Monday, June 4, 2012

I am now a triathlete

I am  lousy swimmer.  But I didn't drown.  That is success.

One of the difficulties with doing endurance athletics is that you are always driving for something new.  It's probably not unlike the junkie looking for a new hit, needing more and more just to get a high, turning to the next thing on the street to get high.  Yeah, it's just like that. 

Having conquered the marathon thing multiple times, and having just done a two-day 150 mile plus bike ride, I was in the mood for something new.  So despite not having any experience swimming, I signed up for a triathlon.  It was today.

I would like to say that I picked up swimming quickly and didn't have any problems, but that would be a lie.  Distance wasn't the issue - I can do 4000m straight in a pool.  But there's a mental aspect to all of this, and that's the problem.  Before this morning, I'd never swum in open water over my head without a life jacket (boating, water skiing, etc.).  And I've never played water polo or otherwise had the sort of experience where you are forced to engage in hand-to-hand combat in deep water, so the whole group start thing is a first.

After setting up transition I managed a bit of a swim.  It was just to get prepped, get wet, get used to the water.  This made a huge difference. I was much less nervous when I stepped in the water than I otherwise would have been.  I was smart enough to hang in the back near the outside, so as to not have to fight the crazy good swimmers up front, and this was also a good call.

My group was second to last to go, so there was about a 40 minute wait from the start gun before I could get going.  I have to say the tussling and swimming over people was not as bad as I thought it would be.  I got kicked a couple of times and had to swim over a few people, but in the end it wasn't that bad at all.  I did start to panic once or twice but managed to keep my emotions in check.  I had to swim breaststroke for a little bit for sighting purposes but otherwise the entire thing was done freestyle.  I somehow managed to finish in the middle of the pack in about 11:35.  The only downside was that I forgot to start my Garmin. 

My first transition was really slow.  Note to self:  let's leave the cycling gloves at home next time.  Don't know what I was thinking there.  But once I got on the bike, everything felt awesome.  My legs were fresh, my lungs were ready, my body was cool.  And I flew.  I did 24mph for almost the entire course.  I was passing people left and right.  My road bike and I absolutely dropped several tri bikes, just left them standing there.  I backed off over the last half mile or so to give my legs a chance to rest for the run.

The second transition was fast - very fast.  Would have been a couple of seconds faster without the gloves - again, not sure what I was thinking.  And once I got out running I was in familiar territory.  Running hard when I'm tired is not something new.  I finished in precisely my goal time for the run, 22:30. 

Overall it was a successful race, and it was absolutely a blast.  I'm definitely signing up to do this again.  Actually, I already have - signed up for an Olympic distance in August.  I'm excited.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Barefoot running - accepted science?

I mentioned earlier that I've had a bit of an extended layoff.  What I had was posterial tibialis tendonitis in my left ankle.  This is a result of some crazy-hard training in Feb/March (I did set a PR in the 10k, though, so there is that) and an ill-advised three day jog through Asia that included an informal 5k on the Great Wall, a day of hiking in the mountains of Japan, and a makeshift 10k through the cherry blossoms of Tokyo.  This was followed up by a 150 mile bike race the following weekend.  Maybe I overdid it just a touch.

The fact that I broke this particular ankle in an especially horrific manner 12 years ago has a lot to do with it too.

The thing felt like somebody gummed up the works with equal amounts of gelatinous sludge and Geneva-convention defying torture.  Off to the doctor.  Spent two weeks in a walking boot and another out but doing nothing (swimming was allowed, cycling and running were not).

I'm cleared to run and bike now but in limited quantities (10% rule and all of that).  He knows about the race schedule and I've been cleared for that - I just have to take it easy.  His prescription, though, was interesting.  When I asked him how to prevent this from happening again, he didn't even hesitate.  "Barefoot running," he said.  When I suggested there was a debate about it (and, again, I'm already a proponent) he told me he doesn't even think it is a debate anymore.  "It's just common sense," he said.  "You train barefoot, your foot and your tendons get stronger.  Break in gradually but it's a great prophylactic."

I wasn't aware we'd moved past the debate, but I don't need to be told twice.  So one day a week is going to be spent running in the Vibrams.