Borris Viaduct

Borris Viaduct
Borris ViaDuct

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Apps, Investments & Crash Courses - Preparing for a Triathlon - October '11 To May '12

In October 2011 I had the wonderful double whammy of finally getting paid full time after working full time for my Dad the past year, and getting Iphone 4 as he had just upgraded. The pay was going to come in handy early next year as I found out about all the bloody things I needed to get to actually do a triathlon, the Iphone was going to have a much more immediate effect - it was going to get me training!!

I had just recently discovered in summer boot camps that I could run again after nearly 3 years of resting a dodgy knee, and was eager to start proper running training. A lengthy lazy holiday in Spain towards the end of summer had somewhat halted the momentum of my boot camp training, but either way being able to run very fast at short bursts didn't by any means translate to being able to run for any length of time at all and 5km of running (at the end of a swim and a cycle) seemed pretty daunting!

Just to be clear on distances, the triathlon I was training for in Athlone was a 'Sprint Distance' triathlon of which the distances are as follows:
750m Swim
20km Cycle
5km Run

The 1st app I got on the Iphone was something called 'Couch to 5k', which is aimed at doing exactly what it says on the tin - getting someone from a sedentary lifestyle to running a 5k in 8 weeks by going through a progressive programme of interval training 3 times a week. The app itself worked like this: Preferably having headphones , you press 'Start' at the beginning of your workout and then a voice tells you to 'Start Warm-up'. After 5 minutes the voice tells you when to run and walk on set intervals depending on where in your programme you are. The first session is about 20 minutes of mostly walking broken up by short 45 second runs, by the last session it has built up to about 40 minutes of just running. Another handy thing about this app, is it tells you when you are halfway, so if you are running a set route away from your start point, you know when to turn back. This was pretty meaningless on the 1st run I did around a park after work but really came into play when I decided to do my runs at lunchtime on the canal. This was great as I could see very clearly that I was getting further with every session. Doing the running within my work routine meant I pretty much always did it, so this app and my running training became the staple of my triathlon training. This app has changed names a few times, and there are quite a lot of similar or identical ones, but would highly recommend any of them as a tool for building up your running in a steady incremental fashion (there is a 'couch to 10k version too).

The other app I got was 'Cyclometer'. This allowed me to record cycles to work and back (6km each way). Because they were short distances, I really did sprint them most of the time, and this app really helped in comparing attempts at a route, showing a green upward triangle for pb, half green for above average,  orange for average, half red for lower than average and the dreaded full red for worst (not sure I ever got this, unless it was a particularly windy day). So cycling intensely for a short distance to work and back was what I figured to be enough for my cycling training (funny to think that now, but in fairness it served me well!). Either way, having cycled Dublin to Kilkenny twice before, and having experience of regularly speeding 14km into college, I was not too worried about the cycle.

And the swimming... well I really didn't treat this with too much importance! I had high hopes and good intentions of getting back into training regularly but it was always the 1st thing the gave way if I was too tired (I would only go lane swimming in the morning when the pool was quiet) or too busy. Either way I wasn't too bothered about it, as I had a background of being in a swimming club for 10 years and even in the sessions I did now, my warm-up alone was 1000m. So 750m? Not a worry!

And for a bit of resistance training, I had the '100 push-ups' and '20 chin-ups' apps, both incremental interval apps that I used Monday Wednesday and Friday as soon as I came back from work.

So all this got me on a great start, training throughout the winter and into the new year. Through January/February, I started to find out through acquaintances who had done the triathlon before and other sources how this triathlon actually worked, and what I needed for it. Wheelworx Triathlon Shop had a great 'Introduction to Tri' workshop, and a friend of a friend who was pretty serious about triathlons also helped de-mystify the gear I needed, so I went about accumulating all I needed between February and June.

I'll go into more detail on the gear and what happens on raceday in other posts, but needless to say I was starting to get my head around the logistics of doing 3 events in one. That said, I still had certain doubts and questions right up to raceday- it was a lot of information to take on!

So on I went, being pretty consistent with my running 3 times a week, and short high intensity to cycles to work and back etc, swimming inconsistently thrown in from time to time. Your are advised generally to work on your weakest discipline the most, so I was pretty with this hierarchy of training.  My program had been broken up by Christmas, so I repeated the previous 2 weeks of the programme when I started back in the new year. I did this each time there was a break of some sort, so the 8 week programme became staggered somewhat into a 3 or 4 month programme! When I finally finished it, I started the programme again, this time jogging when it said 'walk' and sprinting when it said 'run'. Like I said before, this was really the staple of my training. When rain stopped me cycling and eh, laziness stopped my early morning swims, my lunch time runs where always pretty reliably done, unless the weather was really awful!

One thing I started to realise as I continued with my training was that I had never been through such a long spell of training so consistently, not since I had left the swimming club when I was 18,  12 years previously! As time went on, I really started to embrace this training as a very healthy way of life, and it was becoming more than just a means to an end to complete some race in June - this was a nice realisation, but at this stage I still did not know where I was going with it!

My training was not without it's hiccups, however.

I ordered my road bike in early March, with the hopes of getting it by the end of the month (I was given a two week lead time), so I would have 3 months of preparations on it before the TriAthlone which was on the 30th June. This, however, did not pan out so conveniently and through various delays and mishaps I did not get the bike until the 17th May, only 6 weeks before the event! Ordinarily I would have cancelled this order, but it was through a contact in work, and I was getting a good deal on a good bike (about half the price), so the inconvenience was undone by the fact he was doing me a favour!

When it did arrive it was well worth it though, what a beauty! I had never owned a bike like it before, for a while I couldn't believe it was mine! (my bank balance could...)

My beautiful Sensa Romagna Special, on day of Arrival!
So I had to get used to this bike, and quickly. Despite having cycled a lot the past 4 years, it had only been on a hybrid (my previous experience being my Raleigh Activator II in my teens). I had never been on a frame this light, wheels this narrow, had never used drop handlebars, or paddle gears (took me ages to figure out how to change down a gear!!) . In short, I felt hopelessly imbalanced!

Also in early May, a week before I finally received my bike I had suffered a major setback in my running. On one of my canal runs I started to feel intense pain in my Achilles tendon. I stopped immediately and walked back - not the time to be a hero about it! There was no major damage, but it was really tight and tender (hard to describe, but it felt fibrous or strandy to touch). So as a precautionary measure I stopped running completely until it felt good again - this turned out to be about 3 weeks which was pretty frustrating, coming to within a month of raceday! It didn't seem to effect my cycling however so at least I got to continue with that!

I still cycled to work and back with the hybrid, as I always had my change of gear in my panniers, but at lunch time on Tuesdays and Thursdays (the days between my now very tentative run days) I took to the canal  and cycled 20km. Sometimes I also cycled on my run days - I was trying to be as efficient with time as possible - it's one of the great things about triathlon training: when one of the disciplines has a set-back (or if you simply get sick of it) you still have two other disciplines to pick up the slack!

Anyways these cycles were great fun, and unsettling at the same time! Despite there being plenty of obstacles in the way of people and their dogs enjoying the sunshine on the canal path, and the fact I had to stop and turn around 7 times (I did my 20km on a 2.5km stretch between two canal gates!), I was still achieving average speeds of 28 to 30km/h - this was promising! Imagine what I would do on the closed roads!!

In any case May was a bit of a month of mixed feelings, but I came out starting to feel positive again. My first triathlon was going happen in the next month, but there were a few more surprises in store for me!