Ten Triathlon Tips for a CrossFitter

By Coco Boothby

June 2018

As many of you know, some of the basic tenets of CrossFit are “constantly varied” and “be prepared for anything.” I pushed these tenets to the limit when I decided, without any training, to sign up for a triathlon four days in advance. And when I say no training, I mean that I hadn’t been on a bike for three years and only run more than a mile once a year for Murph. Swimming? I honestly can’t remember the last time I was in a pool without a child under the age of five. Looking back, I still can’t tell you why I decided to do it. I suppose it’s because it has been a while since I’ve done something that truly frightened me a bit. Maybe it was my competitive nature not wanting to see others do it while I just stood at the finish line. Whatever the reason, I signed up and (think) I am glad I did. Some of you will read this and find yourself mocking me, as much of the advice is self-evident and should go without saying. For those of you with more common sense than me, at least read this and find the humor in it. For those of you that are like me, type B personalities who don’t like to plan and love to jump into things head first, hopefully you will be encouraged to know that you were not the only one, or at least not the most insane one. So without further ado, I submit to you my top ten tips for a triathlon.

  1. If your friends suggest doing a triathlon in a few days time, take a minute to consider the consequences of agreeing...as well as considering your choice in friends... For me it was a benefit to sign up at the last minute, otherwise I don’t think I would’ve done it. Honestly, I hate running and have never done much swimming, as I have always been too self-conscious in a swimsuit. As for the bike, the assault bike is my nemesis. Since I do it so much at the gym, it’s hard for me to think of riding a bike as being anything but a punishment. Now you can see why I had zero interest in training. If I was going to do this, it was going to be cold and dirty. Not for time, but for the experience. I waited to make sure I could get through Murph as my one concern was whether my knees could hold up under the run. Once that excuse was gone, I signed up with four days to go.

  2. Figure out how to properly use your bike, including clips and gears. So yeah, I didn’t even know what clips were until my stepmom let me borrow her bike with them. I tried to practice clipping in my feet the day before with little success. For those of you who know me, you know I’m the clumsiest person in a 100-yard radius. Using the clips seemed like a really dumb thing for me to attempt. But I was convinced last minute to give them a tri (I’m a sucker for puns).  Blessedly, they clicked in pretty well, but I would still not advise someone to use them until they felt comfortable. 

    This is probably the most embarrassing part, I did not figure out how to shift gears until about mile six. I knew how to make it harder, but could not figure out how to decrease the resistance. This was partly due to fear that every time I tried, the resistance got harder rather than easier. I was not about to ask a fellow competitor as we were riding beside each other how they worked, because I did have a tiny bit of pride left. So yeah, needless to say the second half of the ride was much smoother than the first.
  1. Don’t worry about your time; as long as you finish it’s a PR. Leave your ego at home, cheer on the 60 something-year-olds passing you on the bike. Smile at every volunteer as you pass them and be grateful for the gift of being able to move.

  2. Don’t do box jumps and wall balls the day before. Believe me, I know how hard it is to turn down a good WOD. Andy’s programming is the bomb, and when I saw what he had planned for Saturday, I just couldn’t resist. I knew I would pay for it and I did. In the back of my mind I was thinking that then I would have a excuse for why I didn’t do so well on the tri. Shameless.. And that is why Crossfitters have bad reputations…

  3. Don’t eat Mexican the night before. The term carb loading is not to be taken as a free-for-all, eat all the chips and salsa and churro’s. Save that for after the race (Lucky for me, I had leftovers!).

  4. Practice at least a little. This goes with the idea of knowing how to use your equipment. Another piece of needless advice, but I was glad that I had jumped in the pool even just the one time before the race. If I were to do it again, I would have gone to a lake. The waves and bodies were something I was unprepared for and as a result, 100m in I experienced a full-fledged panic attack. I had to swim to a kayaker who let me hold on to his boat for a few minutes as I caught my breath and got my mind back under control. His kind words gave me the motivation to keep going and for that I will be forever grateful. If you start to feel panicky during the swim as I did, I found that a good practice was to focus on counting strokes. I knew from the pool that 25 strokes equaled about 25 m so that helps keep my mind focused and away from my fear.  

       Beyond feeling comfortable on a bike and swimming, I did not feel disadvantaged when it      came to using CrossFit to train rather than exclusively training on the bike, swim and run.  Due to the wide range of movements in CrossFit, I found my muscles were prepared for the race more than I would have thought. The ski erg and butterfly pull-ups were helpful to my swim, the dreaded assault bike had prepared me well for the bike portion and the run was just mind over matter.  I approached the race the same I would a long chipper. Finding a steady pace that I could maintain and knowing that as soon as I got to the transition, I was done with that movement was enough to keep me moving.  
  1. Take your friends up on letting you borrow their gear. Triathlons can be a really expensive sport! I had no idea how many thousands of dollars each athlete can invest in it! A good bike is several thousand, on top of that it’s good to have a wet suit, a tri-suit, a Garmin watch, belt and more! If you are not looking to make triathlons your hobby, or are a bit strapped for cash, ask around to see if you can borrow these things. I couldn’t have done this without the generosity of my friends and family. Shout out of thanks to Angie, Jake, Jerry, Nancy and Whitney! It takes a village to raise a Coco :-)

  2. Transitions are not built in rests. One of the biggest mistakes I made during the tri was taking too much time during the transitions. I looked at it more as a built and rest and dinked around a lot. That added a ton to my final time. Get things ready and positioned to quickly switch out and then go go go!

  3. Don’t let your mind wander to negatives - how you might be accidentally drinking pee in the lake, face planting it on bike and how ridiculous your running gait is are unproductive.  

  4. Use the time wisely - the best part all the time was spending the morning with the Lord. I was not allowed to wear headphones at any time during the triathlon. This meant that there is an extended period of time to think. This ended up being the one thing I liked more about tri’s then CrossFit. In CrossFit, there is no thinking. You’re going too fast and pushing too hard to do that. This morning I got more uninterrupted time with the Lord then I have had in a long time. For example, each mile of the bike I was able to focus my prayers on a specific person or subject. Knowing that He was right there beside me was also really encouraging, especially during the swim. You may not believe in the Lord, but you might as well try talking to Him during your race. It’s either that or talk to yourself, and I don’t know about you but I get sick of myself real quick. It was amazing to spend time with Him and meditate on what I had read earlier that. Who knows, going for prayer runs might become one of my new weekly habits. Who am I kidding, Jesus, You and I are sooner to converse during a weekly MMA fight then a jog…

There you have it. Maybe after reading this you still have no desire to do a triathlon and for that I cannot blame you. Maybe you still consider me an idiot, for that I also can’t blame you. But if you can take nothing else away from this, I hope you are inspired to do something out of your comfort zone. Something that intimidates you a little bit. Life is so short and we have so many opportunities to enhance it, how can we do anything else?

**As an end note, I feel it necessary to  point out that CrossFit does not encourage irresponsible behavior. I went into this confident that I had the ability to successfully complete each portion and finish the race. I would in no sooner suggest someone to jump in the lake without being certain that they could swim then I would have them attempt a handstand push up without any upper body strength. Please do not let my spontaneity be a reason for you to do something that could potentially be dangerous for hazardous to your health.Of course before any physical activity, you should consult a physician or specialist first.

Confessions of a CrossFit Mama

It’s been almost a year and a half since I completed the most epic AMRAPP (As Many Rounds As Possible of Pushing) of my life.  My beautiful baby boy is approaching 18-months and as he continues to grow, I have spent some time looking back at my CrossFit Mama journey.  It has been full of good, bad and ugly.  For the benefit of other CrossFit moms, moms-to-be, or anyone who wants to better empathize with those individuals in your community box, Here is my story.  

I can tell you that coming back to CrossFit after having a baby has been one of the hardest, most humbling experiences of my life.   BUT it has also been the most rewarding, healthy and healing journeys I’ve had.  CrossFit with a kiddo changes everything.  Everything.  Before Titan, CrossFit was my life.  Many of you know what I’m talking about.  It becomes an obsession.  I would wake up in the morning focused on when I could get my WOD in for the day.  I would go back and forth trying to decide whether I liked morning or afternoon WODS better.  This was seriously my thought process - “If I go in the morning, I probably won’t be able to push as hard and won’t have any idea of what finishing time is respectable because I’ll be one of the first ones to try it.  Plus if I do it early, I won’t have the rest of the day to look forward to it.  But if I wait until the afternoon, I may be too tired and won’t be able to push as hard and I’ll be stressing all day worrying that something might come up and I won’t be able to make it to the box.”  Like I said, obsessed.  And I was uber competitive, in a dumb way.  I mean, I was good, but by no means an advanced CrossFitter but I acted like I was the cat’s meow.  It’s actually embarrassing now that I think back on it.  

When I found out I was pregnant my first thoughts were, “Awesome.  Wait, what about CrossFit?!”  I had made some big gains that year and felt the sky was the limit.  But now I had another human being in side of me.  I knew I couldn’t keep working out in the way that I had and if I’m completely honest with you, it wasn’t just because I wanted to protect my baby.  I mean, of course I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize the health or safety of my sweet growing bundle, but I knew I was really competitive.  I knew I would struggle pulling back the reins during a WOD, especially when everyone around me was pushing their limits.  I felt it would be depressing to feel my progress decline in comparison to everyone else.  Wow, that’s embarrassing to admit out loud.  Welp, I promised to give you the good, the bad and the ugly of it, folks.  I also didn’t feel that doing just 12 minutes of moderate intensity would be enough for me.  For this reason, I decided my best bet would be to create my own program of 45-60 minute moderate intensity strength and cardio at home.  That way there would be no judging eyes and I could push myself however hard I felt safe.  (A quick note on this - Can we just all acknowledge what a crappy mom-judging culture we have?!).  I so admire those women who can CrossFit through pregnancy, but I just couldn’t do it in a healthy way.  I am hopeful that next time around I will be at a better place mentally and physically to do this.  We’ll see…  Anyway, that became my new norm until Ti was born.  

I remember the day six weeks post delivery when I got the okay to start exercising again.  I drove straight to the box from the clinic.  Oh, it felt SOOO good to be back in that haven.  But it quickly became evident to me that I had lost A LOT more strength then I had realized.  Pull ups were gone.  Weight that used to feel light was now impossible to lift.  Not to mention all the new noises and other things that were occurring with HSPUs and double-unders (see, I told you it would get ugly).  I was so discouraged and honestly considered whether it was worth trying to get back into it.  I was humiliated.  Although everyone knew I had just had a baby, I still wondered whether they were thinking snide comments about me in their heads.  I was so humbled by it all.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to devote all my time and energy to CrossFit anymore.  Finding time to make it to the box five days a week would be a struggle now that I was working full-time and had a baby.  I would have to be okay with no longer being one of the better athletes in the gym and give up my ego.  When I decided to do that, it was like a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders (no pun intended).  For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel pressure to perform at the top level.  I could just enjoy the community and do my best and stop comparing myself to everyone else.  And rather than focusing on how much strength I had lost, I got to relive each moment of accomplishment!  I got to experience that first strict pull ups, first Rx WOD, etc.  

Now, I’d love to insert here a before and after picture to show how incredible the fight back has been, but I have to be real with y’all - your eyes would be drawn to the stretchies and a big hole that used to be my cute belly piercing.  Ain’t nobody want to see that.  Give them a little time to fade and shrink and then we might give that a go.  

I am finally free to enjoy CrossFit as it was meant to be.  Rather than being my life, it enhances my life.  If I can’t get to the box for a WOD, it doesn’t ruin my day.  If I have to cut a WOD short because Titan needs me, I can walk away and be fine with it.  There are times when I feel my former obsession creeping up, but I can usually quickly squelch it when I realize how much richer my life is now.  I’d give 20 pounds off of my squat for Titan’s smile any day.  Although I haven’t gotten all of my former PR’s back, I am getting ever closer and I believe 2017 will bring even better PR’s and accomplishments than ever.  And if not, I’ll be okay with that.  CrossFit is amaze-balls.  But being a mom is even better.  

("First published January 2017 for Max Oxygen CrossFit Downtown.")