Tag Archives: triathlon

How (not) to train for a triathlon

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I did a sprint triathlon in 2015 – and another last year. I enjoyed them but learnt that: I swim badly; I cycle reasonably; I am almost adequate at the run (for an old bloke). So, after signing up for an olympic distance triathlon I will have addressed the issues, right? Wrong.

The early year focus has been on my first sportive (90 miles on 23 April) to the exclusion of running and swimming. Since then I’ve cycled less than 45k, been in the water three times and have run three times, gently, with my wife and three times alone – and only once as far as 10k.

At over 60, I should know better and I don’t really have the excuse of insufficient time, given how so many people manage to do much more while sill working.

Worse still, I’ve only tried on my wetsuit twice and will not manage to get in an open water swim before the event itself. Perhaps I have a secret death wish?

I did take a swimming lesson – but just one and only last week. It was good but, at this stage it will probably serve mainly to confuse me as, during the lesson, I was totally unable to practice more than one new thing at a time – and even then several other things (like breathing) went to pieces. I’m sure it will be really helpful once all the advice becomes a natural part of my swimming but perhaps the session I plan tonight isn’t enough for that to happen!

Sunday promises to be interesting.

So: train consistently, work on your weaknesses; taper properly; and don’t let the event introduce new things to you (especially like wearing a wetsuit for the first time).

Oh yes, and do what I say, not what I do.

A second trick in a week. Old dog overload?

After mixed results from the ‘introduction to wetsuits’ experience earlier in the week, last night I tried a swimming lesson. I guess I must have had a rudimentary lesson or two at school as a child when I learned to swim – but certainly nothing in over 50 years.

Two sprint triathlons have largely proved what I already knew – I don’t swim well. The impending olympic distance triathlon had me looking for the swimming silver bullet – the hope that a proper coach would identify the one small thing that would transform me into Michael Phelps overnight.

Of course, it doesn’t work like that. The coach was very good and in just 30 minutes came up with a number of things to work on. Together, in time, I’m sure they will improve my swimming but I think that Michael’s records are safe from me.

So: starting breathing out as soon as my face is under the water; not kicking from the knee; more rotation along the long axis; a longer reach; a straighter pull backwards rather than down; and delaying the start of the next stroke until the other arm passes my head.

It’s all a lot to think about and trying to incorporate all the advice was really hard. I found I could (sort of) do any one of them if I thought about it hard – but then the others went out of the window. With a longer stroke and fewer strokes each length, I take fewer breaths and that messes with my breathing. Eventually, I assume that each stroke should be smoother and more efficient, and so less exerting, but the key there is ‘eventually’.

No silver bullet, no overnight transformation – but lots to work on in the next week or so.  If it all becomes the norm in my swimming I’m sure it will be really beneficial – if I live that long.

It just reinforces the high regard I have for good triathletes – the ability to master the three skills is really something this cyclist admires.

Old dog – new tricks?

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Instrument of torture. How can something apparently so simple be so difficult?

I won’t say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, just don’t expect too much too soon. At least that’s the experience of this old dog who has tried to learn two new skills this week.

I’ll deal with the first one first. With my first olympic distance triathlon just over a week away, I tried to get into a wetsuit. It was a disaster. I didn’t time it – which is a good thing as it would have been too depressing – but more worryingly I couldn’t actually get into it at all. Eventually the arms and legs went in but I couldn’t do it up at the back.

To be honest, I rather panicked at this point. It’s a second hand Ebay special that I was sure I’d researched carefully but it seemed clear that I’d bought a size too small. I went back to the manufacturer’s website and that confirmed that I hadn’t made a mistake – I am pretty well in the middle of the ranges for height and chest size and at the lower end for weight.

Unfortunately, the suit did not know this and it steadfastly refused to do up. Having got hotter than I might after a couple of hours’ cycling I did the only sensible thing – I gave up. At this stage I was expecting to have to abandon the triathlon completely as it will be wetsuit-compulsory and I felt too mean to go and buy another.

I tried again the following day, sure that I’d lost weight overnight – or that my technique would have miraculously improved. It hadn’t. I’d like to think it was simply due to my manly chest but, having been a cyclist for a few years, I’m a rather more Chris Froome than Arnold Schwarzenegger in that department.

I swallowed my pride and asked help from my wife who seemed pleased to be getting her own back after years of needing help to get into evening dresses and necklaces. It worked. Sadly, it fits so well that, far from making me appear sleek and lithe, it highlights bumps and lumps that I didn’t even know I had. I thought it might have a slimming effect like a corset – instead it just magnifies the bits that shouldn’t be there and mocks the bits that should be bigger. I was also rubbish at getting it off. I’ve watched the Brownlees and they don’t seem to have the same problem – how could that be?

The only good news is that I eventually went online to get advice about putting a wetsuit on. The site I found says ‘get a helper to do the suit up’ so perhaps I shouldn’t have worried in the first place?

I’m wondering if I should drive to the triathlon wearing the wetsuit. The problems are obvious: the final nerve-induced visit to the gents; death by overheating on the journey; explaining it to the Police if stopped or to the petrol station attendant if low on fuel.

They say transition is the fourth discipline in triathlon. Sadly, for me, that may mean it takes as long as any of the other three.

Second new trick tomorrow.

Making it up as you go along – is there any other way?

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DIY calf muscle treatment kit

I like to think of myself as reasonably intelligent (which, of course, almost certainly means I’m not) but much of what I do is made up as I go along.  That is certainly true of my sport and training and is a very good reason why this blog is not ‘how to ..’ but – at best – ‘how I ..’.

I got out for a run this morning in surprisingly decent weather and managed 9.1km at 5:55/km (5.65 miles at 9:30/mile). Not exactly burning the tarmac but something to build on. If I can break the hour mark in the triathlon 10km I’ll be happy.

The good news is that the stretching and ‘ice pack on calf’ approach tried yesterday might have worked (at a cold but not-quite-frozen temperature). Although not entirely niggle free, the legs are not too bad and my heel seems to be much less tender.

Admittedly, the ‘freezer blocks stuffed down the back of cycle leg warmers’ design may need a bit of polishing before it hits the High Street, but I may have stumbled on something that works for me.

Another possible glimmer of common sense breaking through is that I’m trying to arrange a swimming lesson. My technique (such as it is) comes largely from the internet so is shaky at best. I understand that drowning during a triathlon is generally frowned on, so I’m swallowing my pride (and obstinacy) and going for some help from an expert.

Watch this space.

If at first you don’t succeed – try tri again?

 

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A number of cycling friends refer to me as ‘going to the dark side’ when I tell them I’m doing a triathlon – but I have great respect for triathletes. Quite apart from the extra kit required, the additional skills and training time that are needed demand real respect.

With my first sportive out of the way I’ve turned my attention to the triathlon in a couple of week’s time. Not enough time to train properly – but it will be very much a ‘happy to get round’ experience, being my first olympic distance event – and my first open water swim since I was on a seaside holiday in my teens.

It’s not started well. A short run with my wife on Monday, a swim in the pool on Thursday another run on Friday, a gentle cycle on Saturday and a second run with my wife today are all I have to show for the first week’s effort.

The running has left me with painful calf muscles, achilles tendons and a sore heel. I spent an hour after today’s run with freezer blocks tucked inside leg warmers to see if that will help as I can’t afford too many days without a run if I want to get run-fit in time.

As for the swimming – even less encouraging. After the sprint triathlon I did last September I swam every week and got up to 100 lengths in the pool (2.5km) fairly comfortably. I lapsed after Christmas so Thursday was the first swim for 4 months – and felt like it. Not a pretty sight and surprisingly little forward motion for all the effort being expended.

I’ve still got to try on my wetsuit for the first time and fit in a practice open water swim wearing it.

How do triathletes find the time to do all this properly?

This could end in tears.

Cycling and running – odd bedfellows?

DSC_0251I’ve always been confused by people who say that cycling and running use different leg muscles. After all, how many leg muscles are there – surely both activities use them all?

After the sportive on Sunday I went for a gentle run on Monday morning with my wife – not very far and not very fast. It was fine – I don’t think I’d have known that I’d done anything the previous day. Later, I took a car in for a service and cycled just the 2.5 miles back home – and I certainly felt the previous day’s 90 miles.

Perhaps the answer is that running and cycling use the same muscles, but slightly differently?

Anyway … with the WHC behind me, next up is the triathlon on 14 May. The cycling can be left to tick over but it’s back to the pool to see if I can still swim (albeit badly) and it’s back out running (almost as badly).

Then on to the everesting attempt.

 

Starting to focus on training

Funny how sorting out some challenges seems to focus the mind on training. Sadly, so far I’m doing more thinking about it than doing it but that’s probably due to English winters and the fact that turbo in the conservatory is out of commission due to loads of mother-in-laws things being stuffed in there with all of our own.

Anyway, the schedule of key dates seems to be:

  • White Horse Challenge: 23 April, 150km with 1400m of ascent. It will be my 6th entry, best time so far 5h 13min – I dream of breaking 5 hours.
  • Olympic distance triathlon at South Cerney: 14 May. I’ve done a sprint triathlon in each of the last two years and enjoyed them – but have not done any open water swimming. So far, the swimming has been poor, the cycling quite good and the running OK. Currently scared, but the aim is just to get around.
  • Everesting attempt: July, 8848m. Even scarier.
  • Farcycles sportive: 29 July. My club’s event, I will probably do the 100 mile route.

That means:

  • Swimming training – back to the local leisure centre to see if I can develop anything other than a stroke to be ashamed of. Before Christmas I got up to 2.5km in a session but, hell, it’s boring in a 25m pool. I must practice getting the wetsuit on and off (I’ve never tried it since I bought it) and try some open water swims.
  • Running – I run a couple of times a week with Libby although that’s not too far or too fast. I guess this need to figure more in April and May.
  • Cycling – I must do some! It will be a combination of distance and hills. – the more the better?
  • Weights – out of my comfort zone but I read that lunges with weights is good for cycling so I’ve started that already. I have two 12.1kg dumbbells and am doing at least 3 sets of 16 reps (eight with each leg) with the two weights, daily. I’ve always felt a bit under-powered so that might help. I’ll also do sit-ups and crunches to help the core.

I just hope that is right enough and that I do enough of it. I’ll log progress (or lack of it)  here.