Now that I’m going to look the part (a.k.a. a runner in some pretty sweet triathlete’s clothing, thanks to Coeur Sports), it’s time to get serious about training for my first Olympic-distance race, which is set to take place in April at HITS Napa Valley.
The 6.2-mile run? No problem; I know it’ll be tough, but doable, especially with all the trail time I’ve been logging in preparation for this month’s 30K. But the 1500-meter swim and 24.8-mile bike? Ha! That’s another story altogether.
When I registered, I told myself that I wouldn’t let my lack of comfort in the water or on two wheels hold me back, and thus created a four-step plan of attack. Here’s how I’m breaking down the process of getting myself to the start line…which, oddly enough, seems more daunting at this point than getting from there to the finish.
Step 1: Get reacquainted with the other disciplines
You know the saying, “it’s like riding a bike,” which means it’s easy to recall how to do something you’ve already learned? Well, that’s a downright lie. My childhood swim lessons and neighborhood bike rides clearly didn’t translate to automatic success in tackling the swim and bike portions of triathlon, so I’ve been putting in time at the local pool and in spin classes to create a solid endurance base for each discipline.
Step 2: Ease into open water and the road
Once I could do a full 1600 meters of laps and had countless spin classes under my belt, it was time to bite the bullet and take my workouts into the
terrifying great outdoors. Enter the open-water swim and road bike, both still very much works-in progress at this point. I know I can handle the distances; it’s just a matter of developing confidence and the respective skill sets needed to handle inevitable variables as they arise, be it cloudy water or a rogue skateboard that crosses my wheel path.
Step 3: Get psyched up (and geared up)
It’s always a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario when you’re getting into a new sport: Having decent gear makes the learning process more enjoyable, but when you don’t want to sink a lot of cash into it when you’re just starting out. So I waited until I found a good deal on an XTERRA wetsuit to buy one, and I’m making due with my “vintage” (read: Craigslist) Cannondale road bike.
I will, however, be making the leap to clipless pedals so I can wear cleats to maximize efficiency. This is something I’ve been
obsessively extensively researching because I’m not thrilled about the idea of having my feet stuck in case of an emergency. Cycling snobs be damned, this noob decided to transition slowly with a set of easy-in, easy-out Shimano Click’r pedals. I’m sure I’ll have some stories to share after I install them and attempt to test ’em out…
Step 4: Pick a plan…and stick to it
Last but not least — and because it’s my first Olympic-distance event — I’m looking to follow a pretty specific plan to make sure I feel properly prepared come race day. My friend Kelly just so happens to be deep in the throes of training for her first full Ironman, so I figured there’d be no better brain to pick when it came to this.
She recommended a book called The Woman Triathlete, which features advice from an all-star cast of female triathletes and coaches. It also contains training plans for each of the distances, and the eight-week Level I Olympic Distance Training Plan looked like a winner. Day one of training starts on February 17, and I’ll be tracking my journey here, so stay tuned!