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Keys to success on triathlon circuit

“The trick is expect the unexpected,” says 63-year-old triathlon coach Lewis Bennett, directing open-water swimming drills.


“The trick is expect the unexpected,” says 63-year-old triathlon coach Lewis Bennett, directing open-water swimming drills.

Triathlon coach Lewis Bennett believes anyone can complete a triathlon.

"If you have the right state of mind, you can do it," said Bennett, who has helped hundreds complete their first triathlon. "But you have to be committed."

Bennett, 63, started his triathlon career after running the Times Turkey Trot.

"It was my first 5K," he said. "After the race, I saw a flier for the St. Anthony's Triathlon. So I signed up."

Bennett does not suggest that most people follow in his footsteps and jump right into an Olympic-distance triathlon.

"But I think that most people, in eight to 12 weeks, could get ready for a sprint triathlon," he said.

The Escape from Fort DeSoto Triathlon, with its half-mile swim, 10-mile bike and 4-mile run, is scheduled for April 11. If you listen to Bennett, you might have enough time to get ready for your first triathlon.

Here's how:

Confirm your reason for doing the race, then set goals. You are embarking on this journey for a reason. You know it is going to be a long, hard trip with its share of personal sacrifices, so it must be important. Write down your reason. Then write down your goal for the race.

Make training a priority. Training for a tri takes time — lots of it. But to reach the finish line, you have to train. So you need to move training up on your list of priorities.

Get the right equipment. You will need a good, safe bike, a helmet, running shoes, goggles and something that is wearable in the water, on the bike and on the run. Selecting the right bike will be the biggest decision. Take your time, shop around and get a bike that fits your size, needs and budget. Tri bikes are like golf clubs. Buying the most expensive set is not going to get you to the championship round.

Set up a training a schedule that fits your lifestyle. Ideally you need to do each discipline at least twice a week. Maintaining a schedule that includes six to nine sessions a week is possible if you map it around your work and home life. A good weekly schedule will include at least one endurance (long) session per event.

Get up early. Triathletes love the morning. Adapting to the ritual may take a few weeks. Develop the habit of training first before you start adding time or intensity.

Learn the proper skills. Proper swim techniques are not hard to learn and they make endurance swimming much more fun. Learning proper running form is a great way to conserve energy to prevent injuries. Proper positioning on the bike is critical to a successful ride.

Triathlon is an endurance sport. Don't worry about speed until you can cover the distance. Increase your training times and distances slowly. Listen to your body. Expect some pain but stop when you are injured.

Train with other triathletes. The motivation to get up and go is much stronger when you know someone is out there in the cold waiting for you.

Spend some time learning transition skills. You need to move through the transition area as quickly as possible. Going too fast and "missing" something will cost you time in the long run.

Simulate race conditions. As race day approaches, you need to shift your training to race mode. Practice swimming in the open water with a wet suit. If the bike is hilly, ride some hills. Get used to training in the heat. Do some late-morning runs. Plan what you are going to drink and eat — then practice it.

Eliminate the unknowns. If you know it is coming, you can prepare for it. Think of all the things that can happen in a race and prepare for them. Expect the unexpected on race day. Learn to change a flat.

Stay focused on the present. Don't worry about what you have no control over. Everyone else is in pain, too. You do not have to be the fastest athlete to win. You just have to be the one who is going the fastest at the finish.

To find out more about Bennett's program, go to or e-mail him at

• For results of the St. Pete Beach Classic and the Clearwater Halfathon, see next week's fitness column.

Do you have running, swimming, biking, triathlon or adventure racing news? Send it to Terry Tomalin at or call (727) 893-8808

upcoming events


• Progressive training team, track workouts, 6:30 p.m., University of Tampa Track, Tampa. Contact Dror Vaknin (813) 846-5021,


• Gaither workout (for experienced bikers), 7:45 a.m., behind Lifestyle Family Fitness in Northdale, Tampa. Call Richard Johnson (813) 238-2464 or visit

• Marathon training, various group runs, 5:30 a.m., Downtown YMCA, Tampa. Contact Fred Vasconi (813) 222-1334,

• Run with the Nuns, 5K and 1 mile, 8:30 a.m., War Memorial Park, St. Petersburg. Call (813) 245-2998.

• Stanley breakfast ride, 7:45 a.m., Seffner Elementary, 109 Cactus Road, Seffner. Contact Terry Farrell (813) 684-3503, or visit

• West Florida "Y" Runners Club, 6 a.m. at City Hall Plaza in Clearwater, 7 a.m. at John Chesnut Park in Palm Harbor. Call Michael Weiss (727) 644-7702 or visit


• Florida Challenge, half-marathon and 5K, time TBA, Alfa River State Park, Tampa. Visit or call (813) 232-5200.

Jan. 31

• Run with Pride, 5K and 1-mile fun run, 8:30 a.m., Pride Elementary School, Tampa. Call Karla Gorsky (813) 383-6577.

Keys to success on triathlon circuit 01/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 9:35pm]
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