Commuting your way to a faster Ironman

This post is brought to you by professional triathlete and Team TriSports member Thomas Gerlach.

One of the reasons that I choose to partner with TriSports is their unique desire for sustainability.  In case you haven’t visited the TriSports retail store/distribution warehouse in Tucson, they have a number of sustainability initiatives including, but not limited to: water harvesting, solar harvesting, and a first-rate bike commuter program for their employees. Just the bike commuter program alone has me in awe and is something I wish all companies took seriously. Imagine a world where everyone biked to work. That is my dream, but this post is about commuting your way to a faster Ironman, so I’ll save my dreams for another day.

As a professional triathlete, I have learned to get the majority of my easy, base miles (ie. building endurance) through simple commuting by bike. At different times of the year the percentage will fluctuate from anywhere from 35% of miles to 100% of my total bike miles, and the activities for me can be endless. Although I work out of my home, I do my grocery shopping by bike; bike to and from the pool, gym, and track practice; and even show up for my weekly massage/scrape session by bike. Although the miles and sessions may seem small compared to that cruel 8-hour ride that your coach put on your schedule, just like pennies in a penny jar, the miles really add up commuting.

Now, I am not suggesting you shouldn’t go out for the long rides that your coach has planned for you. It is important to go out and sit in the saddle and be prepared for just how long 112 miles is. However, I am suggesting that you talk with your coach about working in some commuting miles if you can. Over the course of an Ironman build, maybe you can replace one or two really long rides with commuting miles.

Truth be told, training for an Ironman is incredibly time consuming and can leave people exhausted and socially removed. Between all the work, family, and friend commitments, sometimes training is just getting in the way. Wouldn’t it be nice if biking to and from work was your only activity for the day?  Think about how long it really takes you to drive to work or do that regular errand?  What is preventing you from accomplishing it via bike? For me I can drive to my weekly scrapping/massage session at Proactive Therapy in Tucson and it takes me 40 minutes (14 miles). I can bike there in 45 minutes, and that is with 45lb commuter bike with 42mm tires and baskets hanging off the side.

Commuting by bike has been part of my DNA since I was a kid. However, it wasn’t until 3 years ago that I started to get serious about it again when I lived in Chicago. For the record, this will be my 7th season in triathlon. Looking at my training log from last week I can see that I sat in the saddle for a total of 9 hours and 17 minutes. However, only 50 minutes of that time was spent doing “real” work on my TT bike. Yet, all around me I am bombarded with social media updates about the latest pro triathlete’s “epic” training day of 8 hours and 140 miles. Truthfully, there is nothing sexy about all my dinky rides of 10 miles here and 20 miles there. However, I have confidence in my methods and a 4:15:57 Ironman bike split (3rd fastest split by any athlete in 2012) to back it up. Needless to say, I won’t be changing my DNA anytime soon.

Even if you don’t want to commute by bike, humor me, and next time you set out for a day of errands, just reset the trip odometer. Look at the odometer at the end of the day. I think you will be surprised by the number of miles you cover in your car when you likely could have used your bike and got in some significant base mileage. One of these days you might even been able to skip that early Saturday morning ride and sleep in for a change.

Thomas Gerlach is a 3rd year triathlete on Team TriSports. He is in his second full year as a professional triathlete and recently took 7th at the inaugural Ironman Los Cabos along with numerous podium spots in 2012 including 3rd at Ironman Louisville, Leadman Las Vegas, and Leadman Bend. He writes a weekly training update every week at where he publishes his weekly training numbers.  Follow him at and