one of the events? If so, focus on the other two. Consider putting together a team for the first time and make it enjoyable!
- Biking: Make sure your bike is safe. If in doubt, have it checked at a local bike shop. Helmets are mandatory, so if borrowing or renting a bike, make sure it fits properly. And make sure to ride the bike course at least once before the race so that you know what to expect.
- Shoes: Make sure your shoes are of high quality and fit properly. Consider a running specific shoe store to select the correct shoe.
- Training: Start training at a low intensity and work up from there. Build success with success. It is most optimal to train months in advance and build an aerobic base. Avoid increasing a training distance more than 10% per week. This will help prevent overuse injuries. There are many resources online. Consider training for two of the events together on a longer training day when you are rested. These are often called “Brick Workouts” for the combination of Bike and Run for the “BR” in Brick. Brick workouts help you determine how you respond from one discipline to another. Brick workouts can also combine a swim to a bike transition which is extremely helpful to learn how your body reacts. Do not try anything new on the day of the event. Gear, food, and hydration strategy all need to be personally proven in training.
- Transitions: Your transition between the swim to bike and bike to run (T1 and T2) count for your total race time. You can speed up transitions by practicing the set up and actually putting the gear on, there is ample footage on YouTube. I like to use the following: Tri Shorts to wear the entire event (7 years ago, I wouldn’t be caught in public in these, but they are truly worth it), one jersey for the bike and run, elastic shoe laces that can be quickly tightened, bike and run sock-less if able by using a friction reduction powder such as Shield Powder (this requires practice and training sessions), and friction reducing products such as Glide, applied to high friction areas.
- Swimming: Learn how swimming in the pool feels. Is 500 yards easy or difficult? For me personally, I have the most difficult time with pacing that distance whereas a trained swimmer will use this distance as a “warm-up”. Each year I find something I need to focus on for the swim. If you need help with your technique, ask. There are many experts willing to help, so consider checking with the MAC. Remember, this is for fun, so you can always resort to your “safe stroke” such as a side or breast stroke if fatigue sets in.
- Eats & Drinks: Don’t change up your meals or sports drinks leading up to the race. I learned this one the hard way and had one awful race in which my arms felt like 2 x 4s and my stomach cramped up on the run after trying a ‘High-Tech Sports Performance Drink’ without training with the product properly. Consider training with some sort of extra energy source to learn how you react. Much research shows that in an event that lasts 1 to 2 hours, your energy stores are often adequate. I have found that things like gels, or blocks do indeed help with avoiding a ‘mental energy bonk’. There are gels/blocks available with extra electrolytes and caffeine. Yet proceed with caution.
- Resting: Rest is part of training. Make sure you get ample sleep to compensate for the extra work you are doing with your body. Also realize that you can’t cram training in the last two weeks before the event. Cramming may work in college courses but it doesn’t work with multi-sport events.
Above all else, have fun! Very few humans on earth earn a living participating in triathlons. Yet, there is much to be learned about one’s self in training and the actual event. The events are great for setting fitness goals and a great way to demonstrate to yourself what can be accomplished with training, exercise, and an open mind.
If you have any questions regarding the MAC DASH or any sprint distance triathlons, please feel free to contact me at Apex – (541) 475-1218