I’m at that point in my training where race day is looming and the doubts are setting in, 6 weeks to go until my first ever triathlon and all I can think is I haven’t done enough cycling. Or running. Or swimming. Although I am probably more worried about the cycling, I can do the distance but not sure on speed, whereas my run target time is way below my PB so should hopefully be reasonably comfortable. But is that going to matter if I slowly grind to a halt on the ride? Argghhhhh!
I try to remind myself that I’ve done as much as my training budget will allow, sure I probably could have pushed harder in some sessions but by and large I’ve ticked off every session I planned and have made a huge change to my swimming and cycling fitness. But still, reality bites sometimes doesn’t it? That’s ok as long as I get a grip before race day arrives, you can’t go into these kind of endurance events with doubts can you? You have to be confident (and realistic of course) in your abilities.
Chrissie Wellington wrote a great blog post a few months ago called Juggling Balls all about how to fit training for a triathlon around your work and personal lives. We all know that we have to manage around the other priorities in our lives and as much as we’d like to train whenever we want few of us have that luxury, but hearing a former pro triathlete talk through the decisions she’d had to make really resonated with me (incidentally it’s rare to find someone who is both a top athlete and a good writer so do recommend you have a read of her blog).
Being mentally committed to your training is so important and reading her blog made me face up to the realities of my training and what realistic goals I should be setting myself for my half Ironman in August. When a challenge feels too big it’s easy to avoid facing up to the reality of the training you need to do and not set good goals.
Chinese philosophers came up with Yin and Yang to symbolise the 2 opposite forces in our lives but when it comes to training there are (quite aptly) 3 competing forces you have to balance; work, family and training. All 3 pull you in different directions and you need to find a way to balance them if you are to be successful and I generally find it’s hard to achieve what you want in one area without also achieving in the others.
On the long and bumpy journey towards being a triathlete I have officially passed a major milestone; my first open water swim. Incidentally I did consider calling this post Free Willy, making a somewhat tenuous connection between me swimming free and the movie where the whale famously was set free, but decided that might give the impression I’d joined a naturist open water swimming club. Let’s be honest the lake is cold enough without exposing that part of your anatomy to it also.
But discussions about willy’s aside I have to say open water swimming is bloody awesome. I’ve always loved being around water, I think it’s where I’m most at peace and I spent a good chunk of my teenage years fishing on various lakes and rivers. I hoped it would feel like trail running does; free and natural which is why I run on trails and not roads, but I was a little nervous that I would hate it and it would put a big dent into my triathlon aspirations.
We got down to the lake at 6.30am, the sun was just coming up and it was peaceful apart from the other 6 swimmers who were already out splashing around the lake. Wetsuits and swimming hats were pulled on (it’s really not a glamorous sport is it?!) and we gingerly waded out into the lake. It was cold enough to take your breath away a little and make your face ache for the first few minutes but actually once you’re moving it was fine.
If you looked at my training on Strava over the last few weeks you would never know I’m training for a half iron man in June. In fact writing that actually makes me a little nervous because I really am not doing the training that I’d hoped to at this point in time. Every athlete has to make training decisions based on their own priorities and for most of February the priority for me has not been my training.
On Sunday I had the chance to head out at 6am for a run with no pressure to get back to get ready for work. But instead I chose to stay in bed and have a cuddle with my children when they woke up (which wasn’t long after!). As a dad who runs sometimes those are the priorities you have to make. We’ve been a house of sickness for at least 2 weeks now, which included a trip to A&E on Friday night with one of them, so grabbing some time to relax as a family and take things easy was definitely needed.
That’s it, first swim of triathlon training done and amazingly I didn’t ache too much, just a little bit of stiffness in my neck. I managed to swim a whole 30 lengths (not in one go clearly) without needing lifeguard assistance or weaving across my lane. Personally I’d call that a success.
I’ve always swum, in fact in my early teens we used to go every Friday for a swim and then we’d eat chips in the car on the way home (reverse carbo loading). But I’d never really call myself a swimmer, competent enough but not fast or particularly talented. But given that the only swimming I’ve done in the last 2 years is splashing around in the pool with the children I was actually pleasantly surprised with my technique and strength.
I’m sure if I saw a video of my swimming it probably wouldn’t be very pretty, but in my head at least I was living the mantra of ‘think long and smooth’. I just need to train my left arm to work properly, it seems to just swing over and land in the water with a very ungainly splash.