Tri again

It’s amazing how, even just a few weeks after a race, the post-race high can diminish and suddenly signing up for another one doesn’t seem like such a good idea. I had originally been looking at doing another sprint triathlon in July, but now that it IS July, suddenly and hotly, it feels too soon. I was lucky in my first race that the weather was cool and cloudy, and in the middle of summer in the steamy, swampy Midwest, heat stroke feels like a very real option.

So I signed up for one in August, instead. I’m sure that will be better.

Seriously, though, having a little extra time to prepare and to hopefully buy and get used to a new used bike will be helpful. I went back to swimming this morning after two weeks off, and it wasn’t nearly as painful as I had feared (but also not as blindingly fast as I’d irrationally hoped).

My next tri is in Portage, Wisconsin, where my grandmother used to live. My memories of Portage are walking down to the river to skip rocks, eating ice cream out of cones that Gramma would buy from the grocery store (something I didn’t even know you could do — cones in your own home? How cool is that?) and cutting giant puffball mushrooms the size of basketballs out of her lawn.

This time, my memories will hopefully be of not vomiting (always the goal) and improving on my previous time. The distances in this race are slightly different. My first one, Capitol View, was a 400m swim, 10.0 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run. In this next race, Silver Lake, consists of a 1/4 mile swim (about 400 meters), a 16 mile bike, and a 3.1 mile run. Considering that I was passed more on the bike portion of the first race than any other, this would appear to be a disadvantage, but like I said, I’m hoping to upgrade my bike before then. The 17 year old purple Giant mountain bike has served me well, but I am told that it’s much too heavy to go fast enough to be competitive.

This will also be my first race without a wetsuit. I’m confident the water will be warm enough to go without. The real question will be how much I either freak or don’t freak out on the swim. This time, at least, I know that I can switch to the backstroke immediately if I feel panicky.

A friend sent me this article on freaking out during triathlon swims: 6 Ways to Train for a Triathlon Swim Start. (As an aside, does anyone know how to make links on this blog more obvious? There’s a link to the article there, but it’s so subtle that I’m not sure anyone can tell, unless you happen to have your cursor hovering over it. I want it to be bold and blue or something.)The author’s description of how his races start sounds exactly like my first experience: “I was so panic-stricken and so desperate for escape by the time I started swimming that I had no concept of race pace. I just started swimming as hard as I could regardless of the race distance and kept swimming as hard as I could until the nightmare was over.” He gives advice for how to train for the reality that the swim is not a time trial, but is a badly paced weird panic sprint. This includes suggestions such as doing a series of push-ups on the deck of the pool before jumping in and sprinting for 50 meters, followed by a more well-paced 400 meter swim (or whatever your race distance is). This helps your body become used to an elevated heartrate at the beginning, followed by a more tempered swim.

Another suggestion in the article is to begin a swimming set with a hypoxic start, which means by not breathing for the first 6 to 10 strokes. This forces you to find a way to catch your breath while moving (with your face in the water). The main thing that panicked me about learning to swim in the first place was that I couldn’t breathe whenever I wanted to, so practicing being out of breath while swimming is as much a mental challenge as a physical one for me.

I don’t know if I’ll actually follow these suggestions (because I’m a knucklehead), but I do know that having practiced active recovery in my master swimming classes was immensely helpful in my panicky first race. Although I didn’t consciously think about it at the time, being able to swim while tired and also (sort of) catch my breath while swimming was the difference between grabbing on to a support kayak and finishing the swim without help.

And in the end, there is so much focus on and training for the swim, but it’s only 8 to 10 minutes of the overall time. It’s just such an uncomfortable 8 to 10 minutes that for me, knowing how many hours I’ve put into training for it is absolutely essential to not freaking out.

All that to say: 8/17/13, Portage, Wisconsin. My next tri. Faster, less wetsuity, bikier. And, as always, hopefully vomit-free.

  1. Anne Hoang said:

    That’s awesome Michelle.

    I think you should sell t-shirts at Portage with your last line as the slogan: Faster, less wetsuity, bikier, and vomit-free!

    • Yes! If I can come up with a new slogan for every race, this could be a major fund-raiser for… well… me.

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