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Training for a Sprint Triathlon: How to prepare for Christus Good Shepherd's upcoming event

By Clare McCarthy
Dec. 27, 2017 at 7:30 a.m.
Updated Dec. 27, 2017 at 7:30 a.m.

Cycling competition,cyclist athletes riding a race at high speed

Triathlons are strenuous feats. They often require many months of intense physical training and mental preparation. But one particular sprint triathlon in Longview is designed to be beginner friendly, and almost anyone can do it.

“This is a very safe, very beginner-friendly triathlon,” says Craig Little, a member of the Longview Running Club and a two-time full Ironman triathlon finisher. “I would encourage anyone that wants to get into triathlons to do this race.”

The Christus Good Shepherd Institute for Healthy Living holds a sprint triathlon each spring, featuring a 200-meter swim, a 13-mile bike ride and a 5K run. In comparison, a full triathlon is typically a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.

“Anybody can go sign up for a sprint triathlon and with four to six weeks’ training, be ready for it,” Little says. “Generally, for a half or full Ironman (triathlon), you’re looking at anywhere from six months to a year of training.”

Little has competed in about a dozen triathlons, including two full-length Ironmans, two half-length Ironmans and a number of shorter races. He says sprint triathlons are a good way for people to get started in the sport. He says this particular sprint triathlon is perfect for beginners—mainly because the swimming portion takes place at the institute’s pool.

Anna Fretz agrees with him.

“This is a fantastic triathlon for people just starting out,” says Fretz, the aquatics supervisor at the Christus Good Shepherd Institute for Healthy Living. “The swim portion is unfortunately what often scares a lot of people away, because it’s scary to swim in lakes and it’s scary when you can’t see the bottom. But here, the swimming takes place in a pool, where you can see the bottom, where we have lifeguards, where everything is familiar. So it’s a really great first-person triathlon.”

The 2018 race will take place May 20 at the Christus Good Shepherd Institute for Healthy Living, 3133 Good Shepherd Way in Longview. The event begins at 7:30 a.m.

Fretz says one of the most important things to remember when training for the triathlon is to actually get in the pool.

“Even though it’s a sprint triathlon, you have to build up an aerobic base,” she says. “There are a lot of triathletes who bike several times a week or run several times a week but don’t get in the pool until the day of the race. And swimming is a little different because you can lose your feel for water a lot quicker than you can lose your feel for land.”

Fretz says beginners looking to compete in this triathlon will need to consistently be able to swim more than 200 meters, so that they know they can swim at least that far. She also recommends people work specifically on their form, so that they don’t panic when surrounded by others in the pool.

“It’s going to get crowded and there’s going to be waves in the pool,” she says. “And you might start panicking — particularly if you’re not a strong swimmer or haven’t been swimming for very long — so it’s important to remember your form and remember your training.”

For the running and biking portions of the race, nutrition is key.

“The old adage that you can’t outrun a bad diet is definitely true,” says Leslie Goudarzi, a registered dietician with the Christus Good Shepherd Institute for Healthy Living. “Just as you train your body to run or swim or bike, it’s equally as important to train it to utilize fuel efficiently.”

Goudarzi says it is important to eliminate processed, greasy foods several months in advance and to make sure you’re getting the adequate amount of protein in your diet.

“When you’re training really hard for a triathlon, you’re making small microscopic tears to those muscles with every workout,” she says. “So in order for those to be repaired and become stronger, there has to be adequate protein imbibed to do so.”

On race day, both Goudarzi and Little recommend taking an energy gel on the bike and run portions of the race, so you can re-fuel and remain energized.

Little says as long as you know you can swim at least 150 meters, bike at least 10 miles and run at least 2 miles, you’ll be able to finish this race.

For more experienced triathlon veterans, such as Little, the fun lies not in finishing but in the race itself. Little tries to go as fast as he can, with hopes of beating his previous year’s time.

“I like to go fast,” Little says. “The longer races are more spread out, so you kind of have to pace yourself and keep your speed down. With these sprints, you can go all out and just push your body to the limit.”

According to race director Will Hagle, funds raised from the triathlon have reached more than $20,000 and have been donated to local charities and organizations. This year, funds will benefit the Boys & Girls Club of East Texas. For more information and to register, visit www.runsignup.com.

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