I’ve been meaning to write about this – and, well, a lot of things – for a while now, but it took an out-of-state vacation for me to finally find the time to sit down and put words to screen. My life has been kind of hectic for the past month or so, as my responsibilities at work have increased AND my guardian ad litem case went to court, and that’s in addition to basic adulting and triathlon training. I’ve been handling it all pretty well, but it definitely means some things, like writing and housework, have fallen by the wayside. It’s a bummer, but until the astronomical sciences rearrange themselves to give us twenty-eight hours in a day instead of twenty-four, I just have to deal with it.
Anyways, at the beginning of the year, I set out three athletic goals for myself: to qualify for the Boston Marathon, to ride a century on my bike, and to break six hours in a half-ironman distance triathlon. I accomplished #1, and now I’m working on #2 and #3. The second one is a post for another day – because ye gods, do I have a lot to say on the matter of turning myself into a cyclist – and so this post will focus on my third goal.
I’ve signed up for the Hutchinson Island Half, which will take place at the end of September on the east coast of Florida, just a little north of Palm Beach. It’s a flat course with an ocean swim, and it’s probably going to be approximately one billion degrees during the race, which means I should be well acclimated to those conditions by the time the race comes around.
I’m following a free program from Tri Newbies for this race. I write down all of my workouts on the appropriate day on a big paper calendar, which makes life easy because then I just have to look at my calendar to know what I’m supposed to do that day. It’s super low-tech, especially when you compare it to the fancy Garmin 920XT I wear on my wrist when I train, but it works for me.
Back at the beginning of the year, I set my goal as trying to finish in under six hours, which seemed both doable and ambitious – two qualities I like for my athletic goals. The first time I did a half-Ironman, I wasn’t really focused on time. I just wanted to make sure I could do the distance, and to experience what it was like to do something like run a half-marathon on wobbly legs that had just spent three-plus hours on a bike. Now that know what to expect, I’m focused on trying to get faster. Going sub-6 will be a challenge, but I’m confident that I can do it.
Here’s what I’m doing for each of the three disciplines:
I usually get in at least two swims a week. I do one swim on my own, usually drills with pull buoys and paddles and fins and what have you. Right now I’m focused on two things: making my pull stronger and breathing to the left without swimming all cattywompus. I’m having better luck with the first task than the second one.
The second one is a master’s workout with my team. There we mix up speed drills with endurance work while our coach Matt walks around on the deck yelling at us. (For the better part of two months, I couldn’t go in the water without hearing Matt’s voice in my head, yelling, “Constantine, get your arms out! ARMS OUT, CONSTANTINE!”) These workouts kick my ass so hard, and yet I can’t get enough of them. Plus I can’t deny that they’ve made me a lot faster. I recently got bumped up to the fifth lane – the “tweener” one, between intermediate and advanced, which means I’m back to sucking again, but I don’t mind because I know that sucking is part of the journey to becoming good.
My racing team is now taking over the master’s swim program at that pool so Brian and I are both planning to join the master’s swim team when we come back from vacation. I’m sure I’ll pretty much permanently smell like chlorine once that happens, but oh well. #greenhairdontcare
This has been the biggest challenge for me, mainly because I was so terrified of the clipless pedals, and specifically, that helpless feeling that comes when you tip over with your feet attached to said clipless pedals. But with time and repetition, I’ve come to really like using clipless pedals.
I don’t ride outside a ton though, just because it’s not practical with my work schedule, so I usually ride a couple of times during the week on my indoor trainer and then head outside for a long ride on the weekends. I wasn’t getting a lot out of my trainer rides until I got cadence and speed sensors that communicate with my Garmin 920XT. Now my indoor rides leave me drenched in sweat, whereas before I was usually just glistening at the end of my rides. (The trainer can be boring though, so I watch Netflix while I ride. An hour-long tempo ride is a lot more tolerable when I can watch Parks and Recreation while I’m grinding out the miles.)
Just as master’s swimming has made me a lot stronger as a swimmer, the indoor trainer rides have made me a lot faster as a cyclist. As fun as it is to ride outside, it’s hard to really work on speed when you have to deal with cars, other cyclists, runners, little kids, people walking their dogs on retractable leashes, suicidal squirrels, etc. etc.
I have other things to say on the matter of cycling, but I’ll save that for the post about training for my century ride, which is also happening now.
I haven’t done much different with my running, aside from just being consistent with it and throwing in some tempo work and some interval work every couple of weeks. Even though the weather is exactly what you would expect for the state known as America’s Wang, it doesn’t seem to be slowing me down much. I ran a 5K early in the summer and finished in my second-fastest time ever (which was good enough for first female overall and fourth runner overall). I ran my fastest-ever mile – 6:10 – at the beginning of July. I’m excited to see what happens when the temperatures drop into the 60s. Maybe I’ll finally set a new PR in the 5K. That thing has been hanging around since 2012, and I’m ready for it to fall.
Probably the most important thing I’ve done for my run fitness is working hard on the bike. One of the hardest lessons I learned when I first started triathlon was that being a decent runner didn’t mean shit if I was weak on the bike. I’d put all this effort into riding my bike, and then I’d go out on my run and my legs would be totally trashed. Getting stronger on the bike means my legs have more energy left in them when I hit the run, and I can turn out the kind of run splits I expected to be capable of running when I first started triathlon.
This all seems like a lot, and I guess it kind of is, but I’m pretty lucky in that this doesn’t feel like work to me. I like most of my training, and the parts I don’t like (*ahem* indoor trainer *ahem*), I find ways to make enjoyable. And really, even the parts that are hard are still not all that bad. In many ways, training is the easiest part of my day. My job requires me to be hyper-focused, detail-oriented and on top of my game all day long. My guardian ad litem work requires a substantial emotional investment that can sometimes leave me feeling a bit flattened. With training, I can leave all that behind and focus on what I’m thinking and feeling in that exact moment. In fact, I find the more responsibility I take on in my day to day life, the more I depend on being able to get my sweat on at least once a day.
Here’s the other thing: I’m starting to think seriously about my potential as a runner and a triathlete. Qualifying for Boston really planted a seed of curiosity in my mind, and now I wonder what else I’m capable of. So now there’s also this element of “what if?” that’s in the back of my mind, and I’m really interested in finding out the answer. I don’t really like talking about this too much, because it makes me feel kind of funny, but it’s something I think about, and definitely a big motivator for me right now. I know that someday I will reach an age when I will plateau and then start to slow down, so I’m trying to enjoy this while it lasts.
Do you have any big races coming up? How’s your training going?