Sunday, April 29, 2007



Sorry, I just had to get that out.

Last year, I thought I wanted to compete in a triathlon. But I didn't get much passed the thinking stage of it, and the summer went by without me really even training. I ran a couple miles, twice I think, and decided I was not cut out for any racing. Just because I am pretty good on a bike, the thinking went, did not mean I could swim or run.

But this winter was pretty mild, and I got a dog, so I started running. All winter long, three times a week. And really, I was pretty bad at it. It was cold, I was out of shape, and I never ran very far (probably an average of 1.5 miles per time out).

Still, it gave me a good base, and when the weather got better, I was running farther. I still was not going very fast, but I was getting out longer and longer. I even sprinkled some 3+ mile runs in there (I am sure I blogged about them, as they were major triumphs for me).

And the thought crept back in my head. So I made a promise. Not really to myself, because I am about the only person I don't keep promises to. I made a promise to my childhood friend, and brother, Mike.

Anyone who reads this knows Mike is both a badass AND a Marine. He has competed in a few triathlons, and always wanted me to do one with him. And I kept putting it off. I stay in relative shape (relative to most people I have met, anyway) and thought I could just pick it up and in a few weeks join him. And, I probably was afraid that was not true, and I would actually try hard and not be able to do it. Letting Mike down is on my short list of things I hate most in this world.

But, if you will allow me to get serious for a bit, things are different this time. Having a friend in the war really does make you think about the finite nature of time. Just this winter we were having a great dinner at my house, laughing and drinking and nothing was changed. Now he is in a desert hell with the real danger of losing his life. That last sentence is really not easy to type.

We just don't get enough time on this earth for me to squander so much away procrastinating. And I don't get too many opportunities to make the people around me proud. Or make myself proud.

So in earnest, I started training for the Castaway Club Triathlon in Detroit Lakes, MN. As of now, I am signed up for the sprint. That is 1/3 mile swim, 10 miles bike, and 3 miles run. It really doesn't seem like that far to me, but I have not put those distances together in a day yet.

I have about 15 weeks to train, with one very good one under my belt. The two weeks prior to that I had been mostly running, trying to build up the base in what I thought was my weakest event.

As it turns out, I probably should have been swimming all winter long. Swimming a few laps here and there at summer camp does not prepare you for the rigors of swimming 600 meters as fast as you can. And my form is about as lousy as if I had never swam before. My head is up, my shoulders are rotating my trunk, my legs kick when they feel like it. All in all, I stink at swimming.

Running, it turns out, I am actually pretty competitive in. And biking is, as suspected, my strong suit.

Here is how I stack up against last years numbers:

Swim: 26th
Bike: 4th

Now, honestly, as good as that looks, those are my best times in the last week, and they are individual times, not the times back to back, like race day. Still, it is a good start, and a nice jumping off point for training. If I add 3 minutes for transitions, I am currently running 5th.

Now, for the meat of things. Triathlon training is HUMBLING. Already not a day goes by where I do not have to force myself to do my two a days. Not a morning goes by where I am not sore from the training of the day before. And not a second goes by where I do not think I could be trying harder.

I honestly thought I would be first in the bike. I have had a few days with wind to train, and I am just under 20mph. Now, I can blame that on the wind, or be honest and blame it on the fatigue from running and swimming. And who's to say race day will be calm?

I need .9mph to be first. I think that is a realistic goal. 15 weeks is a long time to regain some form on sore muscles.

I swim like a clubbed seal. Picture that for a second. Now picture it worse, and bloodier. That's me swimming. I just want to get my swim time under 12 minutes. And be able to swim with my head down, not panicking halfway through for air. The first day I went to the pool the life guard was actually laughing at me. Almost openly, for awhile. She did, however, manage to give me a few pointers between giggles, and between that and practice, I should be ok. I am working on one thing at a time, like a golf swing, in the hopes I can put it all together in 15 weeks. The saving grace is the fact that we spend so little time in the water that my time is not that far off. I really need to work on form more than speed, so I can save energy for later in the race.

Running has been my one saving grace. I have improved my three mile time by :50 in the last week alone. And my breathing is becoming much less haggard. Three miles almost seemed pedestrian today. Next week I am adding .5 miles to my course. I want to get up to 6 miles before race day, to build stamina, and prepare for a full triathlon (later this year or beginning next)

I am looking forward to posting weekly about this, and I hope to look back and laugh at it all.

And please, if you have no plans for the weekend of August 18th, come out to my buddies cabin, party with me in celebration of my first triathlon, and cheer me on as I cross the finish line.

Hopefully before at least ONE other person does.

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