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Over the next few days we’ll profile four newbie triathletes who’ve faced some of the most common challenges when just getting started in the sport. Let their rookie mistakes—and our expert-sourced solutions—give you a competitive edge, no matter your racing level.
Newbie Case Study #2
Michael Weiss, 40, Oxford, Mich.
When a friend said he wanted to do a sprint relay and needed a cyclist, Weiss found himself participating in his first triathlon. After doing two solo triathlons, and then watching his former teammates tackle Ironman Louisville and Ironman Florida, Weiss signed up for Ironman Florida 2013—only his third solo race.
Biggest challenge: Like many triathletes, Weiss has a hard time finding enough time to train in addition to spending time with his family and work. “I’m a happily married, working father of three young girls,” Weiss says. “Spending 15 to 20 hours a week training for an Ironman plus working more than 45 hours a week doesn’t leave a ton of time to my family.” Weiss is also battling fitness issues, after having major surgery on each knee in 2009 and 2010. “There is still a good amount of atrophy in my muscles, and every time I go four-plus hours on the bike my legs cramp to the point of failure,” he says. “I have got to figure out how to get my legs built back up, and also what’s missing from my nutrition on the bike to cause this cramping.”
Sidestep it: Weiss’ three challenges are common to the majority of amateurs who dream of doing Ironman: time management, physical health and nutrition. “The good news is that he has a year to prepare for his race in Florida,” says LifeSport coach and former Canadian pro triathlete Lucy Smith. He will need the full year to focus on three things: “First, building his core strength and basic muscular strength back up (with a focus on rehab from his surgeries), and with an emphasis on good technique to prevent future injuries. Second, building his endurance so that he can complete an Ironman. And third, building his triathlon-specific skills and knowledge of open-water swimming, transitions, nutrition and equipment,” says Smith. Weiss’ knowledge of the sport and working out his nutrition and hydration will come with experience and completing one to two half-iron distances next season. As for family matters, Smith says that “while he will need a lot of enthusiastic support from his spouse and children, he can also include them in his journey when possible: having them do kids races at events and by being a role model of healthy living. Having a plan tailored for his family vacations, celebrations and commitments will help him maintain his work/family/sport balance.” With a comprehensive training program that periodizes his year and makes efficient use of his time, Weiss can be successful at Ironman Florida and still have energy for his family and job.