Base triathlon challenges beginners

by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs

5/6/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The Maxwell-Gunter base community has the chance to push their bodies to the limit
during a triathlon June 10.

The competition begins at 7:45 a.m. at the Air Park. There is no cost for registration, which is required by June 8 by calling 953-8241. All participants will receive T-shirts. A free basewide picnic is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. after the race at the Air Park.

The competition is not as strenuous as a standard triathlon, giving beginners a chance to get their feet wet. The event includes a 400-yard swim, 6-mile bike ride and 4-mile run.

"This is the equivalent of about a quarter of standard triathlon distance; it is something that anyone in good physical condition can complete," said Amanda Winters, the 42nd Force Support Squadron special events coordinator. "It's perfect for beginners, for someone that wants to see if they could ever do a triathlon. It'll push them and give them a taste of what a full triathlon takes."

The 42nd FSS has not hosted a triathlon for many years, but Ms. Winters predicts good participation.

"We're hoping for at least 100 participants," she said. The event can accommodate four-person teams. "For team competitors, the triathlon will be fun, challenging (but not overwhelming) and will build teamwork, camaraderie and esprit de corps," she said.

Though a race like this can be competitive, participants can have a great time and improve their health.

"I compete because I really enjoy the lifestyle," said Maj. Jodi Velasco, an instructor in the civil law division at the Air Force Judge Advocate General's School. "The benefits, of course, are a healthier body and mind, but also you gain a type of synergy when you're among other athletes."

Major Velasco has been competing since 1995, including Olympic distances and three Ironman events.

This type of event is ideal for military members.

"This multidisciplinary approach to fitness training is an excellent means to train the body for the multifunctional demands of daily life as well as the physical demands of deployed situations," said Michelle Pittman, the installation exercise physiologist. "The nature of the triathlon sport focuses primarily on persistent and often periodized training in each of the three disciplines as well as combination workouts and general strength conditioning."

Major Velasco has a training program to achieve maximum results and avoid injury. "The best schedule that worked for me was to train in each discipline three times a week," she said. "The length of the training sessions depends on the triathlon I was training for. I also added a 'brick' once every other week, running a short run after my long weekend bike ride."

She also tries to incorporate weight training sessions and makes sure to stretch after each run to stay limber.

Diet can make a difference. Though she's a vegetarian, Major Velasco makes sure to include protein when training for a competition.

"It's important to eat enough when you train, especially for the longer distances," she said.

"I eat pretty healthy when I'm training -- lots of fruit, veggies along with vegetarian protein and carbohydrates."

Ms. Pittman focuses on quantity, mix and timing. "Meeting daily calorie needs is essential to not only providing the energy needed to train and compete but also to spare the breakdown of muscle protein," she said.

Getting a mixture of quality foods, choosing nutrient-dense options, will provide carbs, proteins, fats and fluids.

"Timing is everything when it comes to a peak performance diet," she said. "Consuming foods and fluids at the appropriate time will ensure high energy levels, quicker recovery, and nutrition support for muscle growth, maintenance and repair."

Michelle Pittman, the installation exercise physiologist, offers some training factors to prepare for an athletic competition:

Duration: How long is each discipline in your event? Ensure your training volume allows you to be confident in tackling the full race distance.

Course: Be sure to train on similar terrain and in similar conditions as what you will experience on race day.

Time of day: Train the same time of the day the race will take place.

Intensity: Over the course of your preparation, the objective should be to include short durations of race intensity at the onset with longer durations nearing race distance as you are one to two weeks out from race day.

Specificity: Most athletes train in all three events but rarely combine events together. Be sure to do some biking shortly after swimming and some running after riding.

Transitions: The clock doesn't stop between events. Train transitions as a part of your weekly training objectives.

Equipment: Know the equipment you plan to use on race day and be comfortable with it prior to race day.

Ms. Pittman and the base health and wellness center are available to help people prepare for the triathlon. Call 953-7117 for information.