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  1. #1
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    How long is it realistic from barely biking to competing in a triathlon?

    Hello everyone! I really want to be a triathlete, however I do not know much about biking. I am in the process of learning how to bike (from scratch) and so far can "bike" i.e. stand on the bike and ride in a straight line. I have problems with doing turns and also problems with riding downhill (scared) and problems with starting and so on. How long will it take from this level to actually being able to cycle a triathlon? How should I prepare for such a thing? I dont intend to win and so on, but just do decently. There is a triathlon in September here, is it realistic to be able to participate in it? I am in a good physical shape, just need the skill...

    For a week I have been biking every day but still am very far away from even a normal person who can bike let alone someone who competes so it is going kind of slow. Should I also do some indoor biking/spinning courses and so on to speed the process up?


    Thanks to everyone for the suggestions.

  2. #2
    alpine cross trainer Ludkeh's Avatar
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    Wow, I don't know where to begin but will mention just a few! Triathlons can be challenging and require a multitude of skills not just fitness. Please spend the time to REALLY learn how to ride a bike and are comfortable riding with other cyclists in a multitude of situations. Join your local cycling club, ride with them this summer and you'll learn a lot and get lots of help and support. If you don't have good cycling skills you put yourself and other Triathlon athletes at risk.

    How good a swimmer are you? Can you do an open water swim (OWS) and swim for at least 750 meters with lot's of other swimmers in the water without panicking?

    If your really determined to try a Triathlon I would suggest you find a Triathlon that includes a "Try a Tri" event.
    This is a mini Triathlon for first timers that are interested in the sport of Triathlon but aren't really sure if they can do it or if it's really "their cup of tea". You'll find like minded people and possible a support group that will help you get to the next step.

    Just some of my initial reactions.

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    Hi, Ludkeh , of course I will not participate at all until I am good at biking. But right now it seems like this will take forever since I really do not know what to do in order to become one. There is a group for triathlon here, but every training is lead by a hard core person of the particular discipline, not a triathlete.

    The bike training in this group is only for already very strong bikers --they bike once a week 200 km for 8 hours...
    So I have some time to go until I reach that level and they accept me --right now they will just kick me out, I know the professor doing the training. So I was hoping to train 2 months on my own and then join this group in July and go July and August with them and then September to do my first triathlon, but am not sure this is realistic. After September I cannot do triathlons much, because it will be cold(I am not in the USA).

    As far as I see it, I have two stages --learning to bike(be comfortable on a real bike) as in technique and developing the fitness required to bike well. These are both different in my mind, am I wrong? Would a spinning course or exercise bike, where i train just for the fitness speed up the process?Could you recommend a book that could give me like a plan --this week you learn this that week you learn that and so on?



    I am a good swimmer, actually this is my strongest discipline, as I have done it as a child competitively, after the age of 13 I went to synchronized swimming, but still am a better swimmer than the average person (and the average synchronized swimmer) and open water swimming is what I like the most and have done it since a young child for long distances, of course not with many people in the water, but for sure I will not panic. Running I started seriously last autumn with a training group and it also have improved a lot, have done some competitions, so I feel confident about the running and swimming part (finishing them and doing "decently", not winning or anything).

    The try a tri event sounds like a very nice idea and something to look for in the more immediate future.
    Sorry for going on and on about myself.

  4. #4
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    I think you should definitely be able to do a short tri by Sept. The fact that you are a good/experienced open water swimmer is huge. The fact you are doing well with running is also really important. The biking will come. I agree with the others that it will really help if you can find some local(s) who are decent bikers who will help you get started. That local group of yours sounds way too hard core. You sure don't need to be able to ride 200k for a first tri. More like being able to do a comfortable, safe 30-40K. Just a few tips: Try to find training routes without too much car or bike traffic until you feel confident. Make sure you are setup correctly on the bike, especially seat height. If you're too low you'll put too much strain on your knees etc. Too high and you won't be able to "spin" smoothly. Think of pedalling in a circle, the full 360 degrees, not just pushing down, but pulling up as well (if you have toe straps or cleats). On second thought, you might want to forget the straps or cleats until you feel safe and secure on the bike. Use your gears to keep you legs moving fairly easily even when going up hills. I think in the beginning, you're probably going to progress faster by doing many fairly short rides per week instead of a couple longer rides . . . have fun!

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    Hi, Mike, thank you very much for your optimistic answer. Yes swimming is a plus, but i never learned swimming on my own, only with a trainer. I cannot imagine what would it take to learn swimming well by myself. With a trainer it takes at least half a year. Looking at people who learned to swim by themselves, it rarely looks good, always some technique problems. Even now i swim with a trainer (to this day i have some technique errors). So if I transfer this analogy to biking oh man...it seems intimidating. I indeed made an appointment with a friend of mine to go biking on the weekend and I hope he will correct me and help me. So we will see.

    Regarding the pedaling, I have read this cycling tip as well and try to do just that --to put effort in the full cycle of the pedal. I do not want to strap or cleat my feet just yet, because i am too scared (and i fall sometimes). I intend to bike every day because i really want to learn within the next few months, but i do it very slowly so it is more like a technique learning, not really training, because I do not feel tired by it at all (I just feel mentally tired from the concentration ). Apart from it I do 2 swimming sessions and 2-4 running sessions and weight lifting just to build my "base" as they say. and once I learn the biking I will start true training.
    Thanks again

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Violetka View Post
    .... I dont intend to win and so on, but just do decently. There is a triathlon in September here, is it realistic to be able to participate in it? I am in a good physical shape, just need the skill....
    With that is your goal, you will be ready.

    Here's a story to inspire you.....

    Several years ago, I was in a similar situation, except running was my problem. Crazy as it sounds... I needed to learn how to WALK. AS AN ADULT.

    I had back surgery. Prior to the surgery, I hadn't walked in many months (though I could crawl to the bathroom). Prior to the surgery, I had a nearly paralyzed leg, and was in constant pain.

    After the surgery, I walked (with assistance) across a room, for the first time in quite a while.

    I then began my sessions of learning how to walk. It would take over a year before you could see me walk down the street, and not notice something was wrong. I participated in a "sprint" triathlon SIX WEEKS after the surgery.


    I set my goal low. My goal was to come in last place. I don't know how, but I came in second to last. The 5K "run" took me over an hour to walk (limp).



    I went with this attitude..... the Dr. told me I could swim for rehab, walk for rehab, and ride a bike slowly in a very upright position for exercise. I just did all three things on the same day that day.


    So for you.... with a desire to get out there, and five months to prepare.... you will be all set.

  7. #7
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    Don't overthink it!

    Hop on the bike and pedal and pedal and pedal some more. You don't NEED a trainer to become a good cyclist.

  8. #8
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    Doing "decently" may be out of the question, but "doing it" wouldn't be. Main issue is a disproportional amount of time is involved in the cycling, and if that's your weak point, it'll be hard to make up for on the other.

    My suggestion for hitting a target like that: Get a decent road bike, ride every day for an hour or two. Don't switch styles of bikes, don't use twitchy bikes, skip the trainer. Ride flat areas, hills, windy areas. If you live where it's hilly, get reasonably confident on the flats before jumping onto the downhills. On a downhill, it's okay to use your brakes even if everyone else isn't.

    There are two different aspects involved here. One is developing muscles for cycling, which it sounds like is not a big concern. Other is developing normal cycling skills, which is what I'm thinking of. If you're not overweight and already a good runner, it probably won't be too hard to whip up some decent cycling speed as you get more comfortable with it.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  9. #9
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    Dear future triathlon colleagues thank you all very much for your suggestions. I followed a lot of the advice from here, mostly about biking every day for 1-2 hours, and on the weekend I do a longer bike trip. I am still not confident on the bike, but things are slowly improving. I am ok with uphills, more scared with downhills, where I bike mostly on breaks and cannot let go and also after a downhill I cannot turn, because I need to go very slowly in order to make a turn. I can now start very comfortably but still have problems with doing the turns properly (by shifting my weight not just the steering wheel). I think that in my case, once I got comfortable with the perceived humiliation and became humble about the situation, I can ride/and fall in peace. I do experience falls and sometimes hit myself with my own bike. But I hope it will come with time.

    BikeAnon, thanks very much, indeed true inspiration!
    StephenH, yes, I do not mean to sound overconfident, but I feel more comfortable about the fitness (bicycle muscles) aspect compared to the technique aspect of cycling, because I am already quite strong, but still of course both will need to be improved. Unfortunately the way I am biking now, there is not way for me to get tired and train any muscles, but in any case I think that I will work on the technique because that is what will keep me from completing the triathlon. and muscles I can train perhaps on an stationary bike? I try to follow you suggestion about pedaling full cycle not just forcing on pushing, and notice that the cyclists that I see on my trails all bike like that and it looks like one smooth motion.

    My bike is a hybrid between mountain bike and a road bike, and I like it very much, it has very big tires and is not very tall, I think that it is pointless or me to get new bike for the near future.

    Greetings to all!

  10. #10
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    I can give you my experience.

    I learned how to bike as a kid but never rode competitively and didn't even own a bike for 15 years or so! I just got a road bike last November. I had to practice a lot, especially snapping in and out of the pedals with cleats. It took me about 2 mos to be comfortable leaving my neighborhood. I started triathlon training in earnest in mid-February and did a sprint tri in late April. So it took me about 5 mos. I think you need to work up to being able to bike continuously for 20 min and then you can look up a beginner training plan and follow that. I personally made sure to ride outside at least once a week (usually for my long ride) and then 2-3 times indoors.

    I did have an athletic background, as I regularly do running races and have since Jr. High. I also swam competitively through high school. I think that may have helped with the aerobic capacity on the bike, and the whole training/racing mentality.

  11. #11
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    I can't imagine your situation unfortunately. I would think that most people have been bicycling since they were 5 years old. So that gives the average adult many years of cycling experience before they even realize they want to race or do a triathlon. Many have forgotten what it feels like to ride once they grow into adults but it quickly comes back to them. As the saying goes "It's like riding a bike". Anyways i am a very confident rider and very in control of my bike, even if it gets squirrely and I rarely ever fear about wrecking but I have been essentially riding bikes my entire life with a brief 4-5 year hiatus in my late teens early twenties before I picked cycling back up. So that is basically 25 years or so of riding experience that I wasn't even trying to get.

    My point is that you are very behind in riding, and being comfortable on a bike. That being said the only thing you can do is ride, ride some more and then ride some more. Keep riding until you feel comfortable in most situations. You sound like good swimmer and the running portion you can technically walk on if you want. You just need to gain confidence on the bike. So ride and ride some more. You'll get there eventually. You can always try taking your bike off-road to handle different obstacles. It might help with your bike handling skills. I'd youtube bike handling skills and I am sure there are techniques to help you. You can set up obstacles, cones etc... to help you learn to maneuver your bike with confidence. I do this drills all the time without thinking about it on my commutes. I zig zag between the divider lines on my local bike path on my commute. I am sure there are other things like this that you can do to help give you confidence on the bike. Eventually with practice the confidence and experience will show and you will be able to conquer it all!
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  12. #12
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    I'm going to go against the grain here.

    Do you have any events picked out yet?

    I wouldn't aim for the most local one, I would aim for the one with the easiest bike course. The local ones here small, and are all loops of rolling hills on roads with curves. But if you drive a little bit, the bigger ones are in the middle of cities, where it's just there and back on closed city streets with an effort to be flat. That's a lot easier, a lot less intimidating, and a lot more people around if something bad happens.

  13. #13
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    Hello, everyone. Thanks for your ideas. It has been already a few months and while I have not been as serious about biking as I should be, I do feel muuch more confident on my bike. I can do 40 km bike trips quite easily now.

    I am still not 100% perfect on my bike in sharp turns or starting when it is very uphill and doing trails and so on, but in general feel quite confident. On my way to university I used to be by far the slowest and now I actually overpower some people and do not look terrible.

    I feel that endurance is my strongest feature, because I have always been more "durable" than the other people. Speed is of course very ****ty (I think my highest speed is like 20 km and this is when I am pedaling very hard, so cannot maintain it that long) but still better than before, when I was just too scared to even speed. And my balance and bike abilities are my lowest and most important point. Still I can now bike standing up and also (not very well) using one hand, which for me is also a big victory. In the beginning I could not even show turning directions with my arms (which is something that the law requires), because I just could not bike with only one hand...
    I still cannot bike without using hands at all, though

    This progress has been quite slow, but on the other hand extremely effortless on my part and did not involve any training.
    I wish I could say that I was biking daily and training systematically my abilities, but shamefully that is not the case. I have been slacking off very much (because of major drama in my life), and these improvements just appeared by themselves without me noticing at first. Now I am sure that had I biked systematically every day and consciously training, instead of just commuting by bike (which is what I mostly did), by now I would be able to compete in a triathlon. So after today I really will log my efforts and training to make things more systematic. And will work on maintainable speed and "biking skills" for now.

    There are some triathlons in early to mid September, so I think perhaps I can try and dare to attend my first one then.
    Unfortunately I do not live in the USA, so we do not have that many events and they are not all year round. (which would have been oh so cool).


    Not sure if someone is interested in my detailed life story, but feel so proud that needed to share When I was starting out I actually got stopped by the police who thought I was drunk and that is why bike in this fashion, which was so humiliating and today on my bike trip I overpowered quite a lot of old and out-of-shape people

    Btw I have noticed that when I try to bike very fast on easy gear (which is what I have been told here I should do), my bike goes up and down instead of just forward...Why is that?

    Cheers and happy biking to everyone!
    Last edited by Violetka; 08-17-14 at 03:15 PM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Violetka View Post
    .........
    Btw I have noticed that when I try to bike very fast on easy gear (which is what I have been told here I should do), my bike goes up and down instead of just forward...Why is that?

    Cheers and happy biking to everyone!
    GREAT JOB!!!!!

    Bouncing comes from fast pedaling/cadence without being smooth. It takes time to work it out and achieve a high spin cycling stroke. Lots of information on these forums, internet and in books.

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    Quote Originally Posted by OldTryGuy View Post
    GREAT JOB!!!!!

    Bouncing comes from fast pedaling/cadence without being smooth. It takes time to work it out and achieve a high spin cycling stroke. Lots of information on these forums, internet and in books.

    Oh thanks a lot! I read a bit about it ...seems like a fundamental problem.

    I signed up for my first event at the end of this month (so 12 days), out of curiosity. there is a triathlon in my town and with it is a test-it event, where the bike is 13 km, so it is perfect for a newbie like me. A bit disappointed that I will be in the "loser" test it competition and not in the real one, but I just really was not focused enough with the biking training.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Violetka View Post
    Oh thanks a lot! I read a bit about it ...seems like a fundamental problem.

    I signed up for my first event at the end of this month (so 12 days), out of curiosity. there is a triathlon in my town and with it is a test-it event, where the bike is 13 km, so it is perfect for a newbie like me. A bit disappointed that I will be in the "loser" test it competition and not in the real one, but I just really was not focused enough with the biking training.
    ????????? regarding my bolding.

    The only "loser" is the person who does not make the attempt. One might finish in last place, but IMO the effort made makes one a winner.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldTryGuy View Post
    ????????? regarding my bolding.

    The only "loser" is the person who does not make the attempt. One might finish in last place, but IMO the effort made makes one a winner.
    You have made tremendous progress. You should be very proud. Keep it up and there is no telling how far you can go!

  18. #18
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    Learning bike skills is a process, it starts with getting comfortable on your own, but finding a local "C" group ride will also go a long long way towards learning to ride well in a group, out on the roads and how to maintain a pace, albeit a slower than perhaps race pace.

    Sounds like a great start though. You might also look around your area and see if you can find a good tri specific shop that does some group events. I know there are a few Endurance House stores popping up around the country, and they seem to have a great approach towards getting new to triathlon athletes educated, equipped and out there. They helped me enormously in the last 3 months going from jogger/cyclist to competing in my first tri's.

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    Bicycling well means mastering several skills. You should deliberately practice your weak areas to improve.

    1) Bicycle handling and control: Steering, stopping, making the bike go where you want. Riding in variety of positions, riding uphill and downhill, being able to grab and return bottles to the cages quickly and safely without looking. Also working the gears and understanding which gears to be in and when to change gears at the correct time. Practice all of this when you are doing easy rides or around your neighborhood.

    2) Smooth/efficient riding. This means pedaling efficiently and smoothly without twitching and jerking the upper body. Good position and form on the bike and efficient power transfer. Try to be aware of riding smoothing all the time, especially at the end of a longer ride when you are tired.

    3) Situational awareness and traffic laws. Know how to ride with cars on the road and common ways cars will try to kill you (ex: the right hook) Be able to stop promptly for lights, traffic, stop signs etc... know correct road position, be able to look over/under shoulders and when to double check.

    4) Fitness, honestly, if you run and swim, you should focus on the above. Increased confidence will come as 1 improves and increased speed will come as 2 improves.

    Observe other experience riders and ask for pointers from the riders that are fast and look smooth. Most people will not offer unsolicited advice, but will be happy to help if asked.

    Honestly, you can probably get by in a few months, but to really be competent and ride safely probably would take a year. You could shorten that time with some classes if they are available in your area.

    Stay AWAY from a tri bike with aero bars until you can handle a road bike confidently and safely. Don't even get clip ons.
    Last edited by andr0id; 09-08-14 at 07:32 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeD1 View Post
    You have made tremendous progress. You should be very proud. Keep it up and there is no telling how far you can go!
    Hey thank you so much for the words of encouragement. Honestly I have grown to really enjoy biking even though in the beginning it was only due to desire to do a triathlon I had no passion for it. Now to me biking is a very adventurous and exciting sport/means of transportation (at which I still suck ). I live in an area which is famous for being a nice area to bike at --and a lot of people come to bike here from other places. So it has been very nice to do trips during the weekend. Basically it is a whole new source of pleasure, which was not available to me before so I am very excited and grateful to the person who gave me my bike and to this forum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dru_ View Post
    Learning bike skills is a process, it starts with getting comfortable on your own, but finding a local "C" group ride will also go a long long way towards learning to ride well in a group, out on the roads and how to maintain a pace, albeit a slower than perhaps race pace.

    Sounds like a great start though. You might also look around your area and see if you can find a good tri specific shop that does some group events. I know there are a few Endurance House stores popping up around the country, and they seem to have a great approach towards getting new to triathlon athletes educated, equipped and out there. They helped me enormously in the last 3 months going from jogger/cyclist to competing in my first tri's.
    Yes I will join a club for triathlon, but their group is too fast for me, but by now I think I will join and try to keep up with them for as long as possible and then drop out on my own. Hopefully each time it will be longer.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by andr0id View Post
    Bicycling well means mastering several skills. You should deliberately practice your weak areas to improve.

    1) Bicycle handling and control: Steering, stopping, making the bike go where you want. Riding in variety of positions, riding uphill and downhill, being able to grab and return bottles to the cages quickly and safely without looking. Also working the gears and understanding which gears to be in and when to change gears at the correct time. Practice all of this when you are doing easy rides or around your neighborhood.

    2) Smooth/efficient riding. This means pedaling efficiently and smoothly without twitching and jerking the upper body. Good position and form on the bike and efficient power transfer. Try to be aware of riding smoothing all the time, especially at the end of a longer ride when you are tired.

    3) Situational awareness and traffic laws. Know how to ride with cars on the road and common ways cars will try to kill you (ex: the right hook) Be able to stop promptly for lights, traffic, stop signs etc... know correct road position, be able to look over/under shoulders and when to double check.

    4) Fitness, honestly, if you run and swim, you should focus on the above. Increased confidence will come as 1 improves and increased speed will come as 2 improves.

    Observe other experience riders and ask for pointers from the riders that are fast and look smooth. Most people will not offer unsolicited advice, but will be happy to help if asked.

    Honestly, you can probably get by in a few months, but to really be competent and ride safely probably would take a year. You could shorten that time with some classes if they are available in your area.

    Stay AWAY from a tri bike with aero bars until you can handle a road bike confidently and safely. Don't even get clip ons.
    Thank you very much for the systematic suggestions.
    1. what is a right hook??
    I think that joining a group for now will probably be the best way, but all the groups are very good, need to ind a mediocre one. With 1. I do think progress has been made and I feel uite confident on the bike, because I commute with it almost daily. I think now I have to focus on 2 and also developing some biking muscles/strength or smth...dont know what exactly but whatever makes the people move much faster than me.

    Thank you so very much to everyone for the kind advice and support. So the news is that I did my first triathlon yesterday !!! I did the sprint triathlon (700m/20km/5km).

    My biking honestly was worse than everyone else's, and I mean people more than twice my age, people who are not in a good shape and so on, everyone was faster than me at least in my group (we were split according to swimming times), people who sucked in swimming easily overpowered me in biking. . So at the end I was biking alone because everyone had overpowered me, additionally my chain fell from my bike so i had to fix that. The biking was quite humiliating for my ego, but I still pushed as hard as I can. That being said, it was surreal, extremely exciting and very rewarding and I cannot believe I did it. I think honestly I was more excited than the winner.

    Also I managed to overpower some people during my run so I am not last but do not know the exact place because the results are not yet online. My overall time is 1:30 which is not anything spectacular, but to me is very satisfactory and makes me very happy, given I am a beginner, and my bike is a mountain bike.
    Now I really want to focus and improve the biking at least to some average level speed-wise so that I am at least middlepack, not last lost lonely rider person.

    Also for me very hard were the transitions. I did not do much triathlon -specific training. ok i did not do any triathlon specific training to be honest, only biking running and very little swimming, but on separate days. So I was not prepared for how horrible my legs would feel after the biking, in the beginning I could not move them very well, they would not obey or bend in the knees and I also did not feel them very well. I think at that point I was terrified I will not be able to finish, but then everything was ok -they started moving again. Dont know if everyone goes through that but that was kind of ****ty experience.
    Last edited by Violetka; 09-14-14 at 07:09 AM.

  23. #23
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    Q-How does one get to play in Carnegie Hall?

    A-Practice, PRACTICE and MORE PRACTICE!

    Well done, train more, have fun.

  24. #24
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    Also, when looking at groups, what you think is a fast, experienced group often is a mix of both very experienced and new people, with most being somewhere in the middle. Most are happy to take new athletes under their wing. Don't feel like you are 'slowing down' others. More often than not, they are not only willing but excited to see new faces out there, and to them, a mile at 13 mph is just as far as a millet 19 mph.

  25. #25
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    Congratulations on a great accomplishment! Keep up the good work

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