>Cross Training>Sprint Triathlon
Whats the best way to train for a sprint distance triathlon?
I don't know, but I'd guess train for all three sprint events, and focus the most on your weakest.
It's a 5k. It hurt like hell...then I tried to pick it up. The end.
For a runner coming to triathlons, my tri friends say:
1. Biking/running is by far the longest part of the event. They said to focus on swim technique over swim times -- you won't suddenly become the fastest one in the water, but a reachable goal should be to not lose time unnecessarily in the water.
2. Get properly fitted for a triathlon biking position (slightly different from road cycling, as a good tri bike shop will know) and learn to ride by feel, just as you find race paces by feel when you run.
3. Other than that, just touch all three in training and have fun!
"I want you to pray as if everything depends on it, but I want you to prepare yourself as if everything depends on you."
-- Dick LeBeau
I would check the internet and see if there is a tri club in your area and join them. They will set you up with a mentor and a training plan if they are a good club. My experience is focus on Bike and Run. Use the winter months to focus on swimming. Swimming is all about technique, so if you are not a strong swimmer then get a coach that can correct your form. You can lose 2 to 4 minutes on a sprint swim and if you are a runner you know how hard it is to make up 2 minutes. The good thing about swimming though is if you are in shape from running and biking then with good technique you are in shape for swimming too. I generally do about 250 miles a month on the bike, 75 Miles a month running, and 2 to 3 miles of swimming.
I think that the best advice is to focus on the swim technique and endurance (if you don't have a swimming background). Swim technique and efficiency is hard, and you can't get it all in a couple of months. What you can gain during the couple of months of training is the endurance to swim non-stop for 300 - 1000 yards.
Second to swimming, I'd focus on the bike, and put in a few 20 - 25 mile bike rides at an uncomfortably fast pace. While on the rides, focus on an aerodynamic body position (drops as opposed to hoods if you have a road bike), and a consistent cadence in a higher gear. I didn't mention speed, as that's dependent on the type of bike, your experience, etc.. Typically, I like to ride by myself (rather than a group) so that you get the feeling of independent riding and pacing.
The run (5k) will be much different than any other run you've done before. The bike to run transition makes the run very challenging. If you typically run an 8 min mile and you typically know how an 8 min mile feels, then you'll be very surprised when you get off of your bike. You'll likely have no idea whether you're running a 9:30 mile or a 7:00 mile (as your legs will feel different). Therefore, focus less on running, unless you're preparing for that running scenario (put in a run after you do one of your aggressive bike rides). If you have a GPS watch, it's very helpful for the first part of the run (if not, don't worry about it).
Don't worry about the transition yet. That needs to be thought of in the 24 hours prior to the race, but not now.
It is the best sport around, and I wish I participated in it when I was young.
#1: Do what I can do. <not doing well>
#2: 1/2 Ironman (New Orleans, LAI) <DONE>
Woo! A topic I feel comfortable replying on!
I started running training primarily for triathlon training, and it's still the primary reason I run/train.
If your event is months away, start by doing a couple of separate workouts a week that focus on each event individuals. As the event gets closer, that's when you start putting them altogether. When I started out, I worked out 5-6 days a week, with roughly 2 days a week dedicated to each individual event (I found that I could train 3 times a week on swimming and running by putting the swim in the morning and running in the evening, which made it a little easier to fit enough workouts into the week).
For swim, definitely focus on swim technique. You'll waste a lot of energy trying to power your way through the water, and end up tiring yourself out. The trick to the swimming is to move efficiently through the water, which is almost exclusively form. Try to videotape yourself swimming to figure out where you're floundering. Don't think about speed at all, since that's an easy way to learn bad habits. Also, I found that it was helpful to incorporate strength training days into my workouts early on, to help build the upper body strength/endurance that can be useful in the swim segment, so that's something to think about if you're early in the training period.
For the biking, just focus on pacing so you don't tire yourself out; you need to save your leg endurance for the run but the temptation is to go all out in your bike particularly if you're like me and are weakest in the swim, so mentally you fall into believing that you can make up the loss in the bike segment. Also, don't be like me; Get yourself a proper bike. I did my first tri on a mountain bike -- if this is a sport you think you'll get into, invest in a road bike. Also, learn how to repair a flat before your race and make sure to have a repair kit handy on your bike, just in case.
For the running, it's deceptive how difficult that 5K will be. In the couple of weeks leading up to the event, make sure you're mostly doing brick workouts -- workouts that contain two of the three events, in the order that you'll do them in (i.e., do a swim/bike, or a bike/run), incremently increasing distance towards the sprint distance. This will help familiarize you to that "mushy legs" feeling that you get immediately after getting off the bike, that can really throw you off and make the run feel all weird and awkward.
On the week prior to the event, practice a true transition during your bricks. Layout your clothes and gear as you would in your transition area and time the transition from swimming to biking, or biking to the run. Get to the point where the transition is muscle memory; day of, you'll be so distracted by what's going on around you that you don't want to be fumbling around looking for where you tucked your left sock. Also, I've heard stories of people who got so distracted they forgot to put their helmets on in the swim/bike transitition -- and got themselves disqualified.
Other than that, just get out there and have fun!