Mastering the Swim and Bike

Hi ShokzSquad! Dan Cox here, one of AfterShokz’s Brand Ambassadors. I’m passionate about fitness and health, especially swimming, running, and (sometimes) biking. Six years ago, I completed the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon with my brother Will, who ended up beating me, and this year I’m coming back for redemption with more focused training and help from my coach. I’ve completed my fair share of triathlons (including the Louisville Ironman!) and made plenty of mistakes along the way, so I have a lot of tips to help you navigate all of these seemingly daunting questions.

One of the questions that I grappled with when I first started training was how to master multiple disciplines. I grew up swimming, and I consider myself a decent runner, but biking was uncharted territory for me. Here are some tips to help you master the swim AND the bike… the easiest and most difficult segments for me.

The nitty-gritty.

For this training cycle, I’m eliminating all guesswork by using a coach. Before I had a coach, I was doing whatever workouts I had time for during the week plus a long bike ride and a long run on the weekend. Without a plan, I wasn’t optimizing my fitness based on the time I had available. This go-around, having a plan will ensure that I make time for my training.

A  typical training week for me includes two days of swimming, three days of biking and three days of running. Day-to-day that shakes out to:

Monday: Bike and Run
Tuesday: Swim
Wednesday: Bike and Run
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: Swim
Saturday: Bike
Sunday: Run
                   
I need that rest day, and I only have to “double” two days of the week, so it’s very manageable. Planning is critical here, so make sure you hit all three disciplines enough throughout the week and get those longer workouts in on the weekend.
       

Training to master the swim.

For most people, the swim is the most daunting component of the triathlon. For me, it’s the easiest portion. I grew up swimming, so I am very comfortable in the water, and I typically fall back into swimming very naturally. While this can make it easy to NOT focus as much of my training on the swim, that is the wrong approach going into a big race.

To master the swim, my coach has me starting with workouts that incorporate a variety of sets and drills, doing 1,200 metres total per workout. The goal is to progress so that I am doing 2,100-2,500 metres per workout so come race day I’ll be more than ready to last the 2400 metre swim.

Training to master the bike.

The key to mastering the bike is making sure you have a bike that fits you well. The bike portion of the race lasts the longest on race day. You need to feel comfortable.

Despite doing several different fittings, I have never felt 100% comfortable on my bike. Recently, I completed a bike fitting that was the most intensive I’ve ever done. The fitter finally concluded that my bike is just not the right fit and can’t be adjusted to my body type. After a week of searching for a frame that would fit me, he finally recommended I ride a Cervélo P2. I’m pumped to approach this training cycle with a new bike that feels comfortable and helps me power through training and the race.

If you are still feeling a bit uncomfortable on your bike and not able to purchase a new one, I recommend getting a trainer so that you can ride your bike inside. I do this often, and along with my AfterShokz, it allows me to do something I love while riding (i.e., watch a movie or get work done), making those multi-hour long rides a bit more bearable for me.

Putting it together on race day.

Before the start of a triathlon, I always put “body glide” on the outside of my wet suit, around my ankles and wrists. Doing this ensures that I can pull my wetsuit off quickly after the swim.  

For the swim, I like to stay at a moderate pace and effort in the first half. Once I’ve given myself ample time to warm up and find my groove, I push it a bit more in the second half. Remember that the swim impact and exertion won’t affect you as much as other disciplines. However, you need to ensure that you don’t completely burn yourself out on the swim. It’s a delicate balance.

After the swim, it’s all about getting to the transition area while maintaining a sustainable heart rate. For Alcatraz, there is a mile run from the swim exit to the bike transition. I plan to leave my wet suit on so that I can warm back up before the bike. In the transition area, I make sure to hydrate (my preference is coconut water).

For the bike, I suggest that you monitor your heart rate and power if you have a power meter. I make sure I stay in the zone that I know I can maintain. I try to tune out the other athletes around me. I don’t let keeping up with others impact my plan. It is inevitable. You will get passed, and you will pass people; stick to your own race!

It can be intimidating trying to master not one, not two, but three different disciplines in one event. Hopefully, my tips and suggestions will soothe some of your qualms as you prepare for your triathlon.