by Taryn Spates 


My name is Taryn, I have been triathlon-ing for over ten years now, and the following are a few tips and tricks I have learned over the last decade on how to approach and survive training for the swim, bike, and run. Enjoy.


I am an enthusiastic adult onset swimmer — aka. I’m not great, but I love it! Therefore, I keep these tactics in weekly rotation.

  • Imagine faster/stronger swimmers sharing the lane with you. I visualize myself mimicking their stroke and/or beating them.
  • Watch videos of really good swimmers. I am a visual learner, so it is really helpful for me to see what a proper stroke looks like, so I can try to mimic it when I am in the water.
  • Crash pre-teen swim team practices. Watching these young, technical swimmers feels like attending a free clinic. Also, I become more present and focused when I know young eyeballs are watching me. Bonus points if I actually swim a lap or two quicker than any of them.


These are a few typical workouts useful for any distance triathlon, and how I recommend getting through them.

Hill Repeats:

  • When your legs are lighting up with lactic acid from pushing so hard, just pretend you are ten years old again and racing your big brother home for dinner. It’s high stakes: the loser does dishes and winner has bragging rights.
  • Keep telling yourself, “This is the last one!” It isn’t, but it should feel like the last one, because you have to put everything you have into each one.


One-minute high intensity grinders:

  • Fix your eyes on a mark on the wall—a picture frame, whatever is right in front of you—and do not shift your focus. Engage your quads. (I always need to think about this step. I tend to make my calves do most of the work, but when I switch on my quads too, it is like a 4th of July fireworks show gone awry with exploding watts spewing everywhere).
  • Push HARD! It’s only a minute. :)
  • We can do anything hard for 60 seconds. If we push hard or not, we will survive, so push HARD!

Long Ride

4 hours +

  • If you’re fit enough to crank out this distance, congratulations! Relax, smile and enjoy yourself.
  • Make sure to bring plenty of nutrition that you can store inside your kit and on your bike, bring cash for fun and/or emergency pit stops, AND bring a cell phone. DO NOT bring your iPod/music device. (If you do, don’t feel guilty; I only recently stopped riding with music blaring in one ear, but it’s silly to tempt fate with needless distractions. Safety first.)
  • Sing out loud, to yourself, or brainstorm book and business ideas. #dontquituntilyoufinish
  • If you’re riding with friends, chat and get to know each other better.
  • There is no greater feeling than conquering a steep climb during the latter half of a 120+ bike ride with your friends/teammates. #BestHighFiveEver


I grew up in a running family, and it is probably my strength in triathlon, but above all running is my “go-to” stress reliever and simply makes me happy. These are a few of my favorite workouts for triathlon and marathon training, and the nitty-gritty of how I get through them.

Track Intervals

  • Wear racing flats. I’m not sure if I run faster in them, but I feel like I do.
  • Sprinting is also FUN! We rarely get the high sign from our coach to completely hit the gas during seasons steered toward long-distance races, (half-Ironman, Ironman, etc.), so when we do, it feels like being an eight year old again let loose for recess.


  • Aim for five seconds under the prescribed pace you are supposed to hit. Keep it there.
  • Even if that time looked scary on your plan, you can hit it AND hold it if you aim to go even lower.


I have been told by some people that I have an odd connection/obsession with the treadmill. It could be because I have a complete body-and-mind meld once the rubber belts starts moving and I transform into Deena Kastor, Emma Coburn and, recently, Mirinda Carfrae. Odd? Maybe. It’s also really, really fun. I strongly recommend embracing the treadmill if you want to improve your running speed and agility.

  • I DO listen to music on treadmill (I think that is sanctioned); in fact I encourage it. Louder the better. (Don’t hurt yourself, but definitely crank up the volume.)
  • Once the session starts, put every other thought out of your mind and let your legs lead you. They want to be pushed. Let the machine push them. They will respond and carry you faster than you ever imagined was possible.
  • Be creative with workouts. Ask your coach, or create fun/challenging sets yourself to break up the monotony of running in place.
  • Visualize running your next race.
  • I visualized running the L.A. marathon course, the Ironman Arizona marathon course, and the Boston marathon course during every treadmill workout in 2017 and 2018, and PR’d at all three races the next time I ran them. #visualizationworks
  • Bring nutrition and towels.
  • There will be sweat splatter, so be prepared and polite to your neighbors.

Long Runs

  • Oh, the long run…. Is there nothing sweeter than the slow ache of hard-working muscles in motion for hours on end? Anyone? Who else loves that feeling? You will.
  • Simply step outside and GO!
  • And wear sunscreen.

 Taryn Spates is a Kona-qualifying ironwoman and author of 35 By 35: A Runner's Quest . Read more of her blogs here


Hillary Biscay