Olympic distance triathlon is a 1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run. The best in the world do it in under 2 hours. I was hoping to do it in under 4, and I succeeded at the Thousand Islands Triathlon in Brockville with a finish of 3:53:14!
Disclaimer: I am not a swimmer or a biker. I have been doing those two sports for a total of 9 months now. And it’s been in a pool. And spin class. I had zero opportunity for open water swimming this year, and was on my actual bike outside about 10 times over the past 6 weeks. So yeah, I’m pretty stoked about my accomplishment. I’m also shocked at how hard it was, because no matter how much I expected to be challenged (and I’m always up for some hard work), it was still ridiculous.
The Swim. There is zero comparison between the pool and open water. Not that I wasn’t warned by many! The water was cool but comfortable in my wetsuit. I bobbed around unable to find my form at all. I drank a lot of the St. Lawrence, and swam on my back to catch my breath half the time. Quitting was not an option (but it was extremely tempting). I stuck it out for the second 750m lap, one buoy at a time, with a kind kayak volunteer keeping me on track. I’m glad I didn’t quit, since I found a bit more comfort with a heads up front crawl – until the water got choppy. More swimming on my back, more delicious sea water. Made it back before the Sprint men caught me! Getting out after using my legs so much more than I’m used to was tricky, but I got my bearings. Amidst cheers for the last Olympic swimmer out of the water, and literally holding back tears of joy and relief (need to stay hydrated), I woggled to the transition zone.
The Bike. Let me say first, how disorienting it is coming out of the water after an hour. I had to sit. I dug around my stuff, messing up my area, and decided against eating anything. Getting the wetsuit off wasn’t too hard, thankfully. I forgot to put on sunscreen and my belt with my phone. At least I had the helmet and electrolytes. Folks, this was not a flat course. Whoever said that needs to check themselves. If it was this “flat” on a run I would have turned around and gone home. I don’t think I want find out what a “hilly” bike course is. But quitting is not an option! Let’s get through this and loop two, with I Will Survive playing in my head. My high gear was skipping links so I was stuck with faster rpm and low gears. Foot almost slipped off the spinning pedals once, there was my opportunity to fall but I didn’t! I guess my stock push pedals need to be upgraded. Kinda lonely, and even the cars passing me seemed put off that I was still out there, beeping and passing too close. A race motorcycle came to check on me, yes I’m fine, just slow. Finally, the home stretch after a long and mostly solo two hours. I was welcomed again, this time as the final bike finisher, by the cheering crowd with the motorcade behind me, honking me home.
The Run. Oh my God thank the good lord above this was last. It was not easy shaking off the incredibly hard work of the hilly bike but if there’s anything that can cheer me up it’s a run beside the water. Gorgeous sailboats! As I ran along the docks, I said a small prayer to never have to do an open water swim again. Four loops of the island, with a nice cool dark train tunnel en route, complete with an led strip light show and music (the Watchmen!). Even managed to snag a spray of sunscreen from a lounging boat owner on the dock. Saw my perfect family on the bridge right before my last tunnel trip! Very satisfying and fun route. I do wish I had had the wherewithal to stop and get a selfie in the tunnel during the race.
Oh yeah, did I mention I bailed? ON THE RUN. Second loop, stepping up onto the curb while high fiving the volunteer. I have never fallen in 8 years of running, so there’s a first for everything. Luckily no blood, just some pride spilled, and my fancy pants remained intact.
All in all, the body fared really REALLY WELL (however sunburned). Under normal running race circumstances I would say I could have worked harder, but I honestly left it all out there on every leg of the course. My mind wanted to quit this triathlon more than my body ever has in a marathon, this was 100% mental grit for me. Each time I went for a second loop I thought it was ridiculous how far I had chosen to go. I guarantee I would have been extremely satisfied doing the Sprint – but in the end I’m happy I did the Olympic. Managed my sea legs, no saddle issues, and a strong run at the end. Cross training with the swim and the bike is a permanent staple for me now. Maybe next time I’ll check previous finish times and make sure I’m not likely to win the prize of last finisher!
So, when’s the next one??
You may have seen this picture on Facebook:
Now, you all know how motivated I am. I think I miss an average of two workouts every six months (barring travelling). I was convinced when I saw that positive pregnancy test that I would be competing regardless. First, I was in peak form, I had gotten pregnant on the toughest week of my speed training program. Second, it was the summer and nothing could stop me from getting outside to run.
Well let me tell you, friends, that pregnancy has other plans.
I went through a mild depression where I could barely stand the idea of unbundling myself from my cocoon on the couch to pee. Food was…unappetizing to say the least. Cereal, tuna and white rice, and the odd Subway sandwich, if I had any at all, meant I was getting less than half my usual calories, and no fresh vegetables (couldn’t even look at em). Those calories had to feed me, a rapidly growing baby, and a nursling….which meant exercise wasn’t a smart idea, even if I could drag my ass out there. I was doubled over with nausea for five straight weeks. Standing up from sitting I nearly blacked out from the dizziness. I would get winded walking up the stairs.
I know all the physiological reasons for all of these changes and I won’t bore you with the science. I know exercise is supposed to help, but my friends, the decision was made for me. I could not do anything. My body wanted me to stay still, to lie down, try to put on a few pounds, and there was nothing I could do to make it change its mind.
I am now 13 weeks into this pregnancy and very happy to say goodbye to the storm that is the first. The depression has lifted. I started taking Diclectin for the nausea. I ran four 4 milers last week, and I can eat all the things again (with only the odd “ew hell no”). I stopped breastfeeding, and R seems pretty ok with it.
But…it meant I wasn’t going to be able to compete in the triathlon. As much as I would have liked to, it really was a non issue when I had to decide. I couldn’t train on the bike (had a little bleeding after a bike ride once that made me nervous). It was too hot to run during the day, which would have spiked my core temperature – a huge no when you’re pregnant. Swimming was the only thing I enjoyed but getting there meant enduring motion sickness in the car (not to mention I would have to get up off the couch) so I opted to watch elite athletes perform at their peak in the Olympics instead. On the couch of course. It was a nice distraction.
Huge props to my buddy Ian who completed his first Super Sprint Triathlon! He is the one who, years ago, mentioned a try-a-tri, which I didn’t know existed, and hence planted the seed. I now have the gear and the motivation to do one after this baby, and it is a great goal to have for 6 months post partum. Distance TBA….
This pregnancy, I do have my sights set on The Cookie Run 5K in November though! Hey, 22 weeks pregnant running for Girl Guide cookies….how does it get any better?!
Check another one off! This past weekend I did my first block workout – a swim followed by a bike ride home.
Swimming has been a surprise gem for me. I love the way it feels when you get into a groove with your stroke. I’m working on feeling slippery and incorporating some key ideas from Total Immersion, which has made swimming easier than I thought it would be. In a pool, of course. There’s just a small difference between that and Mooney’s Bay…For this workout I did five warmup laps then attempted to swim 750m without “stopping” as much as possible. I am looking forward to swimming straight for 750m (with possibly the occasional kayak stop!) – hopefully it’s not too choppy, and there is a nice lane at the back of the pack for me! 😛
I got changed, ate some mini wheats, and jumped on my bike to ride home – turns out it was exactly 12 miles, what luck! So now I know I can do that distance, and it was FUN! Most of the ride was smooth. You can really feel the inclines on the bike, much more than while running. I stopped once for some water and more mini wheats, and was surprised at the effort I didn’t know I was putting out. Biking is a bit deceiving in that respect.
I finished feeling great, which is a very good sign for doing a 5K run as well on the day of the race. Now I just need to keep up my run fitness, and maybe try a bike-run block workout once or twice to see what I’m dealing with leg-wise. List-wise I still have to change a tire, figure out if I need a wetsuit, and sign up for the race!
Buy swimming goggles. June 3 Get in the pool and swim. June 4 Create a training plan for July and August. June 11 Get a class package at Iron North and start spinning weekly. June 14 Swim to the buoys and back at McCreary beach. June 25 Buy a used bike. June 30
- Learn how to change a blown bike tire. July 15
- Swim 200m in the pool and bike the 20K or so home. July 31
- Sign up for the race! Aug 15
- Buy appropriate swim wear for Mooneys Bay. Aug 20
So this list is looking good! I was lucky to get a NEW bike for my birthday so there isn’t as much of a learning curve since nothing is wrong with it. I do have an offer from a friend who can show me how to fix a flat. I think I can change #8 to swim 750m continuous and then bike home – it’s great to be able to say 200m isn’t that much of a challenge! Now there’s the question of wetsuit or bathing suit, better start looking into what the temperature of the water normally is around that time of year. I’m always cold in lakes….
Ok this Triathlon thing is seriously addictive.
Just got back from my second bike ride. I was going fast, not checking my watch, just enjoying the ride around the neighborhood and my new found confidence on the bike (which I love love love!!). I got home, and realized I had done EIGHT miles! Tag another 4 miles onto that and that’s the Sprint bike distance! WHAT?!?! Screw the Try-A-Tri – Sprint Triathlon here I come!!
A few things to work on – hand position/sore wrists, and tension in my quads. My hands felt like mush when I was done, I could barely hold the bike to lift it onto my back deck. I’m sure there’s a “good” way to hold the handlebars, and until I am confident enough to get into aero position I’m going to have to find it. I still have to work on taking one hand off the bars while riding before I even consider aero bars (yum). And then there’s my legs…when I stopped pedaling I was squeezing every muscle in my legs! RELAX! I don’t know if I had to feel so clunky when I got off the bike afterwards, I have way more tension that I ever need while I relearn how to do this. But 10 miles an hour is not bad for a second ride, and I found my favorite gear! 🙂
This morning I also went for a 1km swim, took a little over half an hour in the pool. I have a swim cap now ($4!) and it helps remind me to keep my head down. I love that I can give my legs a bit of a rest and focus on my not-so-strong upper body and core in the water. I stop after each lap still, but I am getting faster at catching my breath and a little speedier with each lap. Till I get water up my nose then I flail and sputter lol…
I am desperate to keep moving lately. Cross training has made a monster out of me. I want to go for a run right now, in fact (I do feel like I’m neglecting my favorite sport)…I’m going to hold myself back, take a shower, and eat some food. This addiction, as healthy as it appears, is beginning to consume me! I LOVE IT!!!! I’ll keep it in check, stay in touch with family and friends, and avoid becoming a training recluse…but I make no apologies for the Half Ironman training I’m planning for next year, and possibly changing my Ironman finish goal to age 40…
Well folks, it’s done – I finally have a bike!
I was surprised at how challenging it was to buy the right bike! Not having any base knowledge was a challenge, but after two stops in sports stores, several internet searches, and Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes, I think I have finally found my match. Let’s say, for now it meets the requirements I think I have!
- Road – sleek, fast, and light. Smaller surface area on the wheels, drop handles, and eventually I can add aero bars (yum).
- Women’s – handlebars are narrower, frame is a little bit smaller, cranks are shorter. I am not short, but I didn’t feel comfortable on the bigger bikes.
- NEW – with a 30 day guarantee and free tune up. (I do love Canadian Tire – we scored $15 in Cdn Tire money!)
- …it’s pretty!
So there ya have it, my first bike since I was 14. Now let’s hope the old adage is true.
This one was quite the event! After a day of Scottish music and dance on the main stage, we march around the street behind three waves of pipe bands, representing the different runner’s speeds. I don’t think anyone knew what wave they were actually in…After a high energy fiddle player played out the last three minutes, they fired muskets and we were off! I must have got caught up in the wrong wave, I could not negotiate a pace for almost two miles. Hey, last time I lined up with the faster folks I got trampled so I was trying to be polite! That’s when I realized I hadn’t switched my watch back to lapping each mile automatically (by the end of the race I might have been going 3000m pace, who knows?!) I had a fun little stand off with a man around the 4 mile mark, and decided to leave him in my dust after about 30s. I think I like being a little more competitive.
I was very happy with my effort for last half of the race, pushed hard enough without hating anything. I floated through the finish without the least bit of that want to die or puke feeling I always seem to have – but I regret it now! I purposely held back because I always want to die or puke at the end, but taking that away made the end…boring! I may try bringing my own fluids on a race like that, in the heat especially. Water stations really take energy to navigate at higher speeds, I guess that takes practice too. Running in a “skirt”, albeit wool, was nice and drafty. I would do it again, maybe for a whole marathon sometime…
Did I mention the FREE BEER at the finish line?! Now that’s how to end a race!
I live by the rule “First form, then distance, then speed” which I learned from ChiRunning. I consistently do this on a micro level, week to week, using it to watch for signs of over training or exhaustion. However, looking back at 6 years of running, the cycle on a larger scale is now complete. I couldn’t ignore my form when I began, and I had to listen to my body to learn how to stay injury free. Then I took on the bigger distance races, where enduring to the finish was enough, while hoping to beat my last time. Choosing to train for speed for the Kilted 5 miler completes the macro-trifecta.
A week ago Sunday I did a 10K Time Trial (6.2 miles) with a 1.5 mile warm up and cool down. It was windy, raining, I had the stroller, and the “new” target pace of 7:53 almost killed me (but I still made myself go faster than that for a couple miles). Yesterday I did a 10 mile run with 6 miles at Half Marathon Pace, 8:15 per mile. It was a huge confidence booster! There is that bit of genius in the way the plan was set up, whether it was intended or not. To boot, my HMP is now what my 10K pace originally was when I started this training plan. I could have raced another 3 miles to complete a half yesterday…makes me wonder if a pacing strategy like this would work for my next half marathon…. #inspiration!!
Speed training might be the best thing I have done for my running so far. Next on the list of to-try…the Yasso 800s….
Went for a swim on the weekend! I was pretty surprised how tough it was to walk after half an hour in the pool…but at least I know I can swim over half a km in the pool and live to tell the tale! I’m far less self conscious now about my Walmart bathing suit, and a swim cap can wait until I have figured out how the heck to even breathe while I’m swimming…it’s not like I need the speed right now.
As for the training plan goal…dear Lord I think I have it! (I LOVE MAKING THESE BTW)
I am giving myself two weeks to “recover” from the Kilt Run and the training I have been busting out. Damn, speed work is HARD but the payoff has been GREAT so far! Since it’s my first time trying to fit so many things in, I decided to work on a rotating two week template – three key swim workouts (in blue) every two weeks with several potential other swims here and there. Two key bike workouts a week, and three key runs because I gotta….
Oh yeah! I forgot to mention, I have decided to do the MEC Race Five Marathon at Gatineau Park on October 30th! With an entry fee of $25 who wouldn’t?!? I built the triathlon training into a marathon plan I borrowed from Brain Training for Runners. I’ll just drop the intensity of the Bike and Swim after the Tri, hopefully the cross training sticks nicely through to the marathon.
This is going to be a fun summer!! Now to get a bike….