Anyone who has read my blogs over the last years would be familiar with my “Update to Healthy Living”. This is a series with over 100 posts that has catalogued my journey to lose close to 150 pounds. I still have about 30 pounds to go – and I will continue to update that. However, I wanted to branch off into triathlon as well here. Hence – a new series.
I have fallen in love with the sport. Somewhat obsessed. Why? What is it?
Triathlon is a sport that involves three disciplines: swimming, then biking, then running. Triathlons are of different lengths, for example:
Indoor tri: great for beginners. Swim 10 minutes, bike 30 minutes, run 20 minutes. I did one of these 12 or so years ago and loved it. I finished second to last! I was also probably 315 or so pounds then. Being almost 100 pounds less, I’m going to do one of these February 10th and try to finish halfway through the pack.
Sprint tri: These are what I will be attempting to do this year. This is 800m swimming, 12 mi biking, 5k running. The “A” race I have this year is 300m swimming indoors (or in an outdoor pool), 15mi biking, 5k running.
Olympic – generally, double a sprint.
Half ironman – generally, double an olympic
Ironman – generally, double a half ironman
What I’m focused on this year is actually competing in a sprint triathlon in August, as my “A” race. This means this is the main focus of all of my training. I have a “B” race, which is my turkey trot in November, and a “C” race which is the indoor tri in February. I may enter more – but this is a VERY new sport to me and I need to learn a lot. For example, in June is a triathlon around here in York, PA and I want to go and watch. I need to understand the equipment they are using. I need to understand the transitions. There’s a LOT to learn!!!
But isn’t it just swim/bike/run?
Yes, and no. At the core of it is that, but there are layers inside layers inside layers, then wrapped in more layers. I’ll get into that below, and this is one reason I’m so fascinated.
I grew up biking everywhere. I loved my 20″ bike and one of the earliest dreams I had of what I wanted to be when I grew up was a BMX racer. I used to do a lot of jumping, but generally speaking, I was on my bike from morning until sunset!! As I grew up, I then got one of the 10 speeds with the skinny tires. In my teens, I once biked 28 miles on a trail near where I grew up, and then this led me to biking about 13 miles one way to see a girl, then 13 miles back. I could put some serious miles on my bike, but eventually all of the hills and blind curves around where I lived led to that hobby going bye bye. It would be perhaps 15-18 years until I’d pick it back up.
With swimming, I had an above ground pool in my back yard. I LOVED the water. I’d be out there all day and night. Yes, there was a cute neighborhood girl I’d like to join us, but that wasn’t the point lol – I LOVED the water. What’s very interesting is the first time I really ever was in a lap pool was when I was 315 pounds and doing the indoor tri. I wanted to do a “warm up” lap and almost drowned. When my weight loss journey started over 2 years ago, the back spasms I got from running led me to the pool. I then learned how to properly swim and now wish I could do it an hour a day. SOOOO relaxing!!
With running, in 4th grade I first really got my taste of it. I was a pudgy kid, but Mr. Shuey told us that if we couldn’t talk to the person next to us, we were going too fast. In those gym classes, they’d track us for a mile – most of the kids sprinted out of the gate and half a lap later were walking. Here I was doing the pepe Le Peu and jogging by them. I remembered that. I loved to run, albeit my distances and times weren’t great. I think my best mile ever was a 9:30 in HS and I was probably 240 pounds for that. Most of my friends in HS were cross country runners. For some perspective, my school was state champion for PA in XC for like 4 out of 6 years. So these guys knew their shit. I ran with them a few times and they left me in the dust – but the sport was fascinating to me!! Over the years, I kept up with running here and there. While I’m not very good, it’s something I enjoy.
With triathlon – I have found a sport I can do in my 40s. It’s an individual sport, and you can be pro or amateur. You can show up in shorts and a tee or full out gear. There are age groups, so you run your race, and maybe you can place within an age group?
Almost anyone can do it. This is a BIG appeal. I was a die hard baseball and tennis player and had a cup of coffee playing college tennis. The problems with those sports are that you need others to play. At my age, everyone has kids and shit they are doing with little Timmy and Tammy on weekends. I want to focus my free time on training.
The plan is to begin a new journey with training and posting over a few years. I’d like to take you, the reader, on an adventure with me. Today, I’m 5’9″ and about 225-226 pounds. I have only done an indoor tri for shits and giggles once. I’d like to take you along with me for the training, the races, and the ups and downs. Here is my “big” plan:
2019: indoor tri in February, watch a race close to here in June, compete in my first sprint triathlon in August, and run a 5k in November. Over the course of this year, I will be embarking on official training plans, entering races, and dropping my weight down to 185-190. The idea is to build my endurance and fitness with a LOT of zone 2 training, minimize injuries, and thin out. I feel my volume cannot increase much more than it has been until more weight comes off. So I’m in a bit of a wait and see approach with increasing volume. My back doesn’t seem to like running 15-20 miles a week at this point. Also as part of this, I’d like to get involved personally with the tri/bike/running clubs around here. I am a TOTAL geek for science related to this shit. I wouldn’t mind long discussions on bike computers or best aero bars on the cheap.
2020: Now that I have entered the sport and built a few resources out, I’d like to get more and better information on what races to run, what gear to buy, and train with others. I’d be looking to do maybe 3-4 triathlons and several 5ks, maybe 1 10k.
2021: If I am in the top 1/3rd of finishers in any of my sprints for my age, I may be looking to move up to Olympic races. Today, I could do the distances for Olympic, but not sure of them back to back. I’d like to train for this as I get faster.
2022-2024: During the latter stages of this, I’d like to try and train for a half ironman – they call these 70.3. This is 1.2 miles swimming, 56 miles on the bike, and 13.1 miles running. Today, I can swim the 1.2 miles, bike about 30, and run about 7-8 if pressed. I have done the 30 miles biking while 250 pounds. It might be nice to be 185 and trained for 3-4 years and have incredible experience and equipment to see if I could bike the 56 miles. The 13.1 is a half marathon at the end of it. I figure 3-4 years of training and maybe weighing in at 180 by then would put me in a good place. Apparently the really skinny guys are good with the shorter distances due to speed, but the more athletic/muscular guys seem to do better at the longer distances due to power. So I might actually do better in longer races a few years down the road.
I mentioned about all of the layers above. I spent many years mastering chess. I’d have to say at my best in chess – my PEAK of PEAKs, there may have been 10,000 people in the world, maybe 20,000 better than me. Out of 7 billion. For my age and rating, when I was 15ish, there may have been 50-200 better than me in the world, at that time nearly 30 years ago. The game was all about strategy and tactics. I also loved baseball and tennis for the same reason. Most of my friends that I played baseball with loved it just as I did – but many don’t appreciate the nuance.
For example – perhaps I was at first base and it was an 0-2 count to a big, strong, right handed hitter. My guess is my pitcher is going to throw a curve ball. They always did on 0-2. It’s going to drop away from the right handed hitter, and if he’s worth his salt, he’s going to try and drive it the other way. As a first baseman, I’m shading a little toward second because I feel he’s either hitting it up the middle or taking it to a gap between the first and second baseman. THWAP! Grounder to my right – I’m then throwing to the pitcher to get him out. In baseball, every pitch and batter provides unique situations to prepare for.
With triathlon, I’m finding there are so many nuances.
- Swimming – water temperature dictates if you use wet suit or not. Do you practice open water swimming? How do you position yourself in the pack? Is drafting a thing with swimming? Swim strokes for the pool are different than in pack swimming due to the choppy water. Different wet suits create different buoyancies. What goggles to wear. How to do transition 1 when you are soaking wet.
- Biking – how to “road ride” with a peloton, how to draft. How to maintain your bike. Is bike weight important? Aero bars? How much to train? Zone 2? Overtraining? Tire pressure in conditions? Hill riding? When to be on the hoods or drops? Bike computers. Indoor trainers. Bike clubs. How tri biking differs from traditional bike races. Brick workouts. Bike shorts for training versus tri kit for competing. What tires to use? What kind of cleats to wear at what angles? Bike socks?
- Running – what shoes to wear. Socks or no socks. Proper running form. Zone 2 training. Fuel. Low carb running versus carb running. How many miles to run? Triathlon kit? Sun glasses? Transition 2?
This list is endless on gear. Some tri bikes that the pros use are $20,000. Really?? I’ve seen comparisons on mid-level bikes compared to the super bikes and there’s not much of a difference unless you are a pro trying to shave seconds off.
So – please join me over time to follow where I go. I’m 43 and plan on really taking this as far as I can in my 40s. Perhaps 50s! Perhaps 80s!! Hoping my body holds up. I think my immediate goal is to get through 2019 having completed an A, B, and C race somewhere about the mid point of all finishers.