Coach Julie's Ironman Journey

By Coach Julie

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As my triathlon season comes to an end, it?s time to think about my goals for next year; today is the day I signed up for Ironman Mt. Tremblant 2017. After completing my second half distance triathlon last Sunday, I was inspired to write about my journey to complete my first Ironman and share some of my triathlon experiences and knowledge along the way. By blogging about it, I hope to inspire all, especially women to try something new and venture into the world of triathlons.

If I go back about five years or so ago, I never thought of myself as an individual endurance sport athlete. This was because my athletic background was always team sports and I had no interest in endurance type races. This all changed when my mother in law who was in her 50?s suggested I sign up for a tri-a-tri. She had done a few herself in the last couple years and wanted to share this experience with me. So I did. I completed my first tri-a-tri on a mountain bike and thought then that every leg of the race was challenging. To fill you in, a tri-a-tri triathlon distance comprises of the following distances and might be slightly different from course to course.


350m swim

10km bike

2.5km run

Being new to the triathlon scene, everything seemed overwhelming including the vocabulary used in this sport. Thinking about it now, I wished I knew what everyone was talking about. That said, I thought I would elaborate on a few terms that might be helpful so you can ?talk the talk? and be in the know.

Transition area: It's the area where your bike is racked with all your other race gear. It?s where you transition from your swim gear to your bike then again from your bike to your running. The shorter distances will usually have sections marked off with a range of numbers where you can rack your bike anywhere in that section, whereas longer distances will have a designated spot for you with your bib number marked on it.

Tip: Before leaving the transition area to start the race, make a mental note in which row your bike is racked or have a visual marker so you can easily find your bike coming in from the swim.

Wave: Triathlons start in many swim waves and are usually divided by age groups.

Tip: Know which wave you are in and when it goes off.

Brick: A very common and useful training method where your bike ride is immediately followed by a run. This is usually to train you to run on ?heavy? legs that feel like ?bricks? making your transition smoother from bike to run.

Chip: This is not to be mistaken for a poker chip but your actual time chip to track your race time. These are usually designed to go on your ankle and not your shoe.

Tip: Place your race chip on your left ankle so it doesn't rub against your bike chain.

Chamois cream: This is a cream or gel to reduce friction and chafing .

Tip: Hit up areas of high friction such as your bra line, inner thighs, sit bones, neck or anywhere your clothes can rub your skin.

When completing your first tri-a-tri, you will definitely be nervous as I was for mine. Prepare by being there early and make sure not to miss the athlete briefing which will go over some instructions or any last minute changes. Expect to feel like your heart is jumping out of your chest, have the mouth pasties and probably feel like your stomach is in a knot. You will most likely be the most anxious about the swim because you probably never swam in open water nonetheless with dozens of fellow racers.

Tip: Start back to avoid the chaos and the chance to be grabbed, pulled and pushed. Go at your own pace and use the provided floating assistance as needed. Finally try to get a few open water swims before your first tri-a-tri.

Remember tri-a-tris are designed for newcomers. It's for anyone who wants to get a taste of triathlons. All shapes and sizes, both men and women, young and old , athletic or not are all welcome.

All in all, the tri-a-tri was not the race that started it all for me as it wasn?t until a couple years after I was inspired to jump back into it. In 2011, I experienced my first half ironman as a spectator to cheer on a cousin. The next year I then made my way to Las Vegas to watch her compete in the 70.3 world Championship. This was an incredible experience to be part of and again at this point, I didn't see myself as an endurance athlete and thought this wasn?t for me. This all changed in 2013 when I was inspired by a colleague that set his goal and completed an Ironman. Even though I had only completed one tri-a-tri, I was inspired and through his encouragement I would sign up for my first half ironman.

So, here I was, I had all my races lined up for that summer: a sprint distance triathlon early July; an Olympic distance Triathlon mid August and finally a half Ironman early September, Muskoka 70.3.

2014 was the year I labelled myself a ?triathlete?.

Stay tuned till my next blog where I will elaborate on what you should be doing in the off-season, more triathlons odds and ends and continue to share my triathlon journey.

Enjoy the experience!