On Saturday the Fitness Formula Club (FFC) held its third indoor triathlon of the 18th Annual FFC Indoor Triathlon Series at its Gold Coast location.
The series, which began in January with a duathlon at the FFC South Loop and concludes in April at FFC Lincoln Park with three triathlon options (USATri60, Sprint and Olympic distance races), includes nine races of various formats at eight different FFC locations throughout Chicagoland. New for 2017 is the USATri60 format, which involves a 10-minute swim, 30-minute bike and 20-minute run with 10 minutes to transition between swim and bike and five minutes between bike and run. Rank is determined by the total accumulation of distance over the three disciplines in 60 minutes. Seven of the nine races in the series feature this format, along with USATri60 swag, including a t-shirt, TYR goggles, USAT drawstring bag and swim cap.
Although I am no stranger to the sport of triathlon, this was my first time competing in an indoor triathlon. There were four waves consisting of four to eight athletes. Upon arrival I was greeted by friendly volunteers, filled out some paperwork and flashed my USAT membership card and ID and was directed to the locker rooms and pool. Not really knowing how to set up the indoor spin bikes used for the second leg of the race, I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time in transition to figure it out, so I strategically chose my locker near the exit closest to the pool and set my gear up inside the locker as if I was setting up my transition area at an outdoor triathlon -socks mostly turned inside out so they’d roll on quickly; tri kit unzipped and folded down to the waist; iPod and water bottle on the right and bike and run shoes stacked for a quick grab on the way out to the spin bikes.
Satisfied with my transition set-up, I dressed in my speed suit, (yay – an opportunity to wear it besides the rare non-wetsuit legal race), grabbed my goggles, swim cap, water bottle and headed off to the pool to check-in for lane assignments and catch the last few minutes of the second wave. While waiting, I observed athletes in the water of all skill levels and could clearly see that the indoor triathlon was a great gateway to the sport for athletes who are a little apprehensive about the sport, especially the swim portion. The pool was less than four feet deep throughout and athletes were advised before the start that they could get from one end of the pool to the other by any means necessary—any swim stroke, or even walking in the water!
There was a little time between waves so I had a chance to hop in the pool and swim a couple warm-up laps before the whistle sounded and my wave began. Each lane had a volunteer counting lengths for each athlete and recording the total at the conclusion of ten minutes. Before I knew it, I was exiting the pool and rushing off to get ready for the bike portion.
Arriving at the bike location I realized that I had more than enough time to select a bike, adjust it to fit my build, drink some water and let my heart rate drop before beginning an intensely sweaty 30-minute ride. Athletes had control over the tension on the spin bike and the power generated determined mileage covered. Prior to the start of the bike portion a volunteer advised us that generally people were most successful setting the tension between 10 and 14. I took that into consideration, but primarily focused on keeping my power at or slightly above my FTP (functional threshold power) and cadence between 90 and 100 to maximize ground covered, while still somewhat preserving my legs for the run. I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t do a very good job fitting the bike for myself, so by the end of 30 minutes I had a much greater appreciation for my own bike!
Thirty minutes passed quickly and I changed into my running shoes and walked about twenty feet over to the treadmills and waited for the final leg of the indoor triathlon to begin. As a rule, I avoid the treadmill at all costs, but during the indoor triathlon I actually didn’t mind “running nowhere.” I started off fairly conservatively for fear that my “bike legs” would send me flying off the back of the treadmill, but was quickly able to ramp up the speed. I was thrilled to discover that, unlike outdoor triathlons, athletes were allowed to use iPods during the race.
At the conclusion of my 20-minute run I was immediately presented with a finisher medal and my distance was recorded. There was a nice selection of post-race snacks, (Muscle Milk, bananas, energy bars, water, etc.), so I took a few minutes to stretch, rehydrate and chat with other athletes before heading to the locker room for a post-race shower. (Another perk of indoor triathlons—an opportunity to shower after the race!) By the time I finished showering, preliminary race results were posted at the registration table so I was able to check that out before heading home.
The FFC Indoor Triathlons are a fantastic experience for both first-time triathletes and veterans alike; it can be as intense or as laid-back as you like. I was surprised to find myself feeling much more relaxed in transition than at an outdoor triathlon and was able to enter the bike and run portions with a near-resting heart rate. That said, I discovered that if you really wanted to compete at an indoor triathlon there is some strategy involved with how you approach the intensity of each discipline in the race and you need to have a good grasp of your limits of exertion. Armed with that knowledge, I am looking forward to seeing how far I can go in one of the upcoming races in the 18th Annual FFC Indoor Triathlon Series.
Top Finisher Results:
- Charles Bickers, 15.82 miles
- James Lenger, 15.73 miles
- Greg Hickey, 15.21 miles
- Catherine Demet, 14.15 miles
- Kristan Huenink, 12.95 miles
- Joy Miles, 12.15 miles