I’ve been running Olympic distance triathlons for more than a decade, and my training was getting a little stale. This past winter, I was thinking about stopping altogether. I was pretty tired of just running, swimming and biking, and I was running out of time to train properly. Before throwing in the towel, however, I decided to try something new. My plan was to not train at all, to find something completely different.
This winter, I focused in high intensity interval training (HIIT) with healthy dose of weight training. I did most of this in my basemen gym, but did a few classes at Lifetime as well. Lots of jumping, burpees, mountain climbers, lunges, etc. While these exercises are vastly different from the traditional triathlon regimens, they are much more difficult. That is, if you put the emphasis on “high”, not like doing an up/down every minute or so. The workouts are only about 30-45 minutes, but your heart rate is way up there is you do it correctly.
Anyway, the weight lifting put on 10 pounds, and I was really worried that not being on a bike for 8 months was going to kill me. And, besides swimming a little in the Caribbean during Spring Break, I was somewhat concerned I might drown before I ever got on my bike.
So how did it work out? I did the Crescent Moon triathlon yesterday. My fastest time for an Olympic event is about 2:40, but I was averaging about 2:50 last year.
First the swim. I was a little worried when I found out that the water temp was only 60 degrees, but that turned out to be a non-event. When you’re swimming so fast, you never seem to notice, even if your feet are numb. And, swimming in triathlons isn’t really swimming. You get to wear these wetsuits that are designed to plane you on the water and you can really fly. I think it’s cheating, but the rules allow it, and everyone else does it. I was able to do the swim (1500 meters) in 30 minutes with not much of a problem. I think the weight training helped with the arm strength and the cardio training really helped with the breathing. When I got out of the water, I was feeling pretty good until I had a run in with one of the strippers.
Strippers are people who take off clothing—your clothing, not theirs. You lay down in front of them and they strip off your wetsuit. Anyway, the woman doing me couldn’t get it off my foot and she kept yanking on it until I got this really nasty Charlie horse. My whole calf turned into a rock and I thought I was finished for the day.
I managed to hobble to the transition area and found that I could peddle with my foot flat and not have my calf cramp up, even though the pain never went away. I thought for sure that not being on a bike in several months was going to do me in. At best, I’d spent 30 minutes a few morning on my stationary bike reading my emails on my iPad. But, I didn’t have much of a problem. All the explosive leg work seemed to prepare them for the circular motion on the bike. It was nice that the wind was at my back for the last thirteen miles, instead of in my face like the first thirteen like it usually is later in the year. I managed the bike leg in 1:20, which was on par with my past times. My legs did feel pretty hammered, and the big test would be the run.
Surprisingly, my calf had loosened up a little more and the pain was quite manageable. I usually hate the run—an hour of sheer misery, in part because my quads usually feel like hamburger and my chest is about to burst. None of that happened. The aerobic training kept my heart rate down and my legs felt pretty fresh. In fact, better than they ever have. I managed just over eight minute miles.
My final time was 2:49, a minute faster than last year. And, most important, it was the easiest race I’ve ever run. I didn’t even get a headache after—although my calf is still killing me. All this means that I’m pretty much sold on this new way of training. The long runs and hours on the bike are pretty much over for me. I’ll still take a few rides here and there, but those are going to be fun rides. Too bad I didn’t figure this out sooner.