I've been lurking in these groups for a while now, and I've learned a
lot from reading all of your posts. I don't usually have time to
participate but I just completed my first triathlon so I figure it's
time to give back to the community by entertaining you all with a race
report. I'm sure it will be a lengthy post, so if you're anxious to
get on with whatever the latest flamefest is, feel free to skip it.
First, a bit of background. Last October when I quit smoking for the
nth and final time, I decided I needed to set a positive goal that
would give me something to focus on and cement the transition from
self-destructive to healthy lifestyle. Now, one might say that simply
breathing clean air is in itself a worthy goal, but apparently the
concept of that wasn't enough for my stupid mind. It needed to be
expressed in a physical sense. So, I figured, I'm turning 30 next
June. It's about time I stopped with the half-ass "smoking in
moderation" crap. I will complete a triathlon before that year is up.
And so it began.
As it turned out, substituting an unhealthy ***ion for a healthy
one worked better than I had even imagined at the time. I highly
recommend this to anyone struggling with something similar. The basic
strategy was - do aerobic exercise at least 5x per week. Any time I
felt the urge to smoke, do more aerobic exercise instead. This worked
out great. The physical exertion was the perfect outlet to get rid of
that twitchy, I-want-to-kill-something nic fit feeling. And the pain
of being out of shape was a great reminder of how stupid I had been
and how far I had left to go. Many was the time when I stopped in the
middle of a run to puke, or by the side of the car before driving home
after a hard swim. Great stuff, I tell you.
A small disclaimer is probably in order at this point. I've never been
overweight and have always been in fairly good shape, kept active with
biking, tennis, etc. Never smoked more than a pack a day, and by the
time I quit I was down to around 5 or 10. So my particular story
shouldn't be taken out of context if you happen to be a 3 pack a day,
100 lbs overweight type of person. Choose the pace that fits your
situation, don't kill yourself. But do suffer. Pain is the feeling of
weakness leaving your body.
OK, enough with the past. You folks probably don't care to hear about
my struggle to change idiotic behaviour patterns anyway. Heheh.
Actually I made all that up to excuse my slow times. Just kidding :)
A word on my training regimen, or lack thereof. My plan was to focus
initially on swimming, which I had no experience at all in. Mix in
some cycling (mostly commuting to work) and weight training, then
phase in the running starting in January. This pretty much went
according to plan, though I ended up doing most of my biking in the
gym until May. (Pacific NW, rain, laziness...) My primary goal was to
concentrate on becoming a good swimmer, so I wouldn't drown. Biking
and running were things I'd done since I was a kid, at varying levels
of commitment. My bike is a hybrid and I'm not a fast runner, but I
could easily handle the distances that would be involved with the
sprint tri I signed up for. Well, maybe not easily, but I could
certainly finish it, even if at a patheticly slow pace. Or so I
reasoned at the time.
Those first months of swim training were a humbling experience. At
first, I could barely do 50 yds, and would have to rest for a minute
afterwards, gasping and dying. Seems like it took forever before I
could do three lengths in a row. Other notable milestones were my
first sub-minute 50, the first time I seriously tried breathing every
three strokes (asphyxiation, pain), finally mastering breathing every
3 (freedom, balance, relaxation), first 1000, first 1500.
I have to say that the Total Immersion book played a huge role in jump
starting my technique to the point where I could swim without getting
tired. Particularly where body position and balance are concerned,
those drills are invaluable. I'm not sure what I look like when I
swim, but I suspect it's some hybrid of the "TI" and "Larry" styles.
45 degree body rotation, long strokes, arched back, loper. I'm a 6
beat kicker though. No matter how far the swim. Although realistically
it turns into sort of a 2 beat over long distances. (KICK kick kick
KICK kick kick). Kicking for me is a natural, inseparable element of
swimming. Even if I'm not using it for power, it's essential for
balance. Plus it's nice to have in my arsenal when I feel like
sprinting. My ankles are inflexible by nature, so I'm constantly
stretching them to keep the kick propulsive.
Going into the race, my 400 time in the pool was 8:39. Slow, but not
too bad considering it was a really relaxed swim. I figured I could
easily do at least 8:00, probably better, which was well within the
"respectable" range for last years' race results. My favorite workout
is something I call the "pyramid", which consists of 2 50s, 2 100s, 2
200s, 2 100s, 2 50s. On longer days, throw in 2 400s in the middle.
Rest 10 breaths after a 50, 20 after a 100, 30 after a 200. Go faster
on the "descending" slope of the pyramid. I did that one a lot leading
up to the race. Interspersed with the occasional long swim - 1000 or
1500 yds. I also swam a couple hundred yards in lakes maybe four
times, just to get a feel for the navigational and coldness aspects.
In case you haven't noticed, when it comes to swimming I am obsessed.
When I pass a body of water I have an overpowering urge to jump in. I
don't feel right unless I swim 5x a week. I just raced yesterday, and
all day at work I couldn't wait to swim again tonight :)
As far as cycling goes, that's something I've always done and am
fairly good at. My bike isn't very fast - it's a Trek 7500 hybrid
upgraded with Continental tires. Great commuting machine, which is
mainly what I use it for. An excellent workhorse to handle roads,
trails, curbs, and rain. Not the best device for maintaining say, 20
mph over a 30 mile training ride. Not even within the realm of
possibility. So I contented myself with riding 15 mph, climbing as
many hills as I could find, and building up the engine, so to speak.
Plenty of time in the future to buy some expensive lightweight race
Running is another area that demands some level of obsession, at least
from a technique perspective. Given that it produces more injuries
than any sport I know of, I figured I had better make sure I was doing
it right before doing it very often. I have high arches and tend
toward underpronation and an outward splay of the feet. Or at least, I
used to. I've trained myself to the point where even when walking I
now keep both feet lined up in a || pattern, almost unconsciously. I'm
also a forefoot striker who enjoys running barefoot. On dirt, that is.
Not sure I ever want to try that on pavement. As with cycling, I run
with a fairly high cadence, and try to focus on increasing stride
length while maintaining cadence when I want to speed up. All of this
technique stuff has recently materialized to the point where I can run
comfortably for 5 miles or so with no lapse in form. I still have a
long way to go as far as speed.
I think my fastest timed mile so far was 7 minutes, and typically I go
around 8 to 8:30 when running outside. In other words, slow.
Borderline jogger. When inside, I do intervals on the treadmill, using
the "pyramid" method - 6 mph, 7 mph, 8 mph, 9 mph, 8 mph, etc. Rest
periods in between are 5 mph. This seems to work pretty well at
keeping me from dying of boredom on the treadmill, on those days when
I need to squeeze a quick run in at the gym. I have yet to really try
a "fast" 5K distance in training, so who knows what I could do if that
were the only thing on the agenda for the day. I plan to find out soon
when I focus more on running.
OK, on to the race description. The triathlon I signed up for was,
aptly named - "My First Triathlon". What a title, eh. It sure looks
cute on the T-shirt too. Luckily there are no fuzzy bunnies or flowers
I arrived early so I could watch the previous days' race and get a
feel for the course. The lake was beautiful, clear, and cold! Much
colder than the ones around my house that I had practiced in. Not
quite wetsuit temp, but cold enough to cause tingly extremities after
doing a few 100s in there. I went in several times that day and stayed
in around 10 minutes, to try and acclimate.
Saturday's race went in 4 waves of 100 each. The first guy into the
water started ***stroking like mad, taking an early lead. Then he
proceeded to flip over and backstroke for the next half of the swim! I
think he continued on like that for the whole race, alternating
between *** and backstroke. Only a few people caught up to him too,
this guy was an animal. His backstroke was easily faster than my
freestyle. I think he ended up coming in third for the swim. I'm not
sure how he did overall.
Other than the front pack, the race was pure chaos. It looked like
people were getting thrashed, beaten, and kicked everywhere. Based on
this I decided that the next day I would start at the front of the
first wave, just behind the first row of people into the water. I
figured it was better to be up front with the good swimmers, who would
know how to pass me properly. If they wanted to pass, let them work
Showing up early turned out to be a great idea. Not only did I get to
watch the first days' races, I was able to do a couple of quick swims
in the lake, drive up and down the bike and run courses, and generally
get familiar with the whole deal.
Sunday morning I rose at 6 AM, relieved that the dream about missing
the race was just a dream. I was psyched and ready to go. The 50 cent
hot shower in the state park was a welcome convenience, considering I
slept on the ground in a tent. By 6:30 I was at the local cafe,
getting coffee. 7 AM and I was at the race site, setting up my bike
transition area, ...
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