For the past four years I have contemplated attempting an Olympic distance triathlon: 1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6 mile run. On August 20th, of THIS year, I going to give it a go. There is no way that I am really ready for it!
My training has been such that I can get through a sprint, have done so twice this summer, but stringing together three Olympic distance events seems truly daunting. Why? I swim a mile fairly regularly. In a pool. Completely different than open water. I have only ridden my bike 25 miles or more three times in the last three years. I have only run 6 or more miles in one go 4 or 5 times in my LIFE.
But I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I’m getting a little weary of my own excuses. I’m doing it because I like the challenge or the thought of it anyway. I’m doing it because I think I have come up with a plan for attacking something that I am not fully prepared to attack…and it has three simple parts:
Part One: Assess the Challenge
Jumping into something about which you have NO clue is foolish. I’ve done two sprint tri’s this summer and several in the past. I’ve put in a couple of 10K runs, did 32 miles on my bike the other day, and did an open water half mile swim a couple weeks back. This doesn’t mean I can do all three together but it does mean that none of the three should kill me. Having given each event a go on its own I believe I now have enough understanding as to how each one feels. Breaking the whole thing down into its components allows me to assess each piece individually. That assessment leads me believe I can finish the race.
Part Two: Mitigate the Risk
A triathlon is simply a swim, a bike ride, and a run which, if need be, can be turned into a swim, a cruise, and a stroll. The swim is the shortest bit, and the most overwhelming.
My first open water race experience was a nightmare when my heart rate elevated to the point where I was exhausted in the first 100M. I floated on my back, side-stroked, contemplated clinging on to the marker buoy, and floundered my way to a 13 minute 500M. A distance that should have taken my about 8 or 9 minutes.
My second race experience was a comedy: swimming into the tether between a blind athlete and their sighted guide (everyone was ok), treading water to encourage a guy who was having a race like my fist one had been, then my goggles broke and I had to swim the last 200M with my eyes closed. But it was a half mile swim and I finished it and I felt great.
The upcoming race is a mile swim BUT it is comprised of two half-mile loops. In between those loops is a quick jaunt, BACK ON SHORE!! Woo-hoo!! I’m pretty sure I can do the full mile in the water but by picking an event that affords this rare opportunity, something that is almost never done, I lessen the risk of bonking in the water, the only part of the race that holds risk.
Part Three: Establish the Goal
In thinking through my average swim times, bike speed, and slow run times, and counting time for transitions, I think it is entirely possible I COULD finish the race just under 3 hours. My goal is to do it under 3:15. I want to set a goal that feels attainable based on my assessment of the challenge, but one that is something better than “just finish” and still holds some room for “never done this before”.
One could easily argue that finishing would be good enough for a first go. But by setting something more aggressive I can’t get by with a cruise and a stroll. By making sure the goal isn’t TOO aggressive I have a decent chance at feeling a significant sense of accomplishment at the finish line which will serve to motivate me towards the next effort.
What challenges are looming out there for you? Are there some you’ve been putting off? Can you assess the challenge, mitigate the risk, and establish the goal? Let me know how your “race” goes and I’ll get back to you with the results of mine.