Training in a New City

Moving to a new city is a challenge no matter what: which grocery store should I go to? Where is the nearest gas station? Best Thai take-out place? Nearest Target? But when you’re three months out from the biggest athletic endeavor of your life, you have  a whole new set of questions: Where will I swim? What are the best running areas? What are some good cycling routes/which roads should I avoid so I don’t get hit by a car? Where will I buy my next pair of running shoes, my nutrition, and any other triathlon supplies I might need? What events/races should I do? And most of these questions need to be answered immediately so you don’t miss too much training.

After a month here, I think I’ve done pretty well, so I figured I’d share a bit of advice in case anyone else finds themselves in a similar situation.

1. Do a little internet searching. Of course. I searched for “Madison triathlon store,” checked out the websites I found, and then started following Endurance House Madison on facebook and twitter. Same with Fleet Feet (running store) and Berkeley Running Company. Stores will post events – free or otherwise – that you might want to check out. Just this week, the Madison Fleet Feet store posted about an “unofficial half marathon” at a park nearby that I had only partly explored. Eric and I decided that a somewhat organized 13.1 miles would be a great way to spend part of my 2.5 hour long and a chance for him to see how 13 miles felt on his recovering-from-injury legs. We went this morning and really enjoyed it! I ran over to the park to get some extra miles in, while Eric drove. 50-some people showed up to run a few loops (you had to run 4 plus a bit extra to get to 13.1) around the park just because that’s something runners do.

As for cycling, my preferred way to ride 100 miles is to have someone else map out 100 miles and provide water refills every 15 miles, so I found the website http://www.bikeacentury.com/ that lists century rides in every state. Sadly I had to Google Map every single ride because I have absolutely no knowledge of Wisconsin geography. I’ll do at least two rides from this list, maybe three.

2. Talk to staff at tri/running stores. The very first thing I did when I came up to Madison was go to the triathlon store with two goals in mind: find out where exactly the store was located and ask the employees where to swim/bike/run. (Seriously the first thing. I had not even seen my new apartment yet and could not give the employee an idea of where I lived besides my precise address.) Obviously store employees love the sport (and talking about it) or they wouldn’t be working there. We chatted with the guy at Endurance House for probably 20 minutes to get some ideas for where to train. Eric has lived up here for 6 months now, but either Madison was covered in snow or Eric was injured for most of that time, so he’s just figuring things out too. Added bonus of going to the physical stores: they have brochures or postcards for upcoming local events – I grabbed a bunch.

3. Talk to co-workers. Luckily I was able to find a few runners at my new job, so I asked them about their favorite running spots and can’t-miss races. I now have a few races on my radar for late fall or next spring.

4. Get out there! The single most important piece of advice is that you have to just go. If you see an event you think might be fun, go even if you don’t have anyone to go with you. I was lucky today that Eric was interested in doing the group run thing. But he’s not training for ironman right now, so he isn’t going to register for any century rides or open water swims any time soon. A few weeks ago I drove about a hour down to Janesville to ride a century there. Later this summer I’ll drive out to Dodgeville for a 200k ride there. I always find at least one person to ride with, and I don’t mind spending some time on my own either.

So far I’m loving training here. The gym/pool situation is working out well. The scenery is beautiful. And there are always other people out running and biking. Plus, what better way to get your bearings in a new city than exploring by bike and foot?

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Good luck to any folks living in a new place – I hope these bits of advice can provide some inspiration to find new places and people to train with!

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