Triathlon Update

Devote today to something so daring even you can’t believe you’re doing it.
– Oprah Winfrey

It’s official: I’m doing a sprint triathlon in September.  I know I talked about it months ago, but the truth is, I only signed up two weeks ago.

I’ve been training, though, eight weeks now.  So far, I’ve stuck to my schedule pretty well (that’s a link to a Google doc – feel free to check up on me!), though until this week I skipped my mid-week run every time.  That shouldn’t happen going forward, since I’m joining Lydia’s accountability team for Wednesday morning runs.

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty scared.  When I signed up, I had to state my 100-yard swim time.  Turns out my best training time so far barely qualifies me.  I thought I was doing great – the first time I swam 300 yards (my sprint tri distance) back in May, it took me 20 minutes because I had to stop and catch my breath at the end of each length of the pool.  A month ago, I did it in 15 minutes flat.  Two weeks ago, I hit 14:48.  I was pretty psyched.  I mean, I knew it wasn’t fast, as far as swimming goes, but it was such an improvement for me.  The 100-yard cutoff, though, is 4:59.  I lied and gave my time as 4:30.  I have 10 weeks to get faster.

Here’s how I’m training:

In the pool, Saturdays are for speed.  I do 300 yards as fast as I can, then tread water for the remaining minutes.  On Tuesdays, after my WW meeting, I walk to the high school to spend 30 minutes in the pool working on endurance.  I do 500 yards usually – 300 freestyle at a comfortable pace, then 200 more, alternating just legs or just arms for 50 yards each.

I bet I could gain speed, or at least shave seconds off my time, if I could learn how to do a flip turn.  I’ve been practicing, but it’s not easy, for a couple of reasons.  Timing is the biggest one – I’m no good at counting my strokes and figuring out when to take the last big breath before starting the flip.  The second one is balance – my hearing loss caused problems in my inner ear, so that spinning or flipping of any kind can leave me dizzy and disoriented.  I figure if I keep practicing (YouTube has a bunch of intructional videos, which were a big help in figuring out the mechanics), I’m bound to get it sooner or later.  (Confidential to kylydia: the noseplug is crucial)  If not, I’ll adopt the touch the wall, turn, and push off super-fast the Olympic breast strokers and butterflyers use.

I’ve started biking to work on Thursdays (occasionally Wednesdays, depending on weather or schedule) and I love it.  I can’t believe I never did it before this summer, and we’re going to be moving soon.  It’s only a little more than 5 miles one-way and takes 30-35 minutes, depending on how much stopping for traffic lights I have to do once I get into D.C.  Before that, it’s all bike trails – I love where I live.  So 60-70 minutes on Thursdays, total, about 10 miles.

On Sundays, I try to do a longer ride, distance-wise, all at once.  Two weeks ago, David challenged me to ride to Mount Vernon; he said it was 24 miles round-trip and not too hilly.  We did 24 miles in May at Bike DC and it wasn’t too bad, so I happily accepted.  Well.  It was 30 miles and ridiculously hilly, particularly on the way there (you may know that Mount Vernon sits on a bluff overlooking the Potomac.  I myself forgot this fact.).  By the time we were less than a mile from home, I was just done. I  pulled over and told David to go ahead, that I was not going any further (I was irrational with fatigue and hunger, obviously).  He said he couldn’t leave me behind.  I told him this wasn’t the Marines.  He stayed.  Obviously I made it home – the whole thing took about 3 hours – but what I learned is this: The triathlon will likely take me 2.5 hours (I hope, including transitions); I need to be sure I am adequately fueled the whole time.  I need to look into things I can carry with me and on my bike to keep my energy up.  I also need to pick up the pace – 10mph average isn’t going to cut it.  Luckily, the tri course is reportedly flat, so that will make it a little easier to reach a faster average pace.

On the running front, the bad new is, I’ve skipped every mid-week run but the most recent one.  The good news is, every Saturday run and this past Thursday’s run, I’ve run the entire time, no walking except warm up and cool down.  Thursday, by the end, I realized it wasn’t even that hard – the only reason I wanted to quit is because I find it so freaking boring.  I really think all the cross-training is paying off in endurance.

None of this, however, has translated into any weight loss, mostly because I still am not eating as well as I should be.  Before last week, though, I was on my 6th straight week of tracking everything, which hadn’t happened literally in years, so that’s good.  I’m back on track with tracking again, too, now that our family emergency is behind us.

Another thing I want to do is get stronger.  I really need to add weight training to my schedule.  I always mean to, and then don’t.  So here’s what I think I can do:  Wednesday mornings after my runs, I can just hit the gym in my apartment complex before going back upstairs to get ready for work.  If I leave just a little earlier on Thursday mornings, I can do a session in the gym in my office building, since I have to go down there to shower anyway.  If I split upper body/back and lower body/core, it shouldn’t be a problem doing it two days in a row.

Next, I need to figure out what to wear for the race.  Lydia sent me a link to a site that sells everything I could ever need for a tri, and some of it is probably even in my size.  Choices, choices – tri suit? Shorts and tank? Tri suit and a shirt to go over it for the bike and run?  I don’t know.  Obviously, these suits leave nothing to the imagination – will I be comfortable running in one? (I don’t worry at all about wearing it for the swim – covers more than a swimsuit – or the bike ride – too fast for anyone to notice).  By the end of the race, will I care what I look like?  Maybe, if I want a picture of myself crossing the finish line.  Must think about this.

I’m also considering volunteering at a local triathlon, if I can find one, to see how people handle the swim/bike and bike/run transitions.  I got this idea from Emily at Big Life, Little Blog, and it’s a good one.

My goal in every 5k I’ve ever done has been: “Just don’t come in last.”  I’m 6 for 6.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to accomplish that in September, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.  In any event, my goal for this tri is: “Don’t die.  Finish. Try not to come in last.”  That’ll do, pig.

3 thoughts on “Triathlon Update

  1. Oh my goodness I am so glad you’re doing this. This is SUCH a big achievement, plus you have to train in 3 sports! PLUS you have to figure out what to wear. The swim and what to wear have always been what holds me back. Plus I”m a big chicken. But I need a sports bra to run and I can’t see running in a swimsuit. At all. Maybe I should have checked the tri clothes website before I assumed everyone runs in swim suits! :) I have a friend in her 60′s who just finished a tri like this. She does one each year. She is amazing. We used to run together before I turned into a couch potato. I’ll see her again in August when I’m supposed to be doing the Crim. Ran today 3 miles, walked a ton. We’ll see where I am by August! You are my hero!

  2. I’ve got so many comments to make! Here goes.

    First and foremost. Thank you for doing this. You’re confidence in training really made me believe that I could do it, too. Thanks for that inspiration.

    Second – the swim. From what I’ve read, our pool swim is set to be done serpentine-style – swim up one lane, down another – so a flip-turn may not even be feasible. What do I know? I just wondered if yours will be done all in one lane or not. I got myself some noseplugs and am ready to go for tomorrow’s 200 m easy workout (which is not at all easy for me!).

    Biking – fuel will be important, I think. Do you have two water bottles on your bike? I’ve heard that some people fill one with water and the other with sports drink. If you don’t think the sports drink fuel will be enough for you, I’d experiment with taping some GU packets to your handlebars. That might make it easier to get to them. Personally, I like the vanilla bean flavor. If I tell myself it tastes like vanilla frosting, I can stomach the weird consistency.

    Running – you’ve got that! It sounds like you’re doing a great job when you do the workouts! I hope Wednesday morning accountability will help with those!

    As for what to wear, my preliminary plan is to rock this fashionable suit for the swim. In T1, I think I’ll just pull on my so-flattering cycling shorts and shoes (I need to figure out if I’m going to buy clipless pedals for my bike). In T2, I’ll likely strip off the cycling shorts (maybe, who knows), pull on a sports bra over top and maybe a tank.

    Your goal for the tri is exactly mine. I might come in last. It’s definitely not an unlikely possibility. But, I will have finished. That’s the most important part to me. I’ll have finished way ahead of the Lydia I used to be.

    • I’m thinking of just wearing a sports bra underneath whatever I wear to swim. Seems like that’d be more comfortable than trying to wear one over it, I don’t know. Also, I was thinking – can VFFs get wet? I’d consider wearing something like that and then never have to change or put on shoes during the transitions.

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