You have a job. You have a family. You signed up for a triathlon. You want to get a great time and still balance other important parts of your life. How do you manage it all?
There's no better way to find out than by talking to those who have. We found six age groupers who have not only balanced the demands of life and the sport, but have succeeded at them all.
What's the common thread? The Toughman Triathlon in Westchester, New York, offers the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run while recognizing the time constraints of everyday life. Many finishers of the Toughman have plenty of advice to pass on to newcomers.
"Our race is intentionally designed for age-groupers," said Richard Izzo, event organizer. "We attract time-pressed athletes looking for a half triathlon their whole family can enjoy."
What did they have to say? We spoke to them and walked away with 10 tips for success this year:
- Get a Plan: Ann Williams, age 46, family physician and faculty member at Columbia, placed second at last year's Toughman in her age group. She tells everyone to find a plan. "If you can't afford a coach, find a program and stick to it. Don't just wing it." Ann fell into the sport as an injured runner looking for exercise. Today she says, "Anything you do well at is a lot of fun."
- Train Consistently: "Train an hour and fifteen minutes on some sport every day," advises Michael Begg, former Penn football player and current account manager at Presidio Network Solutions. Michael, 42, lost over 60 pounds training for the event last year. "Results are measurable." Begg, from Trumbull, Conn., likes the sense of empowerment he gets from the races. "It's something the whole family can enjoy."
- Know the Course: Christine Dunnery, age 42 from New City, New York, holds the race record. "Preview the course. In the case of Toughman, preview the bike course, if even by car." Christine, age 42, is a seventh grade English teacher and track coach when she's not raising the bar for the rest of her competitors. She likes triathlons because she like pushing her limits and "leading a healthy lifestyle."
- Eat Right Before the Race: Williams willingly offers a good prescription for food. "Prerace nutrition starts at least a week before the race...eat what you normally eat when you train. Find a routine and stick with it."
- Get Plenty of Rest: Mimi Boyle, age 38 from Greenwich, Connecticut, placed second overall this year at the Toughman. "Don't underestimate the amount of sleep you need." Mimi is an account director for a package design company. Mimi stays passionate about the sport because, "I want to always try to go faster...I honestly feel better, eat better when I train for a race."
- Pack Everything the Night Before: Begg advises people the night before to, "Pack all your essentials. I have one big bag, and three smaller bags...[ones for] swim, bike, and run."
- Visualize Success: Mimi Boyle encourages other athletes to prepare mentally as well as physically for the race. "Do a little bit of visualization. Imagine a relaxing swim. Visualize yourself executing a perfect race."
- Pace Yourself: Don Henry, age 45 from Pound Ridge, New York, says it is critical to, "Pace yourself. The swim is always the swim. Understand the hardest section of the course and don't blow up. At Toughman, the first 25 miles of the bike are the toughest and the ones to do carefully." Don is a financial adviser in Westchester County. He used to play golf and weighed 20 pounds more than today. Why does he love the sport? "Being part of the community and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow triathletes," he said.
- Don't Panic: Scott Harrison, age 56 from Darien, Connecticut, took second place in his age group at the event last year. The general contractor for a commercial/industrial construction firm tells fellow athletes, "Don't panic. The swim is daunting for first timers." Scott used the sport to beat addiction. Today, triathlon is his lifestyle. "I travel with friends to events. This is what we do."
- Don't Let One Problem Ruin the Day: Christine Dunnery wants everyone to expect that something will go wrong. "Don't get caught up on a single thing that happens during an event -- like a flat tire." Get off the road, fix it, and know that you will finish the race.