I live in New England. More specifically, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, a little spit of land that sticks out into the ocean. It’s a lovely spot to live; you have the bay on one side and the ocean on the other. But, if you are a triathlete training for an early or late season race then you start to question your life choices every time you head out for a ride or a run (and don’t even get me started on open water swimming). Here on the Cape, our calendar goes: January, February, March, March, March, March… You get it.
In fact, as I write this, it’s early May and we have yet to see temps get above 60. Most days, we are still in the low 50s and our ponds are mid 50s. And the wind…oh, the wind. There’s a reason why they want to build a massive wind farm in Nantucket Sound.
However, even though early season training can be like suiting up for battle, and even though I have ALL the indoor equipment, I will always choose to train outside whenever possible. I’m here to tell you that you should be doing the same.
Getting Out Into The Elements
You need to be in the elements, no matter how awful they are. We never know what we are going to get on race day but if you have trained in wind, rain, cold, and heat, you can go into race day with a bit more confidence, knowing you have done it before.
This doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Last week, I spent the first ten minutes of my 3.5 hour ride crying to my husband because the wind was 20 mph with 40 mph gusts and it was freezing. I couldn’t decide whether I should put my tri bike back on the trainer or suck it up and practice riding in the wind.
Now, I should point out that I am two weeks from a 70.3, so it makes sense for me to try to stay out there and work on my bike handling and mental toughness (which of course includes crying).
But when you ride or run in the wind, you get a sense of how much energy you expend in a headwind or how much harder it is to stay on top of your hydration and nutrition. All things that are super important to know when you are racing.
I remember one open water swim where there were small whitecaps on the pond. I could have skipped the swim that day, or headed to the pool, but I knew that I needed to learn how to swim in choppy conditions, especially because the swim is my weakest discipline.
If training for a triathlon were easy, everyone would be doing it, right?
Questions To Ask Yourself About Training Outside
There are always three questions you should ask yourself if you are not sure if you should choose outside for success on race day:
- Is it safe to train outside?
- Will this prepare you for race day?
- Does this workout have to be done inside (perhaps on your bike trainer)?
If the answers are YES, YES, NO, then you should probably choose outside.
There are some people who can train inside 90% of the time and then go out and crush race day. I am not one of those people, nor do I think most people are.
We triathletes live by the motto “Nothing new on race day.” And that applies to getting as much experience outside as possible, so you can handle anything that comes at you on race day.
Now if you will excuse me, I am heading out for a rainy run!