A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Triathlon Training Tips (lessons learned the hard way)

Running late for the Boulder Stroke and Stride (swim and run) I was a bit "out of sorts" as I entered the water. I had missed the official start of the two lap 1500 meter swim by about 15 minutes (traffic getting from south Denver to Boulder was slow) and the fast swimmers were already finishing their first lap and running down the beach at Boulder Reservoir to start their second. In the middle of this churning mass of arms and legs I started swimming.
Above: The Boulder Stroke and Stride (1500 meter swim/5K run) takes place every Thursday in the summer at Boulder Reservoir.

"I can't breathe!" Inhale, exhale, it seems so easy on dry land. If you get out of breath on the bike or on a run, you just slow down. But for some reason in the water your brain functions differently. When you get out of breath your brain says, "I'm gonna die!" and panic ensues.

"Don't panic!" I told myself, "Just breathe." But I couldn't. So I stopped, treaded water to the side and looked back. With the setting sun glinting off the water (above) I couldn't even see the beach I had just left. All I could see was splashing water. Should I swim back to shore or keep going? I knew if I went back I wouldn't be back Sunday for the Boulder Ironman 70.3 (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1 mile run). I had to calm, down, get into my rhythm and finish the swim. So I gave a thumbs up to the lifeguard anxiously watching me from the dock and slowly started swimming. Stroke, breathe, stroke, breathe and eventually I settled into stroke, stroke, breathe, stroke, stroke, breathe, my normal pattern. I finished strong and feel confident that I will be ready to swim Sunday morning.

LESSON #1: Do NOT wait until three days before the big event to practice an open water swim in a competitive setting (and don't be late for the start).

Putting my running shoes on over wet, sandy feet I realized that I had not brought any socks. I know many triathletes do not wear socks but I always run with socks. This was my second big mistake of the day. In the lasst miles of the 5K I could feel a blister forming on my right upper heel. By the end of the run it was bleeding pretty good. I don't think it will bother me Sunday. At least I hope not. Running a half marathon is painful enough without a nagging flesh wound!

LESSON #2: Do not do anything "different" on three days before the big event (or on race day).

After making two mistakes on my last significant training day I called my former tri coach from Kansas City, Nancy Strickland and asked for some final advice. Nancy said to take Friday off (today) and just do a very short, easy five mile ride, 1 mile run on Saturday. Basically, there is nothing left to do but keep the legs moving and the blood flowing!

Off to Boulder tomorrow...

Ride on!



  1. Daren,
    Never having run a marathon or tried to swim/bike/run, I will nevertheless give you my opinion. It seems to me that the wise thing to do would be to slowly swim back to shore, walk to your car, drive home and collect yourself to prepare for another day. If that sounds like a conservative (no political connotation there)old woman who loves you, TOUGH!
    lOVE, Mom H

  2. Mom H -- I appreciate your concern but if I had done that I'm not sure I'd ever attempted another tri (especially not tomorrow). It's like getting bucked off a horse (well, that's never happened to me, how about hit by a car) you have to get right back on -- the sooner the better. In this case I don't think they have let me get back in the water and I'd have missed my opportunity to overcome the anxiety.


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