Sunday, May 6, 2012

Swim / Bike / Run

So I've been backing into being a triathlete for a while now. I mean; I already have a lot of years cycling and racing bikes behind me. I've developed a decent run over the years. So what else was there?.... Ah yes - the swim.

I swam a lot as a kid and teenager. By 'swim', I mean the kind that keeps you from sinking to the bottom. Or gets you back to the boat after falling out with your beer - or flipping a catamaran... with beer. Hmmm... there's a theme there.

I had a short stint on the High School Swim Team. We had a mean coach. The kind that used to push us under water with the pool skimmer when we weren't working hard enough. Then I got the list of all the stuff we couldn't do. Drinking beer, staying out late and eating fast food were all on the list. I quit the team the next day.

But watching my wife compete in triathlon made me really miss bike racing. I also like how triathletes look. Not in a vain way, but rather they are always pretty well balanced with regard to muscle tone and fitness. Last year, watching Paige at Nationals in Vermont - it got me jazzed up. I remember coming back from dinner one night and seeing all the bikes in the windows of the hotels. I missed being on my bike.

So I started riding more. Not that I was going to race my bike. I just wanted to use it as a recovery. For me, being on the bike feels like...... 'home'. I can't explain it. It's just such a natural feeling for me to drop into that cockpit and start riding. I also realized that I can still suffer on the bike way more than I have yet learned to do on the run - but I'm getting there.

Recently I started swimming. Well, I started going to the pool and thrashing around. After a couple failed starts at something more serious, I signed up for private lessons and started reading about how to swim 'properly' - 'Properly' defined as getting to the other side of the pool in the shortest time possible.

So now I'm on the path. I've signed up for a 'min-tri' - the swim is only 275yds; which I can do. 500yds still intimidates me. Not as far as being able to cover the distance, but honestly; I just don't want to 'complete' a triathlon. I want to race it. It's not an ego thing - I just really like racing. I can 'complete' things on my own - and they don't cost me money.

We'll see how it goes. I can't imagine not liking it. I mean, I love bike racing. I love running races. And I'm starting to really like figuring out the swim. One funny thing is that open water doesn't intimidate me. I grew up swimming in the nastiest chop on lakes. We'd go out in storms if it wasn't lightening and just swim through chop. It was fun. I'm actually having to get used to swimming in a pool - but I like the serenity and the placid nature of the water. It's like being in a little perfect world.

I've run off the bike a few times now. I've heard a lot of fuss from some people, and there is definitely a transition you have to go through to get the run to kick in - but so far, it seems like about 1/3 mile with nice quick strides and then stuff starts firing right for me. I've also heard that some people have a tough go of it and others, not so much. Hopefully that's me.

One challenge I'll have is swimming in a big pack. That's new for me - especially in open water.

The other challenge will be disengaging my road racing mindset. If someone passes me on the bike, my instinct is to jump on their wheel. Blocking, wheel sucking - it's all 'no-go' in triathlon. I see some penalty flags coming my way until I get the hang of it.

Anyway - I'm having fun learning something new. Paige has agreed to show me how to properly set up and execute my transitions. And the add-in workouts of more bike and swim have really felt great.

In 2013 I'll turn 50. I think it would be a cool milestone for me to do an Ironman at age 50. That's a 2.4mi swim, followed by 112mi bike ride and then a marathon. Now that is something epic enough that I'd be ok with just 'completing'. Hat's off to anyone that can truly race it.

I have some work to do first though.

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