Vacation

So I’m currently coming back from a vacation and here’s what I have to say about training during it: if you want to you can make it happen. If you’re training intensively to have a better pr or some other goal then it probably won’t look too different. Figure out ahead of time if your hotel has everything you need or where there is a good place to workout. Bonus if you are a member of the ymca because you can typically use other Y facilities for free or a small fee. 

If you’re like me and just working out as a challenge in itself and trying to be fit; think outside the box. Rent a bike and bike the city, run the beach, swim in the ocean. These are often more fun and a great way to see the city. Just make sure you’re in a safe area (it’s a good idea to find where the locals run / exercise). Also don’t beat yourself up about missing a workout, especially if you went hiking for several hours or something. Just make sure you’ve done something active. A vacation is a vacation, even from working out. Oh and have fun!

Update

So I completely messed up. I wrote down the date of my race and missed it! I can’t believe it, but it’s over. Anyways I still have my Olympic Triathlon race next month so I’m focusing on that. It’s been difficult with school and everything but I’ve gotten back on my training plan and am striving for a good race. And this time I’ll triple check the date!

I have a confession to make….

I have a confession to make, I have been a bad triathlete in training. I put training on the back burner and now my endurance is burnt to a crisp. I have a triathlon a week from Saturday. So here’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to ease myself back into training and try my best at this next tri. A month later I will be in better shape for my Olympic triathlon, but not as good as I wanted.

 But failure is temporary. If I give in, I’m done. Just because I lost weeks of training doesn’t mean I can’t finish what I’ve started. I’m not going to have a great new personal record like I wanted, but I won’t quit. Time to get back to it. 

How I Met My Training Program

How do you pick a training program? For my first triathlon (a mini), I only had a month to prepare and just did some swimming, biking, and running each week. After I signed up for a sprint triathlon, I decided that it would be important to actually do some training. I used the free app, Ontri, to train for this triathlon. This app was useful for a beginner to understand what a training program would look like and I learned how to decipher a training program. For example 5x100m is 100 meters 5 times. 90 rpms is cycling 90 rotations per minute. This year, I started with this program again, but decided to change to something more challenging. I am now using the Garmin Olympic Triathlon Beginner training plan. This program has really pushed me outside my comfort zone, but has helped me to learn to push my boundaries into new territory.

When choosing a training program, I think it is best to look for one that has days off and starts in a range that you are comfortable with. Additionally, look for ones that taper or are less challenging on the fourth week as you need a week to recharge. There are many different programs out there so try a few and find one that works best for you and your schedule.

Am I a “runner” yet?

When have you gotten to the point where you call yourself a runner? Is it when you can run a mile without feeling like your lungs are hurting? Is it when you can run a 5k in under a half hour? Is it once you’ve run a marathon? By the same token, when are you a triathlete? When you’ve completed a triathlon? When you’re training? When you can complete a triathlon in a certain amount of time?

The reason I pose all of these questions is that recently, I was asked if I was a runner and I said yes. Without thinking, just like that, I was a runner. This was a big deal. I had never considered myself a runner. I really hated running (it’s still my least favorite in the triathlon). Once I got into graduate school, I needed a hobby and running seemed like a good one. It’s healthy, fairly cheap, and a fairly easy thing to pick up. So I started running, then started to look at triathlons because if I have to run, I might as well swim and bike too.

So what does being a runner mean to me? For me, that meant that I run at least once a week (even if it is really crappy) and the thought of running 4 miles doesn’t sound daunting. For me, it means that I am committed to my health and fitness and am making slow but steady progress towards these goals. For me, I run, therefore I am a runner. Now, I may not run a 5k in under 30 minutes, and it may be a long while before I run a marathon, but I am committed to running. Honestly, at the end of the day, we are what we continually work towards. So yes, I am a triathlete in training, and a runner, and a cyclist, and a swimmer. I am all of these things rolled into one.

Speaking of all three, let’s talk about the run within the triathlon. The run comes last in the triathlon and is really a true test of your endurance as you are tired and exhausted, but you need your legs to carry you home. That is also why brick workouts are important, so that you can feel what it is like to be tired after the other two sections and push through that to finish strong. What’s the key? Practice so that you aren’t completely out of energy and invest in some good running shoes.

Tech: The Bike

Obviously, having a decent bike is an important part of a triathlon. But what bike do you really need? Here is how I figured out what bike I need. First, there are three main types of bikes that you might see at a triathlon – mountain bike, road bike, and triathlon bike. If you are just starting out and not planning on doing more than a sprint tri, then you can probably get away with a mountain bike (just make sure you get it tuned up first). I decided to use my mom’s old mountain bike for my first couple of triathlons because I wasn’t sure if I would do more than one or two triathlons and wanted to see what it was like. For the first one it was fine. I couldn’t really tell if I just didn’t prepare enough and that is why my bike time was slow or if my bike really was a problem so I used it for my second one. After the second one, I vowed never to use that bike again in a triathlon! Why? First of all, this bike was about 20 years old and frankly needed a major overhaul to make it really race worthy. It would make weird clicking sounds and shifted really strangely. Second, I would frequently pedal fast than my bike could keep up with me. I needed a bike that I could increase the resistance so that I could go as fast as I was used to on the indoor cycle at the gym. Finally, it was super heavy and I would have trouble just getting it onto the car rack so that I could transport it.

So I looked at other bikes. Keep in mind I am a poor graduate student so my budget was between $200 and $500. Due to the price range and the fact that I wanted to use this bike for more than just triathlons (maybe a century ride or something later on), I decided on a road bike. Originally, I tried looking for under $300, but the quality of these bikes seemed a bit questionable so I looked a little higher. I tried looking a couple of different places including Meijers, Dick’s, Dunhams, Amazon, Craigslist, and Ebay. I quickly realized that the only ones that were in my price range were really at Amazon or Ebay. I looked at several bikes on both sites before deciding between three bikes on Amazon. I finally found one that seemed to suit my purposes on Amazon – a Vilano aluminum 21 speed bike. I bought it and was really excited when I found it sitting outside my apartment one day. I brought it inside and put aside the majority of the day to try and put it together. Putting the bike together wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, but there was one major snag. None of the socket wrenches or screwdrivers I had would work. So one short trip to Walmart later, I got some bike specific tools which of course fit perfectly. Word to the wise – it is probably good to invest in these tools and a good bike pump anyways so that you can fix small problems as well as pump up your tires as needed. Anyways, after some trial and error (I kept putting the handlebars on wrong), I had a bike. I was super excited and used a bike trainer this past winter to workout. It was great and I can’t wait until my races later this Spring to really put it to the test.

Here are my general bike guidelines:

  • If this is your first time and you are unsure whether you will do more triathlons, you can probably use a mountain bike.
  • If you know you will do more than one triathlon but want to do other things with your bike like different rides and stuff, a road or commuter bike is probably good for you.
  • If you are doing at least a couple of triathlons a year, will be doing an Ironman, or have enough money to comfortably buy it, I would go for the triathlon bike.
  • Don’t forget the extras:
    • Necessary – helmet
    • If you bike frequently – air pump, bike tools, bike shorts, free app that tracks cycling (Runkeeper, etc.)
    • Others – bike shoes, aerodynamic helmet, more extensive set of bike tools, bike trainer, cyclometer, gloves, etc.