The Practical Triathlete

So what exactly is a practical triathlete, isn’t that an oxymoron? Can the term practical even be associated with triathlon and triathletes, a sport that requires you to “master” (a loosely used term), three different sports executed back-to-back-to-back? On the surface, I would say no, but let’s look more closely at the word itself, practical.

According to Wiktionary:

  1. Based on practice or action rather than theory or hypothesis <Jack has a practical knowledge of triathlon.>
  2. Being likely to be effective and applicable to a real situation; able to be put to use <Jack’s knowledge has the practical benefit of allowing him to complete a triathlon.>
  3. Of a person, having skills or knowledge that are practical <All in all, Jack’s a practical triathlete.>

So then a practical triathlete would be someone that understands all the phases of a triathlon, can apply them in a real world situation, i.e., racing a triathlon, and does so without much fuss. They are an athlete that understands each of the three sports, focuses on training the basic skills in each sport before focusing on say trying to go faster or go farther, and who picks races and race distances that match up with their skill set and capability.

Another way to look at what it means to be a practical triathlete is someone that applies common sense to their training, race preparation, and racing. Things like not doing hill repeats at lunch with your friends and then running track at night. Or doing a track workout at night and then a sprint set in the pool the next morning. Or trying something brand new at a race, like some different nutrition that you’ve never used before, to try and get in all your calories. Common sense would dictate that these are bad ideas, yet I use them as examples of what I know that people have done in the past, thinking they were good ideas.

I realize that for some people the word practical reminds them of something boring, not very flashy, or just not any fun. So would a un-practical triathlete then be someone that without much training or racing experience signs up for say a half Ironman distance triathlon, buys a fancy/expensive tri bike because they got a good deal, and doesn’t really focus on trying to learn how to be a better swimmer, biker, and runner, but instead just trains really hard with their friends on their schedules? Yes, that would be un-practical, and not very smart, yet I have seen this scenario re-enacted over the years again and again.

So for anyone that realizes how difficult racing triathlons can be, who would like to get more involved in the sport and improve their performance, I will offer practical advice on how to proceed to be a better triathlete. Your un-practical training partners can then watch from afar as your races performances improve over time, while their results show up as hit-or-miss, unpredictable, and disappointing.

Triathlon is not just about the destination, it’s about the journey.

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