Triathlons have always intrigued me, especially because swimming and biking are a big part of my regular cross training. I have dabbled in the occasional sprint triathlon just to mix things up, but this year I decided to raise the bar and enter my first half Ironman (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run).
I believe in setting goals as a motivational tool to raise the competitive bar and continually challenge myself, so I selected the Harvest Moon Triathlon in Aurora and began training in June.
The difficult part initially was sticking to a triathlon-specific training program. So early on, I allowed myself spontaneous opportunities for long mountain runs and bike rides with friends and settled into a more-detailed training plan in August.
Ryan Blasdell of Durango, a triathlete for the last six years, says balanced training is the most important aspect in preparation for a race.
Triathlon (especially full Ironman) training can take a huge toll on other important aspects of your life, said Blasdell. I think 70.3 (total miles in a half Ironman) is one of the ultimate distances. You still train long and hard, but the hours allow for a more balanced life.
For fellow Durango triathlete Randy Stueve, the most challenging part is maintaining consistency over the long haul.
Most of the time I look forward to my workouts, but some mornings it becomes a mental game of will to get up and go for a run or to the pool. Stueve said. However, Ive been doing this long enough that I know that while waiting for the starting gun, I dont want any regrets over missed workouts.
My biggest challenge was adding longer and more-frequent bike rides into the mix. Riding previously had been more of a social event for me, so I added a longer, harder ride and some hill climbing to the mix. By August, I was incorporating a weekly brick (biking followed immediately by running) and regular open-water swims to my training regimen. The theory behind a brick is to simulate the tired, rubbery legs you will feel in the race.
During a race of this length, it is a given that there will be times when the pain and fatigue can make or break you.
Fighting through the pain and maintaining focus is key. Blasdell said.
Staying mentally sharp is the key to a strong finish. Stueve said. I know I can finish the race; the question is whether I can endure the pain longer than the next guy.
This persevering attitude won Stueve the last Hawaii Ironman slot at IM St. George (Utah).
I made a pact with myself not to stop during my race. I felt great after the swim, and in spite of a strong headwind, my legs still felt strong after the bike segment. I knew if I ran continuously, I would finish within my goal time. Many people were walking, and Id be lying if I said I wasnt tempted, but I knew if I walked, it would be harder to start running again. When you are tired and hurting, it definitely is a mental game to keep going.
My strategy paid off because I finished the race in 6 hours, 20 minutes, passing an age-group competitor in the last mile and placing second in my age group.
Im already contemplating my goals for next season. For me, a new year means a new adventure, and life is all about the journey.
Reach Marjorie Brinton at firstname.lastname@example.org