- Swim 1.2 miles = 45:35
- Bike 58 miles = 3:19:52
- Run 13.1 miles = 2:21:02
- + transition times = total of 6:37:38
If I had trained specifically for this race, that would be disappointing. The truth is that I have been training for two other races.
- I have been training hard for the summer track season. Since the Boston Marathon in April, I have aimed most of my running for the 800 meter race in July.
- I am just at the beginning of training for a full-iron triathlon (Ironman) in September.
With that in mind, how am I to describe this race? Baby-steps. I am a runner. I am a running expert. I am a running coach. But I am a novice in triathlons. This race was just my fourth triathlon. I only added swimming and cycling to my training regimen in December of 2013. The learning curve is steep for both swimming and cycling. So many technical details and form issues in both sports.
Although the overall result of this half-iron triathlon was about the same as the first two. How it played out was actually very promising.
Baby-step 1 – Swimming
We swam in salt water, but it was an inlet so waves were not present. We had the usual issue of swimmers running into each other, crossing, paths, etc. This was my first race wearing a wetsuit, but I barely noticed. It helped me stay on top of the water, which is a tremendous help. The only issue there was some minor chaffing.
The baby-step forward was in my swimming form. I just recently learned to think of my lower palms as the paddles and to keep my arms bent so that I have more power on each stroke. I am sure that I have heard and read those instructions many times in the last two years, but I finally found the right video to help me understand exactly what I should be feeling during each stroke. The most important part for me is to feel my lat muscles doing the bulk of the work. The latissimus dorsi are the back muscles that start under your shoulders and go all the way down the back. They are big and long. The lats are the powerhouse behind pull-ups and lat pulls. If you build them strong and focus on them you can get a lot of power on each stroke.
This focus on my lats during the swim helped me swim much faster than I have before. The time, however, does not show that. I had leaky goggles. No matter what I tried, my goggles continued to leak. Hence, I spent a lot of time slowing down or stopping to empty the saltwater out of my goggles. This was frustrating. I kept reminding myself that this was not an A-Race. I was less concerned about time, and more concerned about getting the experience. It was also just a really long workout.
Having stopped so many times but still getting about the same overall time result means that I was swimming faster than my previous half-iron triathlons. Call it a win. Baby-steps.
Baby-step 2 – Cycling
The progress on the bike was much more clear. I averaged 17.41 miles on a very windy course. That is 1.13 miles per hour faster than the bike portion of my previous half-iron. That is kind of a big deal. I was hoping for 18, but this was still such a big jump. Count the victory. Celebrate.
How did I accomplish this increase in speed? Time. Trainer. Form. I have gradually increased my time training over the last few months. I obviously have to keep increasing that by the time I do a full-iron triathlon. Enabling that is my bike trainer. A bike trainer is a stand on which you mount your bike so that you can ride your actual bike inside your house. It turns your bikes into a stationary bike. You can change the difficulty level by shifting gears. I was able to increase my time on the bike by ignoring bad weather. Ice on the roads? Stormy? Doesn’t matter. Put your bike on the trainer and ride safely in your home. It is the equivalent of the treadmill. Outside is better, but the bike trainer offers an excellent workout.
The biggest breakthrough on the bike, however, has been in form. Like the swim, I have read and heard much about bike fit and bike form. Like the swim, I only recently began to understand what they have been trying to tell me. I am more comfortable on the bike than I have ever been. I am in the right position and loving it. Not just feeling good in regular bike position, but this race I was in the aero position nearly the entire time. The aero position is leaning forward with forearms resting on pads on the handlebars and hands out on special aero handlebars closer together. This puts your body in a more aerodynamic position. That gives you less wind resistance. That helps you go faster. That is why it is called aero position. In this race, it was a big deal because we had so much wind. Each time I was in regular position, I felt like a kite in a tornado. Aero position was absolutely necessary yesterday. I was grateful for the fact that I was comfortable enough to do aero position nearly the entire time.
So What Happened on the Run?
I ran the Boston Marathon in an average pace of 7:46. Why did I average 10:46 on the 13.1 mile run in this triathlon? Simple. I had not trained enough. Not the run training. I did not put in enough swimming and cycling to build my endurance base. Even though I had some baby-steps forward in the swim and bike, I still have a long way to go. Hence, this slow run was a side-effect of wearing myself out on the swim and bike. I ran as fast as I could without cramping. I kept trying. I just didn’t have it. My electrolytes were fine. I was hydrated. I had fuel. I just did not train enough for the bike and run. This was my longest swim and longest bike of the year. I did them back to back. Of course, I was going to suffer a bit.
Was I disappointed in the run? A bit, but not surprised. I knew my training. I knew my limitations. I just reminded myself that this was just a really long training session.
As the run dragged on, I told myself:
- You already met some goals.
- You are gaining experience.
- Just keep running.
- Get the finishers medal.
- Cheer for Muna and friends.
- Celebrate the baby-steps.
It was a good day.
“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!” — P. Mark Taylor