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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 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.

3 comments (Add your own)

1. Beth Schulte wrote:
Coco you continue to amaze and inspire me! I’ve learned in 55 years never say never. God bless your soul and your journey! You are a blessing to me and everyone around you! Now hold on tight and enjoy!😘 love ya!

June 4, 2018 @ 4:10 PM

2. Angie Linden wrote:
Coco, your Dad and I are so proud of you! 💪🏻 What a well written experience that will truly help others. Love you! Angie

June 4, 2018 @ 8:58 PM

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October 29, 2019 @ 12:26 PM

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