I'm beginning Week 3 of 15 today, leading up to the Black Bear Half Ironman Triathlon, in Jim Thorpe, PA. I won the event's 20-24 Age Group last year, albeit against only 10 other competitors. A win's a win though. I imagine this year is going to be significantly tougher, however, since last year was the inaugural event and this year should see many many more competitors. It's my last year in the 20-24 Age Group and my only race scheduled this season (due to working in the Caribbean - a shame, I know), so I want to do well and repeat.
I've set some pretty lofty time goals for myself this year, and I'm not going to achieve them if I keep sitting on my ass over here and not working out as hard as I could. At the moment, I have absolutely nothing important I have to do, which lends itself to me sitting around reading, writing, cleaning and thinking, putting off everything even slightly important until later because I have all day to do anything. It's a bit frustrating, but I'm trying to be productive nonetheless. I've gotten three agreements from magazines to publish my articles, finished the website I'm working on for Sarles Marina, and have been exercising, but that still leaves a lot of time in the day to do nothing.
Anyway, back to the training. This week I put in over 8 hours of work, which is a bit more than what I've been doing all winter, but not near the 12-15 I'll ramp up to in the coming weeks. I put about 100 miles on my new fixed-gear bike last week, which provides a tremendous workout since you can never stop pedaling. It's mentally tough riding in the cold weather too, and at times last week my heart stopped as I rolled ever-so-carefully across several patches of ice that remained on the roads in the shady spots. It feels great to be back on a proper bike with my gear and my shoes that Mom sent over, and I'm quite used to the cold. My feet get numb, but otherwise it's not too bad.
Aside from that I've continued running, though now with more of a purpose to each workout instead of just for the sake of running. Yesterday, for example, I ran 60 minutes at RPE 3 (Rate of Perceived Exertion - scale of 0-10), interspersed with 'stride intervals', where you slowly accelerate to a near sprinting pace for 20-30 seconds, while focusing on short, quick steps and proper upper-body form. I'm noticing that the running is becoming almost effortless, and despite taking a month off from it in Prague, a 10-mile jaunt feels like a short workout.
Swimming is my biggest weakness, and expectedly, my least favorite thing to practice. I've been slacking in this department, and have only been in the pool 3 times since I started training for real two weeks ago. Instead I've continued the Monkey Bar Gym body-weight workouts that I did mostly in Prague, and my upper-body strength has increased measurably. I can hold a non-assisted handstand for 5-10 seconds now, and can handstand with my feet barely touching the wall, for over a minute. This will be my primary means of working out this summer in the islands, and I really enjoy the movements. I have to poop.
Done and done. Back to racing. In light of my hatred of the pool - due mostly to the fact that the pool here in Uppsala has only one lane reserved for real swimmers, and it's usually clogged up with 5 other people. We have to swim a circle inside this little lane, playing follow the leader. This would be fine is everyone swam the same pace and was doing the same workout. But inevitably, you have people trying to pass each other - mainly me, because I'm so freaking slow - and you have people standing at either end resting. This causes me much grief. One might argue that swimming in a crowd is beneficial practice for a triathlon where 50-100 people might start at the same time. One would be correct, however in a real race, everyone is swimming the same direction, and we're not worrying about a workout, just to get to the bike. It's fucking annoying in the pool - I've decided to focus on the other disciplines for a few reasons. 1). Even in a half-ironman, the pool portion only lasts, at most, 45 minutes. A 5-minute faster swim time in a race that takes upwards of 5 hours will not make much of a difference, and this is all I can reasonably expect to increase in 3 months of training. 2). I hate swimming in the pool. I would much rather focus on biking and running because I actually enjoy them. Maybe I should become a duathlete. 3). I can realistically lower my bike time from last year by 20 minutes and my run time by 30 minutes. I'll gladly trade 5 minutes in the pool for 20 minutes on the bike any day.
Which brings me to my goals for my only race of the year. Last year I finished in 5 Hours, 38 Minutes, with the following splits: 33 min. swim, 3 hour bike, 2 hour run, with about 3 minutes of transition time. I want to break 5 hours this year, and this is how I'm going to do it: 35 min swim (the course was shortened last year making it faster than it should have been), 2 hour 40 min. bike (I'll have to average over 20mph - doable since i averaged 22.5 mph in the Annapolis Tri at the end of last season) and a 1 hour, 40 minute run (also doable - I completed the B&A Trail Half Marathon in 1:35 last March). This is all assuming I run my best-ever half marathon following my best-ever 56 mile bike ride, following my best-ever 2000 yard swim. I've never strung all of these times back to back to back, but then again, I barely trained for last year's race and still managed a 5:38:00. Totally doable this year, and I'm already in better base shape than I was a year ago, with three months to ramp it up. 4:55:00 baby.