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Shannon Bryan

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Posted: January 21, 2015

You CAN run/swim/bike: Maine training groups to get you across the finish line

Written by: Shannon Bryan

On the road during the Trek Across Maine, Shannon Bryan photo; crossing the finish line at the Beach to Beacon, Press Herald file photo, entering the water during the Tri for a Cure, Press Herald file photo

You know that race you’ve always wanted to do (you know, the one you say you’re going to sign up for every year, but somehow always – ahem – forget)? Maybe you’ve fantasized about running the TD Beach to Beacon 10K or riding the Trek Across Maine. Maybe you’ve been in the cheering crowd during the Tri for a Cure and thought, “I want to do that.”

Maybe you were dead serious when you first thought it, but then a pesky little thing got in the way: Self-doubt. And then you talked yourself out of the idea.

Well I’m here to tell you, this is your year. Self-doubt be damned.

And all those excuses (you’re not a runner, open water is scary, you’re totally out of shape and/or you’re not fast enough/strong enough/good enough) are nonsense. You can run. You can swim. You can ride. And here are the two steps to turn that race fantasy into a remarkable accomplishment:

Step 1: Sign up. Take that first step and register for that run, ride, swim or sprint tri. Let the world know you mean business.
Step 2: Join a training group. It’ll make all the difference.

And because we’d really like to be in the crowd cheering you on this summer, we’ve rounded up some great training groups that will help you get where you want to go: The finish line.

You got this.

6.2 miles of pure bliss. Or something. Run or walk, you can do it. Press Herald file photos

6.2 miles of pure bliss. Or something. Run or walk, you can do it. Press Herald file photos

Run the TD Beach to Beacon 10K

Race date: Aug. 1
Race registration: March 12 for Cape Elizabeth residents or March 13 for general public. This race fills up in minutes, so be ready.
A few alternative 10Ks: Trail to Ale 10K (typically in Sept.), Maine Lobster Festival 10K (Aug. 2). And look for the Power of She all-women’s 10K coming to Portland in the fall.

Not all of us are meant to be elite runners. That’s okay. That doesn’t mean you can’t run the Beach to Beacon – or even run/walk it, if that’s what it takes. Fleet Feet’s Reach the Beacon and Couch to 5K programs can help. The Reach the Beacon program is geared toward runners who have a 5K under their belt but are looking to run a 10K or improve their time. Those brand new runners can start with the Couch to 5K program. “The Couch to 5K program really caters to beginner runners. It’s also inclusive of walkers,” said Doug Welling, co-founder of The Sustainable Athlete and one of the Fleet Feet running coaches. You’ll also get more running education: “We do video analysis of run gait and then there’s talks on various subjects, including nutrition, proper attire and injury reduction.” The coaches also help runners improve speed, stamina and core strength.

Participants break into groups based on their running level, so everyone can feel comfortable training with runners (or run/walkers) at the same pace. And for what it’s worth, I’ve trained with this group before. I signed up even though I was pretty sure that running and I would never really get along. (No joke: I’m the girl who asked to play goalie on her fledgling soccer team in high school because, “I can’t run.”) Yet in a few short months I went from “I’m no runner” to crossing the Beach to Beacon finish line drenched in sweat and dripping with runner’s pride. Sure, I walked some of it, but who cares?

And, you may or may not have heard, the Beach to Beacon is very popular. So popular, in fact, that registration fills up in minutes. But if you register for Fleet Feet’s Reach the Beacon program, a bib is included, so no panicking over the computer on March 13.

Reach the Beacon training

Through Fleet Feet, Portland. Group meets on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. starting May 13.
Program registration opens: Around late April, possibly sooner (look for it on
Cost: $200, which includes a bib number for the first 60 registrants.
FMI or to register:

NOT QUITE READY for a 10K? How about a 5K!?
Take your pick from the many, many, many 5Ks around the state. If you’re looking for training and a 5K goal, check out the No Boundaries program offered by Fleet Feet Maine Running in Portland. The program is specifically geared toward novice runners or runner looking to improve their performance. The next program starts on March 2 and will train runners for the Mother’s Day 5K, which takes place on May 10.

Couch to 5K: Mother’s Day 5K

Meets on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. starting March 11
Program registration opens: Any day now
Cost: $150
FMI or to register:

The course is splendid and scenic...when it isn't raining. But all those bikes don't lie: This is one popular race for a reason. Shannon Bryan photos

The course is splendid and scenic…when it isn’t raining. But all those bikes don’t lie: This is one popular race for a reason. Shannon Bryan photos

Ride the Trek Across Maine

Race date: June 19-21
Race registration: It’s open now
The race is organized by and benefits the American Lung Associate of the Northeast
FMI or to register:
A few alternative rides: A three-day ride is a big commitment, but there are a bunch of excellent one-day rides, too. Try the Maine Women’s Ride (June 7), Maine Lobster Ride (July 19), Maine Lighthouse Ride (Sept. 12)

Three days and 180 miles. The Trek Across Maine is a pretty incredible ride. And I can attest to the fact that there are riders of all ages and abilities out there. Some speed through on expensive road bikes, some pedal away on hand-me-downs, mountain bikes, recumbent bikes or tandems. But they’re all out there doin’ it. And there’s a reason so many participants return year after year (hint: it’s because, despite frigid rains or ruthless heat, strong winds or aching quads, it’s an experience you’ll remember fondly, mostly thanks to the comradely Trek atmosphere, tent village, stunning scenery and all that food).

To help you prepare, dozens of YMCAs around the state offer indoor Trek Across Maine training programs, which are open to the public (although Y members get a discounted rate).

“We partnered this year with the American Lung Association to help anyone who’s interested get ready for the event, “ said Debbie Reed, wellness coordinator at Southern Maine YMCA’s Portland branch. Even better, they’re aiming to make the training as realistic as possible. These aren’t simply indoor cycling classes, they’re something more. “We try and mimic all the conditions that the riders will experience,” said Reed.

That includes cranking the heat one day, blasting the air conditioner another. Reed said they’ll even have heavy-duty fans and people with spray bottles squirting riders as though it were raining. Even the workouts are set up to mirror the Trek course and all its hills, valleys and flats – and the snack breaks.

“There’s camaraderie knowing each person is training for the race, but they’re all training at their own level,” said Reed. Of course, she admits, it’s impossible for them to really mimic what the actual ride will be like, but it sure is fun trying. And it’s still a great way to train and prepare during the winter and early spring.

“It’s about having fun, getting everybody’s bottoms used to being in the saddle,” said Reed. “So when you do pull your bike out in the spring you can say, ‘I’m so glad I invested seven weeks at the Y and met all these great people.’”

The training sessions are open to new and experienced riders – the bikes are adjustable based on the level of resistance you’re looking for. And at the end of the session, participants will be treated to finish-line applause, jerseys, bike bags and a solid dose of cycling confidence. “Hopefully they’ll say, ‘Oh geez, I’m not going to back out now. I’m going to do this.’”

Trek Across Maine indoor training

Training is offered at YMCAs around the state. Check the website of your local YMCA or check the Trek Across Maine website
In Portland, training is offered in seven-week sessions, the next of which starts on March 2. Classes are on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Cost: $90 for Y members, $180 for non-members.

The run and swim legs of the Tri for a Cure, Press Herald file photos. The sheJAMs training group gathered before the race. Courtesy photo

The run and swim legs of the Tri for a Cure, Press Herald file photos. The sheJAMs training group gathered before the race. Courtesy photo

Complete the Tri for a Cure

Race date: July 26
Race registration: Open now (closes Feb. 2). Due to the popularity of this event, registration is done by lottery. The tri benefits the Maine Cancer Foundation
FMI or to register:
A few alternative triathlons: Challenge Maine (Aug. 30), Polar Bear Tri (May 2), Try for the Y (May 17), Sebago Lake Sprint Tri (June 14), Pumpkinman (Sept. 12)

If you’ve stood in the crowd near Spring Point Light or cheered on Tri for a Cure participants from elsewhere on the course, you know what I’m talking about. This all-women’s race is a marvel to watch. It’s also a marvel to be in. I’m not sure any other Maine race gets this quite this level of crowd support. It’s incredible, really, to see families cheering on a mom who’s never done anything like this before, or to watch friends cross the finish line together, exhausted and overjoyed. This isn’t just a sprint triathlon – it’s an event that confirms that fact that we’ve all got an athlete inside us, even if that athlete walks the 5K or doggie-paddles the swim. They’re still killin’ it out there.

Of course, training for a .3-mile swim, a 15-mile bike ride and a 3-mile run simultaneously is mildly daunting, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. But there’s plenty of guidance and support to be had with the sheJAMs training group. The group is open to women athletes of all abilities – from the self-proclaimed non-athletes to experienced runners, swimmers and cyclists. Each leg of the training is led by a specific coach and includes guidance on form, equipment and nutrition (you’ll also learn how to change a bike tire, pull off a hard-to-remove wetsuit and the best ways to prevent chaffing).

When I joined this group a handful of years ago, I could barely swim and had little road experience on a bicycle. A few months later and guess what? I nailed the swim and the bike during the Tri for a Cure. I didn’t break any speed records, but I did make history in the narrative of my own life. And I’d venture to say that’s true for a lot of sheJAMs athletes.

“Our niche is helping the female athletes,” said Coreen Lauren, running coach for sheJAMs. “They don’t perceive themselves as athletes, but we help them find that inner ability.” As for those who profess to not be able to run, swim or ride? “We have 200 members ongoing,” said Lauren. “Of those, at least 90 percent said that exact same thing (at first).” For women who are interested but hesitant to join, sheJAMS has some no-pressure options: “We put them in contact with another member or invite them to come and watch or participate without obligation to see what it’s really like.”

And while the coaches provide a comprehensive level of training, it’s the collective group that provides the real support and encouragement. “It’s not just about having fabulous coaches,” joked Lauren. “It’s the team. “Team camaraderie is really what keeps us going.” The sheJAMs social events don’t hurt either.

Train with sheJAMs

While many sheJAMs members do train specifically for the Tri for a Cure, many join for other reasons (other races or they simply like working out with a group). sheJAMs is open to all women, whatever the goal. There are training programs for swimming, running and cycling, which can be taken together or on their own.
The 12-week triathlon training program starts April 26.
Cost: $250. Training registration is open now.
FMI or to register:

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