Category Archives: Reflections

Mother and son road cycle

Mother and son by Andrew Gills
Mother and son, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

It didn’t take much to convince Mum to come riding with me this morning. She enjoys a morning cruise as much as I do. Actually, she’s up for just about any adventure that comes along; so long as it doesn’t involve running 50km.

That’s something I’m grateful for: that my parents are outdoors people. I can’t remember a time when they didn’t take me cycling, bushwalking or camping. As a child, it was normal for us to spend our free time outdoors playing in the sun, rain and wind.

Weekends and holidays were times for camping and exploring; no cotton wool provided. I was still in primary school the first time my family went on a 15km bushwalk and when I was ten years old, Dad took me on a 50km road ride. Being outdoors wasn’t something you planned to do one day; it was just something you got up and did.

I have come to see that the life I live today is heavily influenced by the outdoor experiences of my childhood. And this is why I have recently signed up as a Scout leader; to share the outdoors with the next generation just as my parents shared the outdoors with me. Perhaps one day they will see that getting up before the dawn to walk, run, cycle or paddle is normal and fun.

Mum and I had a lovely ride this morning. Yet another shared experience in the outdoors.

Total: 42.3km road cycle.

Stopping to listen

I don’t usually talk much about it but I am a man of faith. It’s something important in my life but, like so many things, I sometimes forget to stop and listen to my faith.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of complaining about my back. I’ve been a little self-centred. It’s normal and it’s human to feel this way sometimes. But it’s important not to make it a habit because it can become a trap.

This morning I went to Mass. As a Catholic I have been absent from church services since I left school in 1996. My transition from female-to-male in 1998 created a barrier between me and the institution of my religion but did not hamper my faith. If anything, it forced to evaluate my beliefs and strengthened my commitment to live in Jesus image. Recently, I had the courage to write my local priest, Fr Marce, to ask whether I would be welcome in his parish as a transgender man. He welcomed me with open arms and I have now attended two of his services.

Returning to the point of this post: This morning I felt the call to attend Mass. And I listened.

The Gospel and sermon were about how we need to put Jesus at the centre of our beings because Jesus is about Peace. It was about how sometimes worries and anxieties fill us with darkness but that Peace will push the darkness aside.

It’s nothing I didn’t already know. But it is something I had forgotten. It’s something I needed to hear.

As I sat and prayed I engaged my core, I sat up straight, I relaxed my shoulders and I remembered to breath. And today I will focus my chi on allowing peace to flow rather than on complaining about something that is a minor frustration in the broad scheme of things. A frustration that is actually creating space in my life for reflection, refocus and a pain free future.

2,000km cycled this year!

Image courtesy of Bigjom / Freedigitalphotos.net

There was a time when I didn’t think I’d even pass the 1,000km mark in my cycling mileage this year but this morning I passed the 2,000km mark.

My cycling has definitely evolved this year. Back in January I was cycling to train for triathlons. I was focused on the Kingscliff Olympic distance triathlon with its 40km cycle leg. Through February and March I started focusing more on speed and increasing my distance so that I could complete the 40km cycle leg at the Byron Bay Olympic distance triathlon in May. While I did get faster and fitter on the bike, it was hard work.

As the weather cooled into April and May I switched my attention to my mountain bike as I trained for the Adventure Race Australia. I had a few fun times and gained a lot of new off-road skills. At first, mountain biking was a bit scary because gravel is more slippery than the road but I got the hang of it by the time Adventure Race Australia came around. Then I kept mountain biking in the lead up to the Tre-X Off-Road Duathlon in July.

In July I made the switch from triathlon / duathlon to trail running. I did a few long rides as endurance training for trail running but almost immediately switched all my training to running. I had a few running successes with the 50km Flinders Tour trail run in July and the Perth City to Surf Marathon in August before injuring myself in early September.

Since September I’ve been clocking up the miles on my bikes. I’ve also done my first ever bicycle mechanical maintenance by replacing the chain and cassette on my road bike. I recently joined Audax Australia, a long distance cycling club with which I hope to complete some endurance cycling events. I have also started cycle commuting again after a few years absence.

I now am falling back in love with cycling in the same way I fell back in love with running in July. It’s becoming a way of life again like it used to be. A happy way of life.

Ironically, it was completing the 50km trail run and marathon in July and August that gave me the confidence to teach myself basic bicycle maintenance. And it’s the ability to maintain and repair my bicycle that is giving me the confidence to tackle long rides and to fully embrace cycling as a form of transport.

It’s going to take me a while to get back to running long mileage again. Hopefully that gives me time to find a way to balance my desire to participate in both sports in a way that allows me to stay injury free.

Total cycle today: 12.9km to work + cycle home.

Taking a balance day

First nectarine of the season

I’ve run 63.39km this past week, bringing my yearly total to date to 458.53km. These 63.69km represent over 16% of the total number of kilometres I’ve run this year. It also represents a 450% increase to my average weekly kilometre. So today I know I need to let my legs recover from the efforts of the past week.

It’s also a good opportunity to regain some balance. It’s been a wet winter here in Brisbane. So, while I usually don’t have to do any garden maintenance at this time of year, I have quite a bit of weeding and lawn mowing to do. It’s also the end of July now so I need to prepare at least one vegetable garden bed so I can sow summer seeds in early August.

One of the 30-odd sugar loaf cabbages

It’s been a good winter so far in my garden. All the work I’ve done since we moved into our home three years ago is paying off. The orchard, vegetable beds and native garden are looking healthy. While the citrus trees haven’t yet started producing fruit, they are finally growing now that I’ve raised the garden bed. The tropical peaches, nectarines and apples are flowering, so hopefully we’ll get some fruit again this season. The sugar loaf cabbages I grew from seed have taken off like rockets and we have about thirty that will be ready for harvest progressively during the next 3-6 weeks.  We have eight broccoli heads that are coming into harvest and pigeon peas, which I need to harvest and shell to turn into pea and ham soup. The only thing that didn’t grow well this year were the peas. I just don’t think it got cold enough for them to set pod.

One of the 8 heads of broccoli

I can’t emphasise enough how important my garden is to me. Long before I rediscovered running, I discovered gardening. We even chose this block of land where we built our home based on the potential for garden. We have four ‘garden rooms’: a raised orchard, vegetable gardens, a native Australian garden and a more ornamental area. All this on a block that’s only just less that one-third of an acre.

Gardening helped me overcome my grief at not being able to have biological children of my own. It also helped me get grounded after I started my transition. My transition was a crazy, almost science-fiction, experience. In those early years of living as Andrew I alternated between the euphoria of making the transition and the anguish of feeling like a freak.

And then I discovered gardening. I put my hands in the soil and felt it’s texture. I realised I was connected with thousands of generations of humans who have all done the same thing. Not only that, but I could sow seeds and nurture them until food grew. My experiments started small: I bought seedlings until I was confident germinating seeds and I only had a small garden. Then I gained confidence and we bought a new block of land that I could turn into our own little sanctuary.

Over the past three years I’ve spent thousands of hours adding topsoil to our property, building raised garden beds, creating dry creek beds, laying turf and planting. I’ve designed the layout, redesigned when things haven’t worked and changed plans when I’ve needed to. It’s been a huge physical and personal achievement that I’m proud of. It’s going to take another two to three years before the garden really starts to show signs of maturity; but that’s a good lesson in patience that I need to also apply to my running.

Because it will take two to three more years before I’m a mature and consistent ultra runner.  Right now I’m like the citrus trees that are still growing roots. Every ultra I run this year will give me stronger legs and mental endurance. Every ultra I run next year will let me expand that base. And then, hopefully, in my third year I’ll finally be able to produce some fruit, just like a citrus tree shouldn’t be allowed to produce fruit until it’s three years old.

While it’s difficult to look at my running with this long-term outlook, my garden is teaching me this lesson and it’s one I want to try to learn. While I might be too undisciplined to stick to any real plan, I think I can still learn this lesson.

What a difference a year can make

On 1 June 2012 it will be exactly 12 months since I found myself sitting in a psychologist’s office struggling with anxiety and certain unhealthy compulsive behaviours. My life has changed beyond my wildest imagining and I am proud of the work I have done to achieve these changes.

30 May 2011: Unfit with a rounder shape

One year ago I was unfit and starting to settle into a heavier, rounder body. I didn’t like being unfit and was starting to make sure I was sitting in photos or only shot with head and shoulders. But I didn’t know how to change my life. The grip of anxiety had frozen me. I put all my energy into my insecurities, and escaped my pain through compulsive masturbation and hours wasted online.

June 2011: Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane – a life changing event

When the psychologist first suggested I put my energy into some sort of sport I dismissed the suggestion. I had no excuse to justify my dismissing her sensible suggestion but such was my state of mind at the time. Fortunately, I had entered the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane; a 100km walk to raise money for charity. I was seriously undertrained but with the help of three fantastic team mates and some determination I made it all the way in just under 33 hours. I stopped engaging in the compulsive behaviour almost immediately after completing Trailwalker.

July 2011: Second bike training session with a bit of a belly bulge

The next morning I decided that I was sick of being unfit. I had been fit most of my life, only letting myself go when the Black Dog and anxiety took hold of me about five years earlier. So I had something to draw on when deciding how to get fit and what to expect. I started looking for events to use as motivation; I knew I wouldn’t train if I didn’t have a specific goal. I had been a triathlete as a teenager so, after considering a range of other sports, I decided I wanted to get back into triathlon.

But there was a barrier for me: men have a bulge in their cycling shorts and triathlon suits. I felt subhuman because, as a transgender man, my body doesn’t look like that of biological men. I felt like I was somehow wrong and less worthy than others. And, while I knew other people wouldn’t say anything about my body, I felt it was abnormal and freakish. I had a conversation with the psychologist about this and then went away to think about it further myself. It was a huge achievement for me to buy a pair of speedos, cycling shorts and a triathlon suit; and a bigger achievement for me to wear them in public.

August 2011: Wivenhoe Dam Triathlon – My first triathlon in 14 years

One month later I completed my first triathlon in 14 years; the Wivenhoe Dam Triathlon. All I wanted to do was make it to the finish line in one piece. August is the coldest month of the year here in Brisbane and an icy wind was blowing on the rainy day. The water temperature was somewhere between 16’C and 19’C. I didn’t (and still don’t) have a wetsuit, so the swim was painfully cold. But I gutted it out and proved to myself that I can do anything. The furthest I’d swum in training was 400m in a whole session but the swim leg was 750m. The furthest I’d cycled in training was 12km but the cycle leg was 20km. The furthest I’d run in training was 3km but the run leg was 5km. And I made it! In a respectable time of 1:24:59. Words can’t describe the way I felt that afternoon.

September 2011: Rainbow Beach Triathlon

A few weeks later I raced the Rainbow Beach Double Triathlon. I raced a sprint distance triathlon (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run) on Saturday afternoon and then backed up to do it all again on Sunday morning. It was a real physical challenge for me but at least I had increased my training so that I was now able to complete these distances in training (just). I had also stopped seeing the psychologist on 31 August because I had worked through some important personal issues relating to my body image and being transgender. I completed both races that weekend; again in the respectable times of 1:15:31 and 1:19:38.

October 2011: Agnes Water Triathlon – The belly is getting smaller

In October I traveled six hours north to Agnes Water to participate in the sprint distance triathlon there. I’d set myself a goal to participate in a triathlon every month for the whole season. I didn’t have any time goals; I just wanted to complete the courses with a smile on my face. I thoroughly enjoyed both the race and my five days camping at Agnes Water. My time for the event was 1:11:33.

November 2011: Rainbow Beach Trail Ultra – This event opened so many possibilities

I couldn’t find any triathlons that piqued my interest in November so I entered the Rainbow Beach Trail Ultra (nominally 43km but my course was 45km). It was important to me to keep up my momentum and the idea of running to the Double Island Point lighthouse intrigued me enough to give this event a try. I had only joined the Brisbane Bayside Runners and Walkers club about a month earlier and had increased my training runs from 4-5km to 7-8km. I entered the event just 10 days before race day after I had completed a 15km club training run. One week before the race I did an 18km training run and then spent a week eating well in the hope it would enable me to complete the race.

The Rainbow Beach Trail Ultra was an extreme event for me. It was longer than I’d ever contemplated running before and I only had 10 days to get used to the idea. I ran as much of the course as I could but allowed myself to walk up all the hills and to walk when I hit the wall. Somehow I managed to complete the event in 7:30. It was a long day out on my feet in the sand but it was worth it. All the barriers I had built for myself were shattered that day – I realised that I could enter any event that took my fancy because I have the determination to finish. After the Rainbow Beach Trail Ultra I started expanding my training and racing experiences.

December 2011 – Toorbull Triathlon
(Image copyright The Run Inn Brisbane)

In December I traveled to Toorbull where I completed my fourth triathlon in five months. I was starting to feel stronger on the course and was not regularly training longer distances than the 750m swim, 24km cycle and 5km run that the race involved. I finished strong in 1:25:13 on a hot summer day. I was now training 5-6 days a week and had cemented my new positive outlook on life. I was a changed man.

January 2012: My first half marathon

In January I made a snap decision to turn up at a local half-marathon and run it. I hadn’t specifically trained for it because I hadn’t planned to race the event. I literally turned up on the day and entered. And then I finished the race in 2:10:57 on a stinking hot and humid day. I had now broken another mental barrier for me; the long road running race. It helped me feel like a proper runner. I felt proud of myself when I crossed the finish line; a new sensation that I had been working on accepting since my first visit to the psychologist.

February 2012: Making the outdoors a normal part of life again

By February I had started to expand my exercise regime to include more off-road exploration. Training ceased to be an activity that I did merely to lose weight or complete triathlons, it was now a normal part of life. I started exploring different ways to exercise that allowed me to enjoy the outdoors again like I had when I was growing up.

I also completed my first Olympic distance triathlon (1,500m swim, 40km cycle, 10km run) at Kingscliff. My goal was to finish within 3:00 and I achieved it when I finished in 2:25:53. I almost cried when I finished because I was so amazed at the change in my life. I had gone from struggling to get through the day to living an healthy active outdoor lifestyle.

March 2012: I smashed a half marathon

In March I made another break through. I smashed the Twilight Half Marathon in a time of 1:46:33. I had all these mental limitations set out about the pace I’d need to run to complete the half marathon. I figured that I would struggle to make two hours but once I got going I put all my doubts aside and found myself pushing hard.

April 2012: Sailing the Whitsundays

April was a month of change. During March I had started to train much harder and had lost touch with the real reason I got involved in sport. I was fatigued and had developed a bad attitude. The attitude was a result of me forgetting to be myself; I’d got caught up in the part of triathlon culture I don’t enjoy. See, there is an element of triathlon that is focused on results and single-minded intense training. I was starting to train twice a day and was trying to ‘make every session count’. And it took it’s toll.

While I was away for the Julia Creek Triathlon I found myself again. Two weeks away on my motorbike, a fun tough race at Julia Creek and a day sailing on the Whitsundays brought me back to earth. I decided to focus on bushwalking, mountain biking and enjoying myself. I decided to get out every day into the outdoors for the fun of the outdoors, not for the training. The biggest influence on this was my day sailing on the Whitsundays.

May 2012: Adventure Race Australia

The Adventure Race Australia last weekend best summarises my transformation from internet addict to outdoor athlete. Not only that, but I am much happier today. I am no longer gripped by anxiety or depression. I am no longer paralysed by insecurity. I am me. I have come a long way. And I’m proud of my journey here.

It’s been a big year. An important year in my life. One that has led to positive changes. In the next 12 months I hope to maintain those changes. I no longer have to improve my fitness because I am where I want to be. I’m fit enough to tackle any physical challenge and know I have the determination to achieve it. And I am determined not to go back to where I was 12 months ago.  I want to keep smiling 🙂

Byron Bay Triathlon preparation week 3

This week is the third week of my Byron Bay Triathlon preparation. I’ve been quite disciplined at following the training program that I downloaded from the Triathlete Europe website. The program is split into four 3-week sets, which focus on speed, strength, race-specific preparation and tapering. Each 3-week set is split into two hard weeks followed by a recovery week.

I’m currently in the recovery week for phase 1 (speed). I found the first two weeks incredibly tough because I was stepping up from training 5-6 times a week to training 8-10 times a week at a much higher intensity than I had been used to.

Swim

Before I started the program I was swimming sporadically (I only did 4 swim sessions between December 5 and February 18). When I did swim I was only swimming about 1km, with at least half my sessions being breast stroke. I didn’t do any speed work, kick board or pull buoy training. It’s quite shocking really that I swam 20:45 for my 1,500m at Kingscliff Triathlon.

Under the training program I am swimming three mornings a week. My sessions range from 1.5km to 2km. I am now doing a structured warm up, main set and cool down. Many of my sessions include speed work, kicking, pull buoy or all three. I’m actually using the timing clock at the pool now to limit my rests between repeats and, sometimes, to time my speed. I am feeling strong and confident in the water, and will be starting my last two races of the season at the front of the swim start rather than all the way out at the back.

Bike

Before starting the training program I was cycling once or twice a week. Most sessions were just social rides with either my mum or my running friends. I was riding 25 – 40km at about 22 – 26kph with the odd 27 – 30kph effort thrown in for good measure. My race speed at Kingscliff was 34kph, which is astounding given the training – I think I really brought it on the day.

Under the training program I am cycling 2-3 times a week. My sessions are much more structured, including time trials and hill work. As the training program progresses the time spent cycling at higher intensities will increase. I am enjoying the hard bike work and can feel a significant difference in both my strength and speed. I am finding that my warm ups and cool downs are faster than my training rides used to be (that being said, I never used to do warm ups and cool downs).

Run

Before starting the program I spent most of my training time running. I joined the Brisbane Bayside Runners and Walkers in about August last year and found myself enjoying their company a little too much for a triathlete. But while I was running quite a few miles, they were also relatively slow. The great thing was that I went from struggling to complete a 5km training run to knowing I can run any distance I choose if I pace myself appropriately. But my speed suffered (I ran a 54 minute 10km at Kingscliff).

Under the training program I am running 3-4 sessions a week. The training is structured and focused on increasing my 10km pace, which is what I need for triathlon. For the first few weeks I was still going to parkour training, which I included as my weekly speed running session (we run 5-7km at parkour plus activities). However, in the coming months I might be knuckling down to focus more on triathlon training and leaving parkour until my partner’s days off change again (she’s currently off work on Thursday and Friday, which means I like to be home with her on Thursdays). While I miss my running friends I know the absence is temporary and that I am on the verge of a significant running breakthrough that will probably come in the next two phases of the program, which include more hard training at race pace. I know I’m about to go from running 6min/km pace to 4:30min/km pace over 10km, and that I’m about to crack the point where I can confidently set off on a 30-50km trail run and pace myself to return home safely (even if at 7:00 – 8:00min/km pace).

Adaptations to the training plan

I have made some slight adaptations to the training plan to make it better suit my lifestyle.

  • I do not train on Sundays unless I have an event. I have learned that my body and soul need a day off every week. I need a day for my garden, for my family and friends, and for my body to recuperate from the effort of the week. I am pushing myself quite hard when I do train and I don’t want to injury myself or become ill.
  • I also do some of my running on trails and will be doing some of my cycling on my MTB. Being in the bush is food for my soul and I prefer it to pounding or rolling along the pavement. Also, after the Byron Bay Triathlon on 12 May, all my events (starting from 20 May) will be off-road until at least April 2013. So it’s good fro me to start mixing my preparation to finish this road season strong and have some sort of base for my off-road future.
  • I have been doing basic strength exercises most nights while I’ve been watching television. I just do plank, push ups or crunches during add breaks. I don’t enjoy strength work and hate going to the gym but this is one way that I can manage to squeeze it in without feeling like I’m ‘doing strength’.

 

I’m confident that the new training program will do wonders for me. I’ve already noticed some changes in my body – my arms and chest are more muscular from the swimming and strength work. The last bits of belly I had have disappeared though I am definitely no Ryan Gosling and doubt I’ll ever have a six-pack (I like food too much). I feel more confident about entering different types of events, such as the Adventure Race Australia (20 May), Dawn Attack AR (September) and the 50km Washpool World Heritage Ultra Trail Run (October). And I think I’m going to really have a good crack at breaking 2:15 for the Byron Bay Olympic Distance Triathlon.

I do admit, though, that I’m excited about this week being a recovery week 😉

 

Taking stock of the season to date

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.

July

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.

August

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.

September

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.

October

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.

November

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.

December

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

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.

February

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.

Rest day reflections (1 July 2011)

Swimming

The last day of 2011 seems like a good time to reflect on my first training session of this triathlon journey I started six months ago tomorrow.

****

I wake at 5am on my first day of training. I feel excited at the change in lifestyle I’m about to embark on. It’s still dark outside on this mid-winter morning and the air is cold. I left my togs and clothes ready next to my bed the night before so I don’t have the opportunity to procrastinate.

It’s cold as I ride my motorbike the 25km to the swimming pool. I get stuck in traffic on the highway and make a mental note to take the back roads in future. There are quite a few cars parked in at the pool despite the chill and darkness. It gives me courage.

I pay my $4.50 entry to the pool and buy a pair of goggles. In the change rooms I strip down to my togs and wrap a towel around my shoulders against the cold. Outside steam is rising off the pool as the warmed water meets the cold morning air. It’s beautiful. Swimmers’ heads bob in the water as keen people swim their laps.

I select a lane and slide my body into the water. It’s not as warm as I had hoped and I flinch. Pushing off the wall I decide that the best way to warm up is to get moving.

The pool is 50m long and by the half-way point my shoulders and lungs are having a competition for who can scream the loudest. It becomes apparent that it’s going to take me a while to get swim-fit enough for my first triathlon, which will involve me swimming at least 400m, if not 750m.

I manage to swim four 50m laps with rests at each end. I swim freestyle half of each lap and breast stroke the other half. My legs wobble as I walk from the pool to the change rooms and pull on my running gear. I’ve not yet started to run barefoot so I have to pull on my shoes, which I find quite an effort in my exhausted state.

Despite my exhaustion I run out of the pool, telling the counter staff that I’ll be back after a run. I turn left down the hill towards the main road. My legs stop wobbling within 100m and start hurting instead. After running downhill for 500m I can’t run any further and, frustrated, I stop. I’m absolutely shattered after what I’m sure is the shortest training session in history.

I want to give in right here and now. I will never be able to do a triathlon, let alone enjoy it. I turn around and walk back to the pool complex; on my way I decide not to give in just yet. I just have to take things slowly.