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Let’s get this straight. The Tough Mudder is Tough. The Gladiator Rock’n Run DEFINITELY Rocks! The Muddy J that you know and love still loves his mud.
With that said, I also love a challenge…. and someone told me Triathlons are tough…
So I tried one…not an organized one, mind you, I just got into the pool at my gym, suffered through a 500m swim, then hopped on a stationary bike and put down 21km as fast as I could…and THEN I TRIED TO RUN… just a little 5k…
I have found a new definition of suffering. It is called the bricks… and bricks suck….
So in recent weeks I have slowly but surely been setting about the not-so-easy-task of turning myself from a Barefoot ultra-runner into a Barefoot Tri-Athlete.
First: Swimming ( my weakest link )
I have mentioned my friend and 1/2 Ironman competitor Belinda before, in my review of the Rock’n Roll Marathon…. I figured an experienced tri-athlete such as her would be able to give me a few pointers! She graciously, days before her recent wedding ( BTW: CONGRATS BELINDA AND BRIAN) , met me at our local Gold’s Gym for a swimming lesson. I already know how to swim…. that is to say, I can get into a pool and not drown….but swimming laps was beyond me. The best I could muster was two lengths of a 25 meter pool and I was out of gas-completely.
Obviously a 75m cap on my swimming would not do in an event where an EXTREMELY short swim is 250m. Belinda watched me swim, gave me some pointers and basic instructions…and then told me I had a base, I just needed practice…..and LOTS of it.
I am happy to say that in a few short weeks of daily swimming, my technique has improved so much I can swim about 1800m before I am gassed. I have learned to breathe while swimming, keeping my head down, and kicking very little! (gotta save those legs for later!)
The price to get started as a swimmer was reasonable. There is pool access included in the gym membership I have enjoyed for the last year or so. At Belinda’s suggestion, I bought a swim cap (to get used to wearing one, she said that often Tri’s make you wear one during the swim portion), a few different pairs of goggles, some silicone earplugs and and TYR competition suit. I plan on wearing the suit for most of my upcoming events as it is quite comfortable, and provides some support for my naughty bits.
Next Up: Cycling!
I am certain many of my friends can quote me (correctly) as saying, “I’d love to do tri’s, but I don’t want to buy a bike”
My initial intention to enter into the cycling portion of the triathlon world was to go into it on my 21 speed 24″ knobby tire Huffy Mountain bike. It’s been a workhorse… I have ridden it around with the kids, often towing the twins in a trailer (before I converted the trailer into the “ThingShaw“) It had always seemed stable to me, and I don’t think I would hesitate to take it out for a trail ride.
I soon discovered that riding it hard like a road bike is NOT an option. The first time I quickly dropped my rear gear (into top gear) while torquing down on the pedals, I managed to apply so much pressure, the rear wheel turned sideways in the mount and locked up as it wedged snugly against the frame.
Lesson learned: Do NOT pedal hard in high gears on this bike.
I walked the bike home, fixed the wheel and went out to buy a helmet. A few days later, I went for my AM swim (1200m) and headed back home to go for a quick 10k ride. Getting up to speed, all illusions of the bike’s previously mentioned stability vanished. At a mere 15 miles per hour (gps tracked) smooth road surfaces felt I was riding across a washboard…due to the knobby tires. I gave it all I could as soon as I hit my first downhill.
I have never, ever scared myself in any way as much as that bike @ 25mph scared me.
I managed to slow down without wrecking and I rode the rest of the way at a MUCH slower pace.
Lesson #2: A mountain bike is not built to go fast….like you wouldn’t take a truck to a road rally…speed could kill me.
When Mrs. MuddyJ got home from work later that evening, I related to her the horrors of the morning’s ride. “I need a road bike honey”, I said…grudgingly she agreed that a bicycle built for speed would probably be much safer at speed than trying to speed on a bike meant for leisure.
I went to a local bike shop ,Bike World (Alamo Heights Location)on a fact finding mission. Upon entering the store, I immediately told the sales person that I was:
- Most likely going to sound like an idiot.
- planning on training and competing in triathlons on the same bike.
- not made of money.
- MOST DEFINITELY NOT going to buy anything that day.
The salesperson smiled and genuinely thanked me for my candor (without a hint of sarcasm) and started answering my questions as quickly as I could fire them off. I drooled over the Tri-Bikes, all glistening-nearly-weightless carbon fiber as he told me how to measure myself for a bike, and certain things I should look for. The CHEAPEST road bike in the store was over $700…which was $400 over the $300 budget Mrs. MuddyJ and I initially agreed on. (I said $200 at first..she said $300….as usual, she was right…just like she ALWAYS IS!)
A few days of searching on-line and researching reviews, and I found the Schwinn Seneca 700cc. With a low price tag ($270) and a slew of good /great reviews. It seemed like the best bang for my buck. I placed my order through Amazon, and set about the next two days waiting impatiently, about ready to jump out of my skin. Man, I love Amazon Prime!
and inside that box:
I took a lot of pictures as I opened it, to document any possible damage. The packaging looked as if it had experienced a rough life!
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case…the bicycle and all it’s components were unharmed in shipping. Within an hour, I had finished the rough assembly and set upon the daunting task of giving it a fine tune.
Since I have started competing in events, I have always used the philosophy “Train as you would compete” I figured a race probably wouldn’t be the best time to start using my aerobars, so I went ahead and mounted them straight away.
I positioned my derailer levers so that I can affect adjustments to my gear with my forearms as I ride… this way I am able to keep more control than if I were forced to ride one handed….someone told me that triathlons are where a LOT of new things are tri-d…. I guess I am just carrying on tri-dition!
I have since taken it out for a few rides, with my first having a layover @ Bike World for a tune up! I love this bike, but more importantly it feels steady at 32+mph (sprints) and I have managed to keep a steady 17MPH pace on rolling hills under sustainable effort!
Third Discipline: Running!
Not to underestimate or take anything for granted…But…I got this. I have, however found that I need to practice the transition from bike to run…that’s been the target of my training.
Fourth Discipline: Transitioning
All the reading and talking I have done as research into my latest foray points to the indisputable fact that the act of transitioning is an art in and of itself….working on that too…but USAT rules have no rule prohibiting barefoot running and cycling!
Now if I can just make it through the Prickly Pear 50k this coming Saturday! Wish me luck… I am off to go swimming now!