How did you spend your last runner vacation?
I did a triathlon.
I kept the Tri the Heights sprint triathlon under wraps until after the race (called a sprint triathlon because of the distance, typically a shorter swim, 10-15 mile bike, and 5k run). I hadn’t trained much (okay, at all), and I wasn’t sure if I’d even finish.
It was a valid concern. My pre-race training consisted of 2 spinning classes, 1 17 mile outdoor bike, 1 1000-meter pool swim and a marathon or three. I wasn’t worried about the run, but the swim and the bike on the other hand…
The race was the Tri the Heights, which consisted of a 400 meter pool swim, 10+ mile bike, and a 5k. I swam competitively throughout middle school and high school, so I wasn’t super-worried about the swim – I figured that I could side stroke through it if I needed to, but I was worried about the bike. Beyond my lack of training, I’m also rocking a heavy mountain bike with a front brake that constantly rubs against the wheel, and no real understanding of how to optimize my shifting. Most triathletes at a road race use road bikes, which are lighter and faster. But I decided it was worth giving this triathlon thing a try. I’d treat it like a workout and have some fun.
And I did. My swim and run were at the top of the times for my age group. The swim felt amazing – I was strong, and passed swimmers every lap to cut seven minutes off of my expected 400 meter time. 400 meters is pretty short in the competitive swimming world, but it can be pretty daunting to the new swimmer, even if it’s in a pool! I got out of the pool feeling amazing.
In “Tri” language, the first transition time is called T1, and refers to the time spent drying off and changing into cycling gear and getting on the bike. My T1 time was slow while I figured out how to put socks, shoes and clothes over my damp body, but I was still feeling good as I headed out of the transition for the bike portion of the race. Feeling good, that is, until I found the first big hill. Tthe first seven miles of the bike were literally up a mountain, and I started getting passed by everyone. At mile two, I made a poor shifting decision and had to walk my heavy, old and now chain-less bike up the mountain. It took me a good ten minutes to get the chain back on the wheel, for a mile two split of 11 minutes. Ouch. By that point I knew I wouldn’t place in my age group, but resolved to finish strong.
I finished the bike, and had a quick T2. Transitioning from the bike to the run is almost always faster than T1, but for me it was much faster since I’d biked in running shoes! The first two miles of the 5k were uphill, but I felt strong and finished the run with the second best run time in my age group.
It was pretty awesome, and unlike the half-marathon I felt energetic post-race. I’m still a runner at heart (and a bit of a swimmer) but I think I’ll schedule a few more sprint triathlons this summer. However I’ll definitely train some more between now and then too, find a road bike, and learn some basic bike maintenance. These are a non-jarring way to get my racing fix in without running my body into the ground before my next marathon!
If you choose the distance wisely and you’ve done some swimming/biking cross-training along with your running, then give it a tri!
Are you ready for a Triathlon? Have you considered it?