I just got in from the best run I’ve had in four years. Yes, seriously. 60 minutes, strong to the end, probably about six miles total. I’m totally jazzed.
Some folks have very kindly asked how my triathlon training is going. Punch line: much better than last year. I credit one thing above all else: gear. A sensible year-round training regime is also deserving of much credit, and that regime is a function of gear changes I’ve made in the past year.
In sympathy with those of you who don’t give a rat’s patootie about triathlon, I’ll elaborate below the fold.
As I mentioned recently, I am doing the Reebok Women’s Triathlon in Naperville on 25 June and the Accenture Chicago Triathlon on 27 August. Both are sprints: 500 meter swim, 22 kilometer bike, 5 kilometer run. Last year I did Naperville in 1 hr, 55 mins, 45 seconds. My goal this year is 1 hr 45 mins.
Last year I was too nice in the swim: I was hesitant to swim over people, or to kick them, so I did breaststroke for the first 150 meters or so. That cost me about 5 minutes in the swim, which is a lot (in the pool I can swim 500m in 10 minutes without working too hard). This year I’ve got better goggles and a fresher memory about how to swim in such close quarters with so many people. I honestly have not been training too hard on my swimming because the challenges I have to overcome are the crowd management, but I have been swimming and running back to back to work on technique and endurance. I always do stroke drills. That’s the best advice I can offer for the swim: regardless of how strong or weak a swimmer you are, always do stroke drills; they will improve your form and make you a more efficient swimmer.
The bike is easily my favorite part of the enterprise. 22K is about 14 miles, and my target for that leg is 50-60 minutes. Last year I bought a Trek women’s-specific bike about 2.5 months before the race, and we were really not a good fit for each other. I don’t have a body geometry that requires a women’s specific frame, so between that and the fact that Treks are all very stiff aluminum, I didn’t ride really long training rides in the lead-up to the race. I think the longest training ride I did was 28 miles, which is plenty long enough in and of itself, but last year I was not running well, so I was trying to do all of my endurance training on the bike. 28 miles didn’t cut it for that. But the aluminum frame meant that the bike was fast, fast, fast; I just hated feeling every single bump in the road.
In July I sold my Trek and bought a Felt F70 instead; the geometry is perfect for me, and the metal alloy of the frame means I don’t feel everything, but I know it’s a slower bike. However, I can ride for much, much longer; this spring we’ve done training rides up to 42 miles.
But the thing that has meant the most for hitting the ground running, so to speak, is the rollers. We bought rollers (and a TV/DVD to alleviate the boredom!) and used them all winter. Even though on average I rode on the rollers once a week, 30-45 minutes each time, it was enough for me to keep my cycling form all winter. Rollers are also good for working on form, like doing drills where you focus on one leg pulling up and pushing down with your foot moving in a circle, do that for a minute, then switch sides.
The weak link is always the run (which is why I’m so psyched by this great run I had today!). I had plantar fascitiis two years ago, and so didn’t start running again until spring 2005. Indeed, even in the week leading up to Naperville last year, I was still “running” on the elliptical at the gym instead on doing real outdoor runs. I was doing 30 minutes, just enough to reflect the length of the 5K. In the actual race I had the “bricks” phenomenon, where your calves feel tight and heavy after getting off the bike, for a full two miles. The feeling when the bricks in my calves released was exquisite, and that last mile of the run was great. This year I want that release to occur sooner in the run.
So I have been exasperated over the past couple of months with my runs; my shoes hurt, my orthotics hurt, my iPod no longer held a charge over 30 mins. So the last thing I’ve wanted to do has been running. About a week ago I got fed up enough that I splurged and bought new shoes (Adidas Brevard, LOVE them!), new orthotics (the kind you heat and then step on in your shoes), and a new iPod. These shoes/orthotics are amazing! This week I’ve run indoors and out, constant speed and speed intervals, and they are really delivering. If you are a small-medium-framed woman who likes a combination of support and cushioning, this shoe rocks. Last year I ran the 5K in 32 minutes; this year I’d like to get below 30 minutes.
The other part of triathlon is the transitions, which I didn’t worry about last year. This year I’ll clip my shoes onto my bike before the race, so that will go faster. I’ve also bought a race belt for my number so I don’t have to futz with pins etc.
So that’s why the punch line is gear: the goggles, the rollers, the bike, the shoes, the orthotics are making sensible training feasible and fun, which makes the whole experience that much more gratifying. The right gear gets me excited about training: I’m actually excited now for my next run! That hasn’t happened in years.