Back in August of 2013 I was planning to run my first marathon and hoping this would then lead into triathlon training.
This never came to pass. The marathon came and went, and that led me down a running path that I’ve been on ever since. I never did get around to buying a bike and I never did get around to entering any triathlons or open water swim races. I was severely bitten by the running bug and threw myself wholeheartedly into it, as this blog attests.
Well, with a lot of miles now registered in my legs and some decent short distance speed and long distance endurance, I feel the time has come for a newer challenge. Indeed, the time has come to become an all-rounder! It’s not that I’m bored of running; it’s just that I feel I need a break from pounding my legs and doing nothing else. I figure that triathlon, and a journey to long course racing, is just the ticket.
All being well this will lead to a faster road marathon, a stronger physique for ultra-trail running and in the process I will come to conquer one of my fears. Namely, riding a bike on the open road! In addition to these great plus points I feel that training for triathlon will extend my running life as I will be taking some of the stress from my running mechanics and redistributing it across swimming and cycling too.
I began thinking about triathlon and taking it into serious consideration the day after DNFing at TDS in August – that race shook my confidence. Going into it I felt that I had it in me to run past 50 miles and to do that confidently and with some level of success when measured against my own objectives. That night, when I returned to my apartment in the mountains, I realised that I wasn’t really ready to run over 50 miles and it made me question if I really wanted to. That night and the following day I thought about what I wanted from running, what I wanted from myself and my body and what it is that I enjoy about the endurance lifestyle.
What I wanted from running when I really thought about it was twofold – on the road I wanted to be fast, and on the trail I wanted to be free. I haven’t been able to combine speed and freedom on the trail yet but I’ll come back to it after my new adventure with triathlon, I’m sure. What I wanted from myself and from my body was to feel strong, to look good and to find a way to keep on pushing my boundaries without breaking myself. I honestly feel that if I carry on running ultras the way I run them and train for them, I’m going to break myself. Finally, I found that what I enjoy about the endurance lifestyle is the camaraderie of collective suffering, the joy of racing and the mental stability and quiet that only the daily training grind can bring to me. So, with that mapped out in my head I knew that I wasn’t going to just walk away from ultra running or endurance sports. I learned that, actually, in many ways I need endurance sport. So I started to plan. Because that’s what I do!
My plan, which I have been putting together since I was in Ibiza back in September, is to run an ultra-season from January through to July and then to switch my focus over the remaining months of 2017 to triathlon, duathlon and quite possibly open water swimming before taking on a 70.3 race at some point in September .
It has been brought to my attention on many occasions over the years that I am a pretty fast runner over short distances, up to and including the marathon, and that with some focused training I should be able to bring down my PRs from the mile up to the marathon. Although training for long course triathlon racing isn’t purely focused on running speed (it’s more about running economy) it does mean that the running training I will be doing will be more intense, the racing I will be doing will be over shorter distances and therefore my times should really improve.
It’s not just about the running though.
It’s the other two sports that have started to really intrigue me. It’s all new to me after all. It’s like when I first starting running and then started racing – I found joy in finding my limits and boundaries and then pushing them. This is exactly what I’m finding in the pool and in open water at the moment and it is also what I found when I did my first ever focused indoor bike workout last week! I was surprised to find that, in open water, I’m actually a faster swimmer than in the pool and then when I got on the bike I was surprised to find I could hold around 100rpm quite comfortably for 35 minutes and rode through the 10 mile mark in 24 minutes. I have no idea if that’s fast or not, but I do know that is a good mark to start from.
I have a confirmed ultra running season of Country to Capital 45 (January), TransGranCanaria 82k (February), North Downs Way 50 (May) and Lakeland 50 (July). The goal for this ultra running season is to finish the Lakeland 50 faster than I did this year and, consequently, higher up the field. I was very proud to finish under 11 hours this year and to take 82nd place but in 2017 I would like to finish in 10 hours or less and see where that puts me – all of the races prior to Lakeland are training and conditioning for it. It would be great to turn my focus to triathlon and leave ultra running (for a time) on a high!
I haven’t confirmed any triathlon or multisport races as yet but I would like to start doing that early in 2017, if not before. My plan for triathlon is to race a Standard distance Duathlon in May, a Sprint distance triathlon in June, a Standard distance triathlon the weekend prior to Lakeland 50 (with a very disciplined taper) and then, just for fun really, I’d like to take part in an Aquathlon in late August before taking on a Middle distance triathlon at some point around mid to late September. Depending on how that all goes, following the Middle distance triathlon I would like to try and get in a road marathon before the end of the year alongside the club Cross Country season. After that, it’ll be maintenance training through February 2018 before picking it up again in March or April with a focus on fully preparing for a Long Course triathlon at some point during the summer.
But, plans aside, preparation is underway. I have already incorporated swimming and cycling into my training regime – I hope this will prove to be a benefit when it comes to my ultra season because I am hoping to be running on fresher legs. The real triathlon focused training will begin, as I mentioned above, after Lakeland 50. From that point on I envision that my running hours/mileage will probably decrease whilst my time on the bike will likely increase as I seek to strengthen my weakest area at the expense of my strongest. As for the bike, well, I haven’t actually purchased one that is worthy of triathlon training and racing just yet – I’m going to do that in the early part of 2017 once I have moved house, settled into my new job and figured out what it is that I require.
When it comes to swimming I have started to focus more on my technique in the pool and, again in the new year, I will probably join a triathlon training group or take on a tri-specific swim coach so that I get the most out of it. I certainly won’t be rushing the transition from pure runner to multisport endurance athlete and not just because I still have my ultra season to complete first! No, it’s also because I am learning that to become a triathlete (and hopefully a competitive one at that) does not come cheap! There’s no point disrupting the mental stability and quiet I find through training and racing by pushing myself into financial hardship in the name of a new challenge.
So there it is. I am very excited to get this journey underway and I am really looking forward to learning new things about myself and about swimming, cycling and multisport racing! I hope that you, dear reader, will enjoy following the journey and reading about it here at ’26.2 & Beyond’.
Peace & Blessings