LAKONIA – It’s funny how things learned years ago can come back when they least expect it. That’s one of the things that shocked Antonio Coates, one of the two members of the Daily Sun’s Timberman Rookies – their first triathlon training for the local IRONMAN 70.3 race in September.
Coates knows how to run and ride a bike, but he has started to learn proper swimming form, using the 1.2 miles as the first leg of the race.
“The technical learning of all this is insane,” Coates said. Every movement of the body needs to be considered in order to move effectively in the water. Triathlon coach Colin Cook works with Peak Triathlon Coaching to help him learn when and how to breathe so that changes in buoyancy don’t affect his condition.
“It’s like being in a submarine, when you’re in the air, you float,” Coates said, linking the lesson to his days in the U.S. Navy.
For another rookie, Melissa Aupperle, learning to stay calm is the first step in maintaining a consistent swimming style. Cook taught her to hum when her face was submerged in water to keep water from getting into her mouth, which gave her a sense of panic.
Aupperle encountered another challenge in measuring how hard she was trying. It doesn’t matter how fast she swims, bikes or runs, really, what matters is how long she can hold on. She says her mantra is “slow, slow, especially when running.”
Aupperle and Coates represent the inaugural Laconia Daily Sun Rookie Class. This is the first year the paper has partnered with IRONMAN and several other local businesses to give two Lake District residents a chance to be put to the test. If MC Cycle gave them access to bikes, if Fit Focus and The Wellness Complex gave them gym and pool memberships, if Bootlegger’s gave them shoes, and if IRONMAN paid for registration, would two ordinary people make it through? The finish line of a 70.3-mile tri-sport race?
Cook, who represents another business partnered with the Rookie program, sees Coates and Opperler as having a good chance of success.
“I’ve been very impressed with our rookies so far. They all have a strong mentality that will help them tremendously through their workouts,” said Cook, whose coaching company helps clients near and far, from beginners to elite triathlons athletes. Opperer and Coates both have some grounding in technique and overall fitness, but said he has seen progress and he’s “very confident” they’ll go further.
One of the reasons Cook has this view is the way Coates and Opperler think about their potential. He said the biggest mistake people make when thinking about competing in a triathlon is to exclude themselves before they start trying.
“A lot of people say to themselves, ‘I can never do it,’ when they hear about someone competing in a triathlon, or they say, ‘I’d love to do it, but I’ll never swim.’ While there’s no doubt about it, Triathlons are hard and take a lot of effort, but I strongly disapprove of most people with that mindset. They let their minds limit them,” Cook said, which is why pursuits such as this are pursued. One added that the IRONMAN triathlon can be life-changing. “They find themselves capable of far beyond what they imagined before training. That could end up going far beyond physical ability and achievement.”
There’s a lot of gear to consider for new triathletes, and one of Cook’s highly recommended additions to the list is a multisport watch, which can help track and measure workouts. It’s important to train at the proper level to improve performance, but not so much as to lead to injury, he said. They can also be used to share data with coaches, or get support on social media.
Cook asked a lot of questions as part of a regular intake plan for new athletes. Some of them are expected, such as exercise history or current training, but some are surprising. Cook wanted to know how they felt at home and how often they participated in activities such as massages.
“Life should never be just a triathlon,” Cook said. As a coach, he wants to see “the full picture of the athlete,” including sources of stress, whether from overtraining, from family or work. He also wants to know how committed his athletes are to recovery and training.
It’s easy to be intimidated by a triathlon, whether it’s swimming, the training required, or the total distance. But, he says, a triathlon is just one big thing that can be broken down into many different parts. Learn a proper technique, practice that technique, create a nutrition and training plan, and follow that plan.
“It’s very important to remember that you are training for a triathlon every day. The vast majority of training sessions in preparation for a competition will be shorter, and it is the accumulation of these sessions that builds the physical triathlon required to accomplish your goals, ” Cook said. “So it’s essential to remember to take it once a day throughout your training.”