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My First Triathlon: Training Tips and More!

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In an exercise rut? Training for a triathlon was the perfect antidote for this gym dropout. Follow along as former competitive runner and FITNESS staffer Rachel Sturtz competes in her first triathlon. Get training tips so you can tri too!

The Audacity to Tri

It's 80 degrees in the oven-dry Nevada desert at just past 8 a.m., and I still have two more miles to run. Problem is, my quads and calves strain against all forward movement. As women around me slow from run to walk, I pass them in what feels like the stop-motion mode of an astronaut jogging on the moon. I ignore my deepest urge to collapse on a roadside curb by dumping a cup of ice-cold water from the nearby aid station over my head.

I didn't come all the way from New York City to become roadkill on the final leg of the Aflac Iron Girl Lake Las Vegas Women's Triathlon. And wasn't I once a kick-butt middle-distance runner in college who flew through a mile in 4:43? I could eat a 5K like this for breakfast -- if it weren't for that 800-meter swim and 30K bike ride that I spent the past hour and a half racing. It's unfair that this last leg, the one I should have in the bag, feels the hardest.

Yet I keep moving. Because the craziest part of this triathlon is not the pain or the fact that I trained three and a half months to endure it, but that despite my exhaustion, I love every second of it.

Let the Training Begin

Back in New York, I'd burned out on competing with my amateur running club and had spent the previous year without so much as a gym membership. Last time I remember swimming was from a sandbar to a raft in my neighborhood lake as a kid, and the one and only bike I'd ever owned had a makeshift second seat for my Barbie. Somehow this didn't stop me from volunteering when FITNESS was looking for a guinea pig to do a triathlon.

Before I knew it, I was posting online polls for readers to pick my coach (Neil Cook at Asphalt Green Triathlon Club in New York City) and everything from my wetsuit to my wheels. I relearned to swim at Friday night lessons, where my sagging legs were captured instant replay-style on video, and to ride a bike while clipped into the pedals -- in city traffic! At the crack of dawn every Tuesday from February through April, I met up with other sleepy amateurs to run sprints across a soccer field on Coach Cook's command. I hauled around sweaty gear nonstop -- to the office, work events, and dinners with friends.

All of which was meant to get me to a starting line some 2,200 miles away on an early spring morning.

Coach's Tip: Begin all training runs with plyometric drills like butt kicks, skipping, and high knees to warm up properly.

Next:  Ready, Set, Go!


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