The kids are back to school, the ‘Bama weather is starting to flirt with the 70's, and there are still more races on the calendar. Even though fall can be hectic, it’s actually a lovely time to train for a triathlon. Here are a few tips and training spots to inspire your next race.
1. Plan a race-cation
One of the season’s best destination races—the Alabama Coastal Triathlon —is coming up on September 6 in Gulf Shores. It’s the perfect excuse for one more beach trip with Indian summer weather and thinned-out crowds. If you’re not up for the intermediate distance (1.5K swim, 40K bike, 6-mile run) there’s a great sprint distance race (300-yard swim, 10-mile bike, 2-mile run) that is absolutely doable for most relatively fit folks who didn’t spend the summer training.
2. Join the club
The Vulcan Triathletes are a super friendly triathlon club that welcomes newbies. USAT Coach, Casey Fannin, (an umpteen-time Xterra World Champion age-grouper) has teamed up with Cahaba Cycles to teach TRI 101, a beginner-focused weekly tri training session that meets on Mondays at 5:30 p.m. at the Oak Mountain State Park beach parking lot. ([Email Casey](firstname.lastname@example.org) for more info). The club also holds a Tuesday night group ride that starts at the BB&T bank parking lot adjacent to the Mountain Brook YMCA. The wheels roll at 5:30 p.m. sharp, so don’t be late! See their calendar for other events, like new member socials.
3. Train with company
There are plenty of great spots to run in town, from the flat, paved Lakeshore Trail to the challenging 4-Village Loop , both of which are popular spots for group runs. And most runners in town know about the well-attended Trak Shak Run every Wednesday at 5:25 p.m. To that popular group run, the Vulcan Triathletes have added the Wednesday Night Brick, which is a swim and run, and local tri coach Tracy McKay teaches a 7 p.m. indoor cycling class at Sweat & Gears , an awesome cycling studio two blocks away. S&G is a great spot to train when it’s rainy or too muggy for an outdoor ride—with Schwinn bikes equipped with power meters that show each rider’s wattage on a big screen TV.
4. Discover dirt
If your knees start complaining about pounding the pavement, or your road-riding routes become so familiar you’re falling asleep at the aero-bars, consider taking your training off-road. Overcome fears of sprained ankles on the Lake Trail at Oak Mountain State Park (where you can also do an open-water swim, a road ride, or a mountain-bike ride). It is wide, flat, and gently rolling, with few roots and rocks to trip you up. For something a little more challenging, the Tuesday night trail runs at Red Mountain Park play out on more technical trails where you must watch your step.
5. Refuel promptly
One of the best parts about training is refueling afterwards! There’s no shortage of great spots with healthy options close to our favorite training spots. Near Oak Mountain, Baja Burger has healthier burger options (salmon and veggie burgers), sweet-potato fries, and salads (try the Greek salad topped with a lamb patty). In Homewood, after the Trak Shak run, or the Lakeshore Trail, Little Donkey is a fresh-Mex place where everything is made from scratch daily (including the chips). Try the fresh guac (healthy fats!), the Picado salad with radishes, pepitos, and barbecue chicken, or the Elote—street-vendor-style corn on the cob, rolled in queso fresco and chile powder. They also have great craft cocktails and fresh margaritas.