Flashback Fridays 7: Transitioning to Triathlon

June 2012.

I didn’t stay a runner for long. Early on (around the time of my first race) I was hearing about the benefits of cross training. The seed was planted to buy a bike. By the time I did my group training run for my 2nd race (half marathon). I recall a discussion about trying a triathlon. I was buying my wetsuit the same day as my group training run for my full marathon (3rd race).

I don’t really recall how I caught the bug, but it evolved quickly after I started running. The “Why can’t I?” approach was in full swing.

I thought I would take a bit of time this week to fill in a few of the gaps between my inaugural race and my inaugural triathlon.

The first step was the bike. I think this came up because it was advised that I see a physical therapist at the RunSmart program to evaluate gait/shoes etc in an effort to reduce injury risk. The therapist was a cyclist and there was talk about the benefit of cross training and decreased injury. I had a bike growing up (3-speed, rarely used it). I figured it would be easy. He suggested a cycling store close to my home.

They immediately recommended a road bike. Got on, and almost killed myself! Skinny tires and hard to control. Being hunched over also felt like I was careening to my doom. They advised that I try a hybrid instead (“It’s not TOO grandfatherly”). Well, still felt like I was gonna kill myself, but more slowly. There was more stability, more weight, wider tires. Decided to go with that.

First few rides around the neighborhood were an adventure, but I eventually started to get the feel for it. I tried to find safe road to ride on (i.e.: no traffic and wide shoulders). Not much around here. I started trying to track down cycling maps and came across some awful trails. Then I came across the Coon Rapids Dam. Some nice bike trails! That connected to regional paved trails and Elk Creek recreational park (20 miles of paved trails with no traffic!) I started doing a few laps. It hurt…a lot! I found that I really REALLY hated cycling!

Well, I decided that I would not keep it up if I wasn’t training for an event. The company that put together my first race had a “Duathlon” late summer (run/bike/run). I signed up. Then I started thinking “triathlon”. I used to swim a lot as a kid. I was 2/3rd of the way there, and swimming would likely be my strength. A few google searches later, I found the MPLS (Minneapolis) Triathlon. They had a sprint distance that I figured that I could handle in July. “Why not?”. I signed up before I even jumped into the water. Good thing too. I got a swimsuit and found my way to the community center pool. Two lengths of the pool and I was done. 88 lengths was a mile. I had better get better at this…

Took a few deep breaths and tried again. By the end of the hour I was getting a little more comfortable in the water.

Now I needed gear (and to figure out what gear) and a chance to jump into a lake.

This was getting too complicated.

More google.

OK, I found a triathlon shop. Dropped in for a visit. Needed a “tri-suit”. A skin-tight thingamagigger that is like a 2 piece bathing suit which dries quickly and has a small cycling pad that doesn’t weight you down during a swim or hinder you when running.

Yep, I was back on Mars (home away from home).

Got the basic gear and asked about open water training. They pointed me to a formal class and a series of open water clinics. I took advantage of both. Quickly learned that I would likely need a wetsuit (lakes can get very cold!). Back to the triathlon store (…and back to Mars). Trying on wetsuits is not fun, especially when you are sweaty (which happens on muggy summer afternoons after a 23 mile training run…who knew?)

Decided to go sleeveless (sleeves just too claustrophobic and restrictive).

Off to the open water classes and clinics. Learned a lot about entering and exiting, drafting, spotting, and not freaking out in green water. Learned that I am so blind that I could not see buoys, kayaks, or the shoreline without my glasses (which you can’t wear with swim goggles). I once swam back to the wrong beach. Whoops!

I have never worn contacts…didn’t want to start now. I finally discovered goggles with vision correction. Sweet! I could see shoreline! That was so cool!

Laps around Elm Creak were getting a little easier. I was more comfortable in the water.

I was signed up for a sprint triathlon…

Of course, they also offered a longer “Olympic Distance” triathlon.

“Why not?”

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