As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m now 6 months into the 9 month triathlon season and am on 4 days rest. It’s an excellent opportunity to reflect on my season so far to celebrate the goals I have achieved and to work out my plan going into the final third of the season.
I started training on 1 July 2011 after a 14 year absence from triathlon. My goals were simple: to complete one race a month, culminating in a sprint distance event by the end of the season.
In my first session I struggled to swim 200m and run 500m. So I spent the whole month taking baby steps by doing a lot of short swimming sessions combined with run/walk sessions. I didn’t even touch my bike for the entire month. I switched to barefoot running after reading Born to Run because I was struggling with shin splints. The barefoot running slowed me down a bit but my shins stopped hurting too.
I completed my first race in August: the Wivenhoe Dam Sprint Distance race (750m swim / 20km bike / 5km run) on 21 August. I had intended to wait until October to race a 400m swim / 15km bike / 4km run event at Raby Bay but when the Wivenhoe Dam race was announced I impulsively entered . At the time I lodged my entry, I was still only able to swim 400m in 50m lengths and run 3km at about 6:00 pace. I still hadn’t cycled in over 2 years.
My goal for the Wivenhoe Dam triathlon was simply to make it to the finish line. By race day I had managed one 750m swim, one 5km run and one 15km cycle in training.
It was a cold winter’s day (maximum temperature was 21’C) with blustering winds and drizzling rain. The official water temperature was 19’C but the ambulance also tested it and found it was 16’C. I didn’t have a wetsuit. While there were many rescues and withdrawals, I completed the 750m swim in 15:56. It was cold, wet and slippery on the bike course but I felt buoyant just to be out there competing. I completed the hilly 20km course in 44:51. I finished with the 5km run, which I completed in 24:10. My total time was 1:24:59.
On the back of my success at Wivenhoe in August, I entered the back-to-back Rainbow Beach Triathlon. I was now regularly covering the sprint distances in training and was still doing my running training barefoot.
The Rainbow Beach race was held on 3 & 4 September. The Saturday we raced at 3pm and Sunday we raced at 9am. The swim was an ocean swim with small swell (too small for surfing) and a strong northerly sweep (enough to cause us to start about 100m south of the first turning buoy). I enjoyed the 750m swim and came out of the water in the lead group on both days with times of 15:31 and 13:53 respectively. The bike course was a flat but windy out and back. The tail wind was phenomenal but the head wind punishing. On the second day I broke a toe strap, which slowed me down a little. My times for each 20km bike were: 39:15 and 40:28. The run took us up a steep hill but the views over the ocean coming back down were stunning. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of the run and felt strong both days. My times for each 5km run were: 24:37 and 25:16. My total times were: 1:15:31 and 1:1938. It was a big improvement on Wivenhoe.
I also joined a running club in September – the Brisbane Bayside Runners and Walkers. This fantastic group of people meet every Saturday morning for a 7km run, with a 5km time trial on the last Saturday of every month. It was through this group that I started regularly going out for long runs, increasing my distances significantly in a fun social setting.
I traveled to Agnes Water, 6 hours north of my home for a sprint distance triathlon on 2 October. The swim was a 2-lap ocean swim followed by solid bike and run courses. I don’t have split times for the event but completed the 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run in a total of 1:11:33. I was absolutely astounded by this time because it was a vast improvement on my first race just two months earlier.
Throughout October I started to increase my running and cycling but decrease my swimming training until I was swimming less than 3 times a month. Given that the bike and run are my weak legs it was a good move for me. And the early morning daylight gave me plenty of opportunity to train.
I changed my season goal by deciding to enter the Byron Bay Triathlon in May – an Olympic Distance event.
4 November saw me again travel to Rainbow Beach, this time for the Rainbow Beach Ultra Marathon Trail Run (45km). The furthest I’d ever run in training prior to the event was 15km, which I had run just once, two weeks before the event. I hydrated, ate and slept well the week before the event. I decided to run barefoot along the trails and beach, and to walk up the steep hills. My goal for the event was to make the cut-off so that I could run up to the Double Island Point lighthouse. I didn’t have any specific time goal for completing the event. I made it to the lighthouse and then to the finish line in 7:30. This included about 20km of beach running at king high tide and 500m wading waist-deep through a lagoon.
For the rest of November I worked on increasing my running distances and I did some slow 30 and 40km bike rides. I don’t think I swam at all.
I started this blog in December so my training is all recorded. I started the month by completing the Toorbul Triathlon. The event was slightly longer than sprint distance (750m swim, 24km bike, 5km run). I completed the horrible seaweed infested swim in 12:56 but don’t have splits for my bike and run. My total time was 1:25:13.
I was now doing most of my running with the running club and while my speed reduced my endurance and patience improved. The women I was training with were starting to train for a marathon and that meant we were doing lots of longer slower runs. I took some rest through Christmas and entered the Kingsliff Olympic Distance Triathlon for February, bringing my Olympic Distance goals forward by 3 months.
January was a tough training month for me as I tried to refocus after the Christmas holidays. I started doing speed sessions on the bike, which was really fun and also tried to hit some of my longer rides a bit harder. Again I didn’t really do any swimming training. I injured my toe and ankle mid-month and had a few days off to recover before entering the Convicts and Wenches Australia Day Half Marathon on 26 January on the day.
I completed my first half marathon ever in 2:10:57 and ran it all barefoot. It was tough going in hot and humid conditions that reduced many runners (myself included) to walking sections of the course. It took a few days to recover from the effort.
I took up parkour training this month.
This is where I’m at. I just completed the Kingscliff Olympic Distance Triathlon (1,500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run), achieving my goal of going better than 2:30 (I completed in 2:25:53). I surprised myself in the swim and bike, completing them in 20:45 and 1:10:24 respectively but was disappointed with my run (54:42). It’s only a mild disappointment though because I know I gave 110% in every leg of the race and didn’t leave much in the tank after the swim and bike (I thrashed myself in each). I also know that the long slow runs had a lot to do with the slow running speed (I have been training at 6:00 – 6:30 pace).
I’m now taking a few days off before refocusing on the last 3 months of the season and setting new goals because I have already achieved my original goals (completing both a sprint distance and an Olympic distance triathlon).
I’m proud of my achievements, particularly given where I started and that I only train 5-6 sessions a week, most of which would not be considered ‘quality’ sessions by the more serious triathletes.I’m also pleased that I’m consistently finishing my races in the top half of the field.