I recently mentioned I decided to train for the Austin Triathlon, Olympic distance, so I thought I would post an update about how that was going. I guess I will progress from the worst to the best, in terms of how my training is going for each event.
Barton Springs pool is where I have been doing most all of my swim training, and let me tell you – it’s intimidating. While in the water, I feel like a fish out of water – seriously! I’m having a hard time getting into a good rhythm and breathing properly, which causes me to get anxious and break out of whatever rhythm I had going. On top of that, early in the morning the spring is FULL of triathletes training for their next race. You are pretty much guaranteed to run into somebody every time you cross the 1/8th mile pool.
Swimming in a sea of people has advantages and disandantages. The main advantage is it comes closer to simulating actual triathlon conditions. Lets face it, swimming solo in a lap pool isn’t going to help your training for being lost in a huge pack of swimmers. The disadvantage is that it’s intimidating for a novice swimmer like myself, and often causes me to freak out and get out of a freestyle stroke and frantically preform a head out of water breast stroke, which is hardly an efficient stroke, but I find myself doing it a lot.
So far I have had good and bad days. But I have yet to swim more than 200 meters without stopping and have yet to even swim 100 meters just freestyle. I am making progress, though. Jut this morning I was struggling and feeling stressed because nothing seemed to be clicking, but I forced myself to swim another 300 meters, and swam the fastest most efficiently I have since taking on this new endeavor. Even though I’m not totally happy with where I am now, I definitely can tell I am making progress. I’ve never felt like I really struggled with running or cycling, but now I know how a lot of people feel when the first try to take on running. This is a struggle!
I also decided to step down from the Olympic distance and register for the Sprint distance instead. Even though I have already swam 900 meters (not continuously). I’m not positive I will be able to work up to a full mile in the amount of time I have, plus I want to be safe and not drown.
Running has surprisingly been challenging for me recently. This is frustrating for me because the last half marathon I ran, I finished sub 1:50 with a pace of 8:19. Lately I’m lucky if I run under a 10 minute pace. This has a lot to do with the fact that I’m running in Vibram Five Fingers, to reduce stress on my knees and back that resulted from a recent bike accident.
Running in these shoes requires a “natural” running style which is completely different from what most people do in traditional running shoes. In barefoot running shoes, you can’t heel strike, which means you have to land on your forefoot to mid-foot, lightly kissing the ground with your heel as your foot comes down. You also lift your knees high, sort of like you would do while skipping. So needless to say I am using a lot of muscles that are not normally used, so the distance I am used to running is down as well as my pace. It’s a frustrating feeling not being able to run as fast as you once did, but I also have to remember I took a LONG break from running and was completely inactive for nearly four months.
Considering how long it took me to run a pace of 8:19 in traditional runners, I guess I should not be too hard on myself, but I do hope I can at least run that pace during the 5k. Considering it is a race and the adrenaline will be flowing, I just might be able to make it happen. But I would be very happy if I ran a 9 minute pace as well. The other difficult part of running in the Five Fingers is sore calves, since those muscles aren’t used to being worked, and I’m only running twice a week, they seem to get sore very easily and sometimes force me to skip runs. So, I’m hoping the muscles build up and get stronger in the next couple weeks so I can focus on speed again before it gets to close to the race and I have to start tapering.
Cycling has surprisingly been the easiest for me during the training process. Last weekend I went on a 40 mile ride and felt like I could have gone longer. I have been riding efficiently up hills, passing other cyclists along the way. In the past I attacked hills hard and petered out towards the top and end get passed by most of the group, but now I’m flying past other cyclist and staying ahead!
Riding the hills on 360 is overkill for the course in the Austin Triathlon. My top speed going downhill has been 45 MPH, and the hills are killer going up. The return trip features approximately 3+ miles of uphill terrain. There is no point in attacking those hills. The best choice of “attack” is to just slip into a low gear and relax in the handlebars and sit back in the saddle as you slowly make your way up hill.
Also, I honestly have to say I think my love for the bike is overtaking my excitement for running (and definitely surpasses swimming). I have thoroughly enjoyed riding through the scenic hill country around Austin. I’m looking forward to one day taking my bike up to Colorado (or any mountainous state) and enjoying more challenging terrain. Not that the hills here aren’t pushing me, because they are; but I’m a glutton for punishment and enjoy being challenged.
Since I don’t imagine I will do very well in the swim, and even the run is questionable, I will have to CRUSH IT, during the bike portion of the race, which should be no problem since I ride the streets of downtown Austin on a regular basis (which is where the bike course is at). It’s familiar terraine for me, and a pice of cake compared to what I have been riding recently. Another athlete recently told me a lot of triathletes are “one trick ponies” and they rock at the swim, but suck at everything else. So, just because I don’t do well in the swim doesn’t mean I won’t finish well overall! My plan is to pass as many people as possible during the bike portion of the race.
Training for this race has been exciting and challenging! I have even been trimming down, and losing weight. I can’t say how much exactly since I don’t own a scale anymore, but I recently put on the pants I wore for my wedding 9 months ago and they are fitting loosely! I remember they fit pretty tight on my wedding day. So I’m very pleased with the changes that are occurring. I will say though, I am ALWAYS hungry! It makes me thankful I own my own energy bar company right now! Otherwise I’d be breaking the bank just buying energy bars.