I had about 6 months to train for the Half Ironman. I picked out the Augusta, GA race that was in late September of 2011. It’s a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run. And like I said before I wasn’t swimming or biking. Probably the last time I swam a lap was when I was 10 and the last time I road a bike was close to when I was 13. A half a year is a long time but hopefully it would be enough to get ready for a big triathlon.
First thing first was to get a bike. In preparation for the half Ironman, I signed up for a sprint tri about 2 months into training. When you ask for advice getting into triathlons everyone will say to just use an old bike you have. A) because you don’t know if you’ll do more than one so you don’t want to make a big investment on a new bike. B) a sprint tri isn’t that long of a ride. Most of them will range from a 10-15 mile bike ride. C) you’ll see a ton of people using old bikes at sprint tris. It’s probably their first triathlon as well, so you’ll be in the same boat and won’t feel embarrassed if you show up with streamers on your bike handles.
My plan one morning was to go on a short run, then pull a bike down from the garage and take it for a test spin. At my house we had a bunch of bikes and they took up space so my Dad had hooks hanging from the ceiling and we hanged the bikes upside down. So I pulled my old Trek down. Oh so many memories with that bad boy in my early teenage years, when my friends and I would build makeshift ramps with wood and cement blocks. A quick inspection, I needed to pump air in the tires. I found an old pump. Hooked it up to the tire valve and gave it a few good pumps. Nothing. I tried a few more, nothing.
I assumed there were atleast a few holes in the tube. I just decided to try another bike. I pulled a Schwinn down. Alright I thought, this will be my training bike now. The chain was a little rusted and not on the gears. I remembered to flip the bike over on its seat to put the chain on easily. So I did that, put the chain on and spun the pedal with my hand to get the chain all the way on. Right when I started to crank with my hand the chain just snapped. Well shit. I really didn’t feel like working on bikes all day. I figured that doing a half Ironman, I should be okay with spending a little bit on a new bike.
I Googled some local bike shops. Went to a few and everything they had was a little out of my price range. I ended up finding a low end Specialized road bike at a shop and it was last year’s model. Definitely in my price range, now we’re talking! I asked to take it for a test ride. They gave me a helmet and had me sign a waiver. I went out to the parking lot and hopped on. The bike was in a low gear so I clicked away, speeding around. I wanted to test all the gears so I wanted to shift back down. And I couldn’t figure that out, haha! I stopped and asked the guy that was helping me, “uhh how do you shift down?” He showed me that the hand brakes swing towards the inside and that actually shifts the gears down. Weird. Totally different than the Trek mountain bike I was gonna use.
Got the bike, and now needed to find a place to swim. The next day, I found that my county in live in has parks all over and some have indoor lap swimming pools. I went to one that was close by my house and is also on the way to and from my new job. I bought a season pass. I decided to test the waters while I was there. Yes I brought swim trunks and yes I forgot to bring goggles. Actually I forgot to even buy some. F it, I’ll still do some laps.
I jump in the shallow end of the pool. 10 laps should be easy I told myself. I push off from the wall and start swimming like how I remember how one is supposed to swim. I opens my eyes under water and when I take my first breath, I turn my head and keep my eyes open. The chlorine quickly dried out my eyes and my vision was blurry. I slowly made it to one end and I could barely breathe! I held onto the wall trying to get my breathing under control. I looked around and see people doing their laps and the lifeguard glances at me. She’s probably thinking what an idiot I was. “This is just like when I started running. It’s gonna take time.” I told myself. I finally get myself under control and I go back to finish the lap. Halfway through I lose a contact in the middle of the lap. Man this is rough! I didn’t last very long in the water that first day. It took me forever to do 5 laps, which was fine enough for me. I didn’t want to struggle doing 5 more to make it to 10.
I kept my running schedule the same. I subscribed to Triathlete magazine and researched training plans. I didn’t follow a specific one. I just wrote out my own schedule. I would bike 3 days, swim 3 days and run 5 days out of the week. I would just slowly build up my endurance on the bike and in the swim.
Other than running, I was more excited about adding biking to my routine and wasn’t at all looking forward to trying not to swallow water a few times out of the week. But quickly I came to find out when you ride a bike on the road, the drivers don’t give a flying fuck. They don’t bother to slow down at all. They don’t bother to even to give you a little extra space. You have to bike going with traffic, unlike running, so it’s scary as hell knowing your life could be wiped out at any moment. And like I guessed, swimming did take some time to get use to. It took awhile to be able to do a lap without getting out of breathe. And when I could swim more than a lap, I felt like a beast.
Biking, you’re constantly getting out of rhythm. Stopping at traffic lights and stop signs, shifting gears up and down. And hoping the next car doesn’t run your ass over. Swimming, I found very meditative. Just like running you focus on just a few things and all of the sudden your mind is completely relaxed. My excitement to start biking faded quickly and it was my least favorite of the 3 sports.
Aside from that, I loved doing so many workouts in a week. I typically would run in the morning, then swim or bike after work. Saturday I would do a long run. And Sunday I would a long bike ride. Occasionally I would do a brick workout. That’s where you do two of the sports back to back in a sitting to mimic race day. Yeah it was time consuming, but there is nothing like chasing a new goal and taking on a new challenge.