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Triathlon Training in Earnest.

4 April 2017

For the past several weeks I’ve been adding cycling to my runs and strength. Yesterday, I got in the pool for the first time since my triathlon last July. I did a five mile run after work, and then watched a video of the end of the Barkley Marathons, and thought, “Jesus. I’m a total wimp. I’d better start swimming.” So I got on my bike and headed over to the pool.

I’m fortunate that VFU allows people who work at MECMC to join their gym and pool really inexpensively. I don’t use their gym just because it’s further from home than I’d like. But the pool I can join for about $400 a year, compared to about $1200 for the summer at the private pool near me. There’s a public pool but it has very little lane-swimming, it’s mostly for kids. VFU also allows me to buy the year pro-rated. So now I have access until August for $191.

I swam 71 laps in 52 minutes. That got me through 1775 meters. I had wanted to swim a mile (1760 yards), but once I was done I realized the laps were meters, not yards, and so I actually went 9.3% further. My shorter triathlon in June is a 1500 meter swim. The longer, in September, is a 1900 meter swim. So I’m quite pleased that on a day that I ran five miles and rode 7.5 miles I could also swim more than a mile in under an hour.

My basic goal for the half Ironman is to be through the swim and transition in about an hour. At the pace I swam yesterday, I’d have about 5 minutes for transition. Which is quick but doable. But I was also taking it really easy in the water, and practicing my bilateral breathing. If I only swim as fast as I did at my first tri, I’ll have ten minutes for transition to stay under an hour.

I stressed a lot about being able to finish the New Jersey State Triathlon in the time limit. In the end, it took me three hours and three minutes, but I was well within the time limits. I was definitely on the slow end. Of about 700 men, about 610 finished in front of me. And of 1175 finishers, I was faster than only 200. That’s ok. I’m not doing this to break speed records.

But I do need to be able to go fast enough to finish on time. The time limit for the half-Ironman is 8:30. You have 1:10 to swim. Then you must be off the bike 5:30 after the final athlete start. Then you have to be done with the run within 8:30 of your own start time. There’s something called an “intermediate cutoff” for the bike, but I don’t know what that means.

If I get the swim done in an hour, and average 16 mph on the bike, I’ll have four hours for the run. If it’s not too hot and humid, I should be able to do all that. If it is? Well, I’ll give it my best shot. All I need to do is finish. I don’t care if I’m last. I want to cross the finish line with one second to spare.

So much of my need to compete in these races is based in my fundamental belief that everything I do is inadequate. That I am worthless. That I have nothing to offer and no intrinsic value. That I am lazy and stupid and useless. But that maybe, for a few hours in September, I will be able to do something worthwhile. Something that matters to me, and maybe to a few other people.

If someone like me can do this – a lazy recovering drunk and overweight ex-smoker – think what you can do. You’re so much stronger than I am.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 4 April 2017 08:44

    Finishing a triathlon really does make you feel like a jock – at least for a day or two. I finished last in my one and only Olympic distance, but I still felt like a super hero.

    You are at least 20 years stronger than me! I wish I had enjoyed my athletic prowess (such that it was) while I had it and not diminished my perception of it by comparing it to others. Or I wish I had compared myself to folks my own age sitting on the sofa, watching tv, and eating Cheetos. Instead of comparing myself to professional athletes who certainly never smoked 2 packs a day for 25 years or drank alcoholically every single day for 18 years.


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