February 2011 celebrates my two-year anniversary in the land of multi-sport. It is when I took my first swim in (ever) and got on my first road bike back in 2009. So, what have I learnt so far?
Well, we often hear that there are many ways to dissect a triathlon:
Swim, bike, run.
Swim, bike, run, core exercises.
Swim, bike, run, core exercises, nutrition.
Swim, bike, run, core exercises, nutrition, transitions.
Swim, bike, run, core exercises, nutrition, transitions, stretching.
You get the drift…
As a semi-pro-amateur-temporary-permanent-triathlete-ish, here’s another way of looking at: strength, endurance and technique.
The first half of the season, coach Fi provides her athletes with a series of exercises aimed at building strength and ultimately improving speed. These sessions are the foundation of endurance. They come in many forms: gym work, tempo and interval training (bike and run), as well as hill reps (again, bike and run). The bulk of these sessions happen during the week (for me at least) and involve the majority of workouts that require the upper heart rate zones.
Next comes the endurance bit, “It’s about getting the miles under your belt”. This is built over time when bike rides start at 3 hours a pop and move to 7 hours (same applies to the run but on a smaller scale). My first interaction with such a schedule was challenging to say the least. It didn’t help that this time last year, with the glacial temperatures, I was spending my three-hour Saturday rides on the turbo indoors. A year on, everything seems much more possible. The rides seem shorter, the weather seems milder and the mood seems lighter. This may be psychological given that I know my body can cope with the stress, but a large part of me thinks that muscle memory has something to do with it. After all, it is about getting the miles under your belt.
Then there’s technique. Whereas strength needs to be rebuilt yearly and endurance comes with distance, technique comes with time. Last Sunday, I took my time trial out for the second time since I bought it (it lives on my turbo); it was a typical cold English day with 40mph winds and drizzle. Given my experience with riding in the wind, and how much more twitchy my new toy was, I was curious to see what would happen. Needless to say, it was a positive surprise. (After all, if it doesn’t involve fecal matter, being trampled by deer or throwing up, it has to be a positive and uplifting story to make my blog!).
The bike felt like a wild horse I had tamed over the last two years: it angled perfectly during cross winds, it was firm on bumpy descents and fast on the flats. I even had two emergencies involving a dodgy brake pad and a loose bottle cage. Technically savvy? I am now.
With a full race schedule ahead of me, my biggest curiosity is to see where I am in 2012 after my second full season as a long-distance triathlete.