Aside from spending time in New York City interviewing and apartment searching (read all about it here and here), I also attended a Full Throttle Endurance (FTE) practice, which is a triathlon training club based out of Chelsea Piers.
Before leaving for NYC, I emailed FTE’s Head Coach Scott Berlinger and explained my situation: I’m a new triathlete who’s moving to the city soon and interested in joining the club. Scott invited me to watch his swimming practice Monday morning, but since I would be leaving town Sunday, I ended up tagging along to Coach Danny Viera’s one on Saturday morning. (FTE has two “teams”—a “racing” team for elite age-groupers, which meets five days per week for two-hour practices; and a “level-one” team for triathlon newbies and for those who can’t commit as much time to training [this sounds like it’s for “normal” triathletes], which meets three or four days per week for one-hour practices.)
I arrived at Chelsea Piers at 6:40 a.m. and met Danny. I liked him immediately; he’s young, fit, and very knowledgeable about the sport of triathlon. He struck me as legit right away; I can’t put my finger on it, but after talking with him for a few minutes, I had a feeling he’d be a great coach.
Before practice began at 7 a.m., he led me inside, asked me if this was my first time at Chelsea Piers (it was), and told me to take a look around. Holy cow—the facility blew me away.
There were cardio and strength training machines galore, a full-length indoor track, plus basketball and beach volleyball courts. Clearly, Chelsea Piers has the best facilities in NYC, which is a huge plus for FTE.
After looking around, I headed to the 25-yd. indoor pool.
(Not-so-great iPhone photo. Better pictures posted here.)
As people began to arrive, Danny told me the pool is closed on Saturday morning from 7-8 a.m. for everyone except FTE members. So not only does the club have access to state-of-the-art facilities, but it also holds private practices in them. Very cool.
Ten triathletes attended the practice, and it was nice to see a wide range of people and abilities. One guy was learning how to swim, so he had his own lane, and there were three strong swimmers present too. (Danny told me one woman usually wins her age group when she races.) The lanes were labeled “slow,” “medium,” and “fast,” so triathletes could swim with people of the same speed. Danny told me he places athletes in a speed-appropriate lane based on the workout at hand. Speaking of workout, here’s what was on the FTE docket.
(Note: FTE practices in four-week cycles–three weeks of hard training, and one week of recovering. This is a recovery week swim session.)
I’ve never attended a true swim practice before, so I had no idea what a lot of this terminology meant. Luckily, before each set, Danny explained each drill, demonstrated the proper movement and technique (on the deck), and identified why the drill was important. Throughout the practice, he cycled between lanes and provided personalized feedback, and I really liked how he interacted with each athlete on an individual basis; Danny knew which athletes could handle tough love, which ones he could joke with while relaying feedback, etc. It’s been three years since I’ve been to an organized athletic practice of any kind, and watching the FTE team swim session made me realize how much I’ve missed it. Well, not the playing basketball part, but the having a knowledgeable coach and supportive teammates part.
Another aspect of the practice I really liked was the atmosphere. Let’s be real—seven a.m. weekend workouts aren’t for a lot of people, but the fact that everyone rolled in on time, talked and chatted beforehand, and then got down to work speaks volumes. Honestly, if I had brought my bathing suit and goggles, I would’ve felt 100 percent comfortable hopping in the pool and doing the workout. Everyone seemed truly happy to be there, yet ready to practice and improve. And in terms of my own triathlon training, this is exactly what I need; I’m at the point where I feel relatively confident and have a good amount of base training, but during the off-season, I want to work on technique across the disciplines (among other things), which will help me become a faster, more efficient triathlete. Plus, once I move to the city, it would be nice to instantly have a group of people with similar interests.
One woman had to leave the pool early, and I got to chat with her for a few minutes. She told me she’s been a member of FTE for three years, and she absolutely loves it. She wasn’t athletic growing up, and she never thought she’s do a triathlon. One thing she said really stuck with me: “Joining [FTE] was the best decision I’ve ever made.” Wow. Not that there was any doubt in my mind before, but speaking with her solidified my decision: When I move to NYC in October, I plan to join FTE.