Although my blog contains mostly posts about recipes, I occasionally like to throw in some training posts as well. This winter I had a phase where I could not even imagine running without pain. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. Then I discovered The Triathlon. I always knew about triathlons and every doctor that ever saw me always said “you know, you should consider triathlons.” But I figured that this was just a way of them sugar-coating the fact that I should not be running. Now I understand that the sport of triathlon truly makes one a well rounded athlete and stronger all around.This winter I learned to enjoy the pool using my Finis waterproof MP3 player along with a bunch of other fun toys. I treated my swim workouts like running workouts. Easy days, hard days, recovery swims. Once I began to view swimming as more of an essential workout element and not as a bonus activity or something I would do when I felt up to it, the I really started seeing results.While spending my summer in Jersey, I found myself surrounded by triathletes. The only problem was they have been doing this for years and since I was so new to the sport I was scared to throw myself in the bunch. But I found that, just like with runners, everyone was so encouraging and welcoming. Triathlons have way more factors than running. With running you have to think about the weather, your muscle cramping, stomach issues etc…In triathlon you have three sports plus transitions to wrap your head around. After a 6 month break from running I found that my swimming and biking really kept me in shape and left my running fitness level just where I left off. Now I can hop off a 20 mile bike ride and hover in the low 8s for a 4 mile easy run. I am not sure I would have even be able to do that prior to picking up swimming/cycling.
When I came across the “Hump Day Triathlon” I was more excited than I was for an actual race. It is an unofficial triathlon that takes place every (every!) Wednesday. I was nervous to show up alone but once I discovered that my swim partner Heather always attends, it was a no brainer for me. The group meets around 6:15 am in Sandy Hook, NJ, where we get into the ocean at 6:30 for a little over 1 mile swim, then on to the bike for 15-20 mile ride and then a final run. Literally sounds like the perfect morning to me…If only I could do this everyday!
After talking to many people at my subsequent group swims and “Hump Day Triathlons,” I found that everyone had one thing in common: They all used to be runners and all used to get injured way too often. That sounded familiar 🙂
You think you are in shape right? Try working out with triathletes and you can throw that all out the window. These people are fit! We all dived in – some people swam over me, which was cool, and slowly but surely everyone was way ahead of me. Then I couldn’t see anyone anymore besides my friend Heather. I thought, Man, I must be really slow or they are really fast. Then I realized we both drifted way off to the side and, phew, we found them. But yes, I was still the last one out. It’s all good. I’ve got to start somewhere!Showered off quickly and then hopped onto the bike (this was my third ride clipped in and I had finally figured out how to work my gear!). Averaged around 16-18mph nice and easy on the mostly flat road. And I was still in the back of the pack! I could not believe how all these people were so fast and fit. (Keeps me wondering what have I been doing all my life. Then again, I am reminded as I talk to one of the ladies next to me that she is doing this for 7 years. Me–not even 7 weeks. I always like to be competitive and get ahead of myself. Same with running. When I first started running I couldn’t even run a 5k at my current half marathon PR. I have to remind myself now and then that there is no need to jump the gun.)
The bike is the best leg of the race in which to get nutrition and water. I always forget to drink while I’m riding and it always bites me in the butt. Drinking even if you think you are not sweating is so important. I finished two bottles of water – one plain and one with Nuun. I also ate 1/2 of an RX Peanut Butter bar (this may be my new favorite flavor. If you haven’t tried these bars you should!They use real whole foods and I truly believe they are the perfect fuel on a long ride. The fat slows down the absorption of the dates and they are not super sweet. Plus, they don’t leave you feeling heavy. I love the coffee flavor as well.)
Off the bike and I know that here is where I shine- running. Although my legs have not done speed work or a long run in a while, running is my home base and my roots. I stayed close to the fast guys for the first mile, hanging on to high 7 pace. Then I let them go before I went into cardiac arrest. Yeah right, what am I thinking running 7s after swimming and biking plus I haven’t run for nearly 6 months. Off they went while I stayed in the low 8s, but still at the front of the pack. The feeling of accomplishing this all on a typical Wednesday was amazing. The rest of the day could have totally sucked it wouldn’t have mattered. I really wanted a trophy when I was done.
Recently I received a couple of emails regarding getting into swimming as a cross training workout for runners. I did write a recent blog post about it. But I think the one big thing to take away is the need to start slow. Swim for 20 minutes, swim for 10 minutes, see how you feel. Just like with running, it’s important to get your form right before you try and do anything else. I love this saying– you better be able to run a perfect mile before even thinking about running 3. So get a good base to start. Incorporate a swim on easy days during your training cycle. And who knows you might even get totally hooked like me. I am already looking forward to next Wednesday!