I’m new at this and I’m sure that there is far more stuff that I don’t know than stuff I do know. That being said, I’ve learned a lot a short period of time. I’m alway anxious to learn more, but not unlike triathlon training, learning will be an exercise in patience.
My athletic history does not lend itself particularly well to my new sport. See I’ve always been more of a strength athlete. I played football and basketball in high school. I went to Temple University on a rowing scholarship, and some might argue that is an endurance sport, I used to think so too. But our fall season races normally lasted about 20 minutes and in the spring, races were only about 6 minutes. Hardly the 75 minutes that I’ll put together for the shortest of triathlons.
I learned to lift weights in my teens and had some fantastic strength coaches at Temple. I loved lifting, and was good at it. Although I’ve always been a big guy, there were times I got my body fat down pretty low. I was pretty diesel for a while there. My arms were jacked and my legs were like tree trunks. I loved everything that went along with lifting. The social aspect to the weight room floor, the protein heavy diet and supplements, and of course the fact that taking a few minutes to catch your breath was the norm. There was no competition, which meant no pressure to perform. Just show up for 90 minutes or so a day and throw some weight around.
As my weight, blood pressure and cholesterol began to creep back up again, it dawned on me that maybe it might be time to change the kind of athlete I was. After all, I was in my 30s now and there was no need to act like a tough guy all the time anymore. And who needs all that meat anyway?
In the fall of 2009 a friend of mine convinced me to run the Race for Hope 5K. I started doing the couch to 5K program, but consistency was an issue. When race day came, I finished but nearly collapsed at the end. Those 31 minutes felt like an ironman…. Fast forward to the fall of 2010. Once I decided to do a triathlon, I fell in love. I found myself walking out of the gym after a long ride on the spinner smiling. Runner’s high from the bike, it was great. Most of my training in the first few months was base work, not because that’s what you’re supposed to do early in a season, but because I just figured I needed to practice long if the race was going to be long. I regularly ran for an hour, biked for an hour, or just got in the pool and swam for an hour.
A friend gave me Matt Fitzgerald’s two triathlon training books to borrow and I quickly realized that I might have been over training. I began to work in tempo runs and speed work into my rides and runs and started using drills and intervals in the pool, although most of my training is still long and low. It’s all been a big change for me.
Endurance training has been a big change for me. My diet is now healthier for sure, and my BP etc are at lower levels. Psychologically, I still battle with the change though. There are days when I miss being as strong and muscular as I was. And certainly there are days when I’m just not in the mood to feel my calves and quads burn from running hills.
As I struggle with this evolution, I have to frequently assess my overall well being. While at times disappointed that I’m not as strong as I once was, I have more energy, my weight is at a healthier level (although I’d still like to loose 15 more lbs) and I generally feel happier. It will probably be a while until I become fully accustomed to this lifestyle, but for now I’m in it for the long haul. I feel better, I feel more confident that I can go the distance…. in life and in the race!