Apr 232014

Or maybe I should call this post “Tri Talk Part I” since there is bound to be a part II.

You see, every time Fabio and I finish a race, we spend a few weeks piddling around doing random workouts without any real reason before we both ask ourselves the inevitable question…what’s next? I always like knowing what my next fitness adventure is going to be, even if it’s months in advance, because I like my workouts to have a purpose. Without something on the calendar to look forward to and plan for, I wind up feeling a little lost.

I knew that once we finished our Cherry Blossom 10 Miler that this would probably happen to us again, but then two things happened at the same time.

First, Fabio made a new friend at work who is in a  triathlon training team called Team Z. She swears by the team and says joining was one of the best decisions she ever made. She wound up sending us a bunch of emails about upcoming information sessions, and although we considered attending one we were still pretty busy training for the 10 miler so we sort of put it in the back of our minds.

Coincidentally, when we went to pick up our bibs for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, we stopped by the exhibit booth for the Nation’s Triathlon. We talked to the race representatives at the booth for a while and they explained that the Nation’s Triathlon is an Olympic distance tri right here in DC this September. At first when they said Olympic distance I was like oh, no. NO WAY. But then they explained that in an Olympic distance triathlon you swim 0.93 miles (1.5 kilometers), bike 24.8 miles (40 kilometers) and run 6.2 miles (10 kilometers). Well, Fabio and I can run easily 6.2 miles and we have biked 40 miles before without much training at all, so it’s really just the swimming part that needs some work.

Suddenly this triathlon idea didn’t seem so crazy. Fabio and I took home plenty of brochures (and coupons!) and considered things a bit without really doing anything yet.

Then the information sessions for Team Z that we had heard about so many weeks beforehand finally approached. There was an information session on Monday evening right in Arlington, so Fabio and I decided to check it out. Here’s what we learned!

What is Team Z?

Here’s the description straight from the website:

Team Z is an adult triathlon training program in Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and Maryland that offers programs for people of all experience and fitness levels. We are  a supportive community of athletes ranging in age and ability level, unbounded by individual goals, training for Sprint to Ironman distance, finish line chasers to world championship qualifiers. We are a social organization with a major triathlon problem… whether you are a beginner triathlete or an experienced iron distance racer… Team Z welcomes you!

Basically it’s a team that builds training programs and provides coaching for triathlons of all different distances/levels of difficulty. The creator of the team, Ed Zerkle (hence, Team Z) explained how he and the other coaches work with each member to set them up on the right triathlon training rack. He has some team members who have never run a single mile and others who have beat records at Ironmans. There are a ton of different training plans to follow and the coaches help assess your goals and get you on the right path for your experience level.


How does it work?

As a member of Team Z, you will typically have two goal races each year, one in the summer and one in the fall, and you will compete in a bunch of smaller races beforehand to help you get ready. For example, someone competing in an Olympic distance race would probably run a few 5Ks, compete in a couple smaller duathlons, swim in competitions, go for long bike rides on the weekends, etc. before their big goal race.

After members successfully complete their goal race they have three options: they can either repeat the training cycle for that distance, switch to a new (usually longer) distance, or take a break from Team Z altogether. There are no contracts and no forced commitments. Even if someone signed up for one month, didn’t like it, and quit before their goal race, there is no harm done except that they will have wasted one month’s worth of payments. It’s not like a gym membership where you are signed in for a certain number of days; you are free to leave when you want.

Most of the races and bigger events take place on the weekend, but Team Z also schedules plenty of workouts during the week as well (there are more than 60 opportunities to work out each week). Coaches provide each member with a schedule for group workouts both in the mornings and evenings Monday – Thursday. Fridays are always rest days. From this list you pick and choose the workouts that you want to attend. This is great because if you know you have an obligation Wednesday and Thursday evenings, for example, you can work out those mornings instead. There is total flexibility.

You can also do the workouts on your own as you want, but it does seem to be more fun to work out with the group.

What type of workouts are we talking?

Obviously there are a ton of running, biking, and swimming workouts. It’s also not just your standard run 5 miles and you’re done- there are different sprints, intervals, time trials, etc. In one workout Ed described, team members have to denote what they want their pace/time to be, and then run at that speed with no watch or tracker. He makes it a competition to see who can get the closest to their ideal time. Very cool!

The schedules also include strength training and boot camp workouts, as well as plenty of rest/recovery workouts like yoga and a foam roller classes (ouch). Team Z works with professional fitness instructors, clinicians, and even physical therapists to design the training programs to scientifically improve performance and reduce injury.

What’s the time commitment like?

Although Team Z certainly takes a lot of time, it’s one of those get-what-you-put-into-it type of deals. There is no obligation or accountability to attend any of the workouts, events, or races. It is pretty expensive, however, so you pretty much figure if you’re paying for it you should do as much as you can. I would estimate that training for an Olympic distance race (for me) would probably be about 10 hours a week.

Yeah, so how much does it cost?

Team Z is not cheap. It’s $95 a month if you pay as you go, $90 a month if you pay for 6 months at a time, and $85 a month if you pay for a year at a time. There is also an additional $100 swim fee every 3 months for pools, and a $159 annual fee. Oh, and they don’t cover race entry costs.


On the plus side, this is a lot cheaper than hiring professional coaches to work with you one-on-one, which are ridiculously expensive.

And it’s worth that…why?

Ok so the cost is pretty astronomical, but the best part about Team Z in my opinion is the team atmosphere they provide.

At each workout you are seeing the same people over and over, and there are often happy hours or dinners after the workouts. Then on race day you race alongside the people you’ve been training with for months, and everyone cheers each other on.

Team Z sets up huge tents at each event and provides food and refreshments for racers. There are also big screen TVs, activities for kids and families, and a cheer box to provide fun enthusiasm and support.

Custom printed team pop up tent with Tri Team Z Triathlon logo


During the race the entire team is there to cheer one another on, and I think that social atmosphere just sounds so great. I know I always get a huge boost from race spectators who are there to support me, and this just sounds like it would provide so much more than anything like that I’ve experienced in the past. It would also make things more enjoyable for my parents and/or friends who are there to watch me, so that’s another benefit.

Oh yeah, and some of the races take place in cool places in Cozumel, so it’s like a big vacation with a whole bunch of friends.


That certainly doesn’t hurt things.

Aren’t there cheaper alternatives?

Yes. And that’s what I’m doing now- exploring some other (hopefully cheaper) options. If I decide to do a triathlon (and that’s still a big if) this is just one option for training that I’m exploring.

I definitely need some form of training before I can jump in, even if it winds up just being for the swimming leg of the race. I also plan to look at Team in Training, the DC Triathlon Club, and just regular swim coaches. I will let you guys know what I find out about each of those options as well!

Overall Thoughts

I think competing in a triathlon could be a great next step for me. Now that I’ve completed a bunch of longer runs, I think I am ready to try something new. Even way back in January when I wrote my goals for 2014 I mentioned exploring a triathlon or full marathon, and who knows- something like Team Z could lead me to do both!

I’m not sure Fabio is sold on the whole idea yet (I don’t think he wants to dedicate that much time to another race since he is also busy with soccer, volleyball, softball, etc.) so it might be something I do solo or explore with a friend (anyone want to join me?? Megan, I’m looking at you). No matter what I decide, you know I’ll keep you posted!

Question of the day: Would you pay that much for a triathlon training club?

 Posted by on April 23, 2014

  12 Responses to “And the next thing is…a triathlon?”

  1. Chels I was literally just talking to someone about doing a sprint tri! I think it’s definitely someone top of my list for the next thing to do if my shoulder can get cleared to swim!

  2. I didn’t realize there were shorter distances for triathlons! I just assumed it was a half iron man or full type thing. I say go for it!!! I got into the Marine Corps Marathon so I will be dying training for that this summer — at least you’d be cool in the pool!! 😉

    Also — on a completely unrelated note, I’m fairly certain I walked past Fabio wearing a business suit in Rosslyn yesterday afternoon while I was on my way to CVS. I definitely did a double take!!

  3. As I was reading this I was thinking… that would be cool to do.. it was like you were speaking to me!! I’m interested…

    • Hahah perfect!! Well I am still researching and thinking about options but let’s chat next time I see you 🙂 I think the next start group is in mid-May.

  4. Will interestingly follow yours preparation for a thriathlon… I hope you will find that is necessary!

  5. Though I know this is a bit different, joining my running club was the best thing I ever did for my running. The support, the training and the races – it’s just amazing. We have a FB page and we’re always on there asking advice, encouraging or just chatting. It’s much more fun running with a group of people and every week we have a speed session which is really focused training. I absolutely love it. I imagine a tri club would be very similar. You’d pick up loads of hints and tips and the support for events would be great. But $95 a month? Ouch! I pay less than half of that for the year to be a member of my club :-S There must be cheaper options out there with similar benefits?

  6. Nation’s Tri was my first ever Olympic distance tri last year after doing (and loving) two sprints. Tris are SO FUN – I did my first half and the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler this year and they weren’t nearly as fun of an environment/race. I also looked into Team Z and I ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the investment for me. I’m more of an individual/small group type workout girl, and don’t value the team support as much as some others do. I did look into joining DC Tri Club, which I really -need- to do and just haven’t gotten around to yet.

    The most important thing is having access to a pool! Also, look into the open water swims held at National Harbor by Wave One Swimming (http://www.feelthewater.com/) – they are a lifesaver in terms of getting used to that type of swim!

  7. […] itching for something else to train for. I had thought about a sprint tri before, and after seeing one of my best friends chat about this yesterday, it definitely went up to the top of my to-do list. I’m not sure how much swimming my […]

  8. That’s so cool, I’ve never heard of Team Z before! Chris really, REALLY wants to do a triathalon (we’ll probably start with a sprint one, just to get the hang of things), and there is one in Quantico in August that he’s aiming for. But I 100% agree with you – it’s not the biking or running that worries me, it’s the swimming! 1 mile might not seem like a lot, but it feels like FOREVER when you’re in the water!

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