A few weeks ago I got up at 3.30am to marshal at a triathlon. It was a great day and I thoroughly enjoyed watching some of the best triathletes from my club, HERC Triathlon, but I would be lying if I didn’t have an ulterior motive. Despite how much I have come to love this sport, I would not have forgone this much beauty sleep without the promise of a race entry in return.
I am also a tight-arse when it comes to race entries so I didn’t want to ‘waste’ the opportunity of receiving the best value for my efforts. For this reason there seemed little point choosing the Olympic distance or shorter as I already cover these distances in training so wanted something more of a challenge. Short of choosing an ironman (which quite frankly is crazy distances), the most obvious choice was a middle distance triathlon.
For those of you unfamiliar with the middle distance triathlon, it is a 1.9km open water swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run. Those of you more familiar with triathlons may also recognise these distances as a half ironman or 70.3 but for the purposes of me not freaking out too much, it will continue to be referred to as a middle distance which somehow sounds a lot less insane in what will probably be only my second triathlon ever.
This fact may not sound like the most sensible approach to continuing my triathlon journey but I have drawn on what has worked for me in the past. I respond well to challenges that I know I have the potential of completing but equally that I know I have to methodically train towards. Before entering this event, which is at the end of September, I had already swum 2k in the pool, cycled 50 miles on the bike and, injury aside, I know I can run 13.1 miles. This however, does not guarantee that I can put them all together to create what will probably be about 7.5 hours of competing.
Nothing is guaranteed in any race, let alone in a triathlon when any number of things can go wrong which at best can set you back and risk you not meeting the cut off times but can sometimes lead to not finishing at all. However, I was asked if I wanted to join in with a training session a friend had planned around the route of this triathlon that we have both entered so I naturally jumped at the chance.
It began with a lake swim. The options were a 500m loop, a 750m loop, a 1,200m loop or any combination of these. Before this week I had only ever done two open water swims. The first was in the sea which was more about getting used to moving about in a wetsuit in open water and the second was about a kilometre but with several stops. I was therefore quite uneasy about going straight into a continuous 1.9k swim. In an attempt to take full advantage of this training day and to therefore inject some much needed confidence I opted for a lake swim on Thursday night. This turned out to be a great decision as I not only swam 1.8k almost non stop but also got to swim on a beautiful sunny evening.
It therefore seemed pointless to do anything but the 1.9k swim yesterday which I managed to complete in 50 minutes. I was happy with this and came away with things to work on…speed being the main one in the water…removing the wetsuit, however, definitely needs some practice for the first transition!
The bike course was a 20 mile loop and I had planned to do 2 of these from when I first heard about the session. Although I had done 50 miles on a race circuit a couple of weeks ago, my longest ‘proper’ ride including hills, uneven road surfaces and junctions has only been 25 miles so I figured 40 miles would represent a fair equivalent of the 50 miles on this kind of terrain. At least it would have done but I didn’t take into account the art of memorising a route on roads I was unfamiliar with. The first lap went from what was supposed to be 20 miles to 26 after getting a little bit lost…the plus side was that the second loop went by really quickly!
Despite this little detour and the total elevation of over 1,000ft, I was pleased to find my legs were still capable of running. Despite having been pain free whilst running for several weeks now, it was still less than a month ago that I did my first proper run and I need to constantly remind myself of this…partly so that I don’t try doing too much too soon but also so that I give myself a bit of slack for not being where I want to be in training.
The run was an out and back route so the plan was to run 3 miles and turn back, which would actually have made this my longest run post injury. Again, you could argue that this was potentially not the best idea after what I had already done beforehand but hey, what could go wrong? Well, as it turns out, absolutely nothing! I did walk the particularly brutal hills, as I will probably be doing so in the race, but I was delighted that I didn’t even get a twinge in my hip on any part of those 6 miles. I even managed a little sprint finish at the end and once again I had to hold back a few tears as I finished!
So, with 4 months to go before the event itself I have now completed 75% of the distance. I have plenty to be working on over the summer but I was encouraged to find that I didn’t feel completely battered at the end of either the swim or bike and finished strong on the run. Yesterday was definitely the right amount of each discipline and has now given me the confidence I needed to know I can confidently complete my first middle distance triathlon.
I therefore rewarded my efforts by putting some clip in pedals on my bike…no prizes for guessing what the next blog might be about!