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What I Learned From My First Triathlon

Thursday, June 08, 2017

I haven’t been blogging much because work and life have been incredibly busy, but I’ve been thinking about this blog for the past few weeks, as I’ve been training for my second triathlon.

The first and best thing I learned was that I love the sport! It gave me an amazing feeling confidence in my ability to achieve what I set out to do. It didn't matter that I blew the swim, and didn’t win or place, I just love the feeling of power that I got at the finish line, knowing that I had committed my body and my time to practice, and my heart and soul to doing the very best I could. That feeling of satisfaction I experienced all throughout and at the end of the race is incomparable.

I also learned that as I suspected would happen, my body is happy that I’ve added swimming and biking to my fitness regimen. If I were putting these hours into training for a running race, my hips and knees would likely be protesting. This is a good sport for me at this time of my life.

I’ve reconfirmed that training for an event is a great way to keep on track with my workouts. There are consequences for missing workouts – I won’t be as strong at the event. Without that goal, the consequences seem far more intangible to me.

I also learned that I desperately need instruction in swimming. In biking and running, I have a pretty good idea how to improve, although I am always trying to learn more – reading, watching videos, talking to experts. With swimming, I have no clue what I am doing wrong, and need a personalized kind of guidance than I can't get watching videos and reading. My neck has been killing me and I was pretty sure it was from the swimming but didn't know what the problem was. Also, since my next tri is open water, I needed some coaching for that. So I found an open water swim clinic run by the coach also runs the local masters swim group. The open water clinic was amazing, and I was really relieved to find that at least in that setting (an estuary river) I was comfortable in the open water. I did about 1900 yards, out and back to a buoy near shore and then around a triangular course farther out in the water. The coach taught me and a few other newbies how to “sight” in the open water, which is using the buoys or other markers to stay on course. And as a bonus, she also pointed out a basic error in my form that should help with the neck issue. When I am back in the pool tomorrow, I plan to go really slow and easy, focusing on form rather than speed. And I am planning on joining the masters swim group at some point this summer.

I’ve also realized that at my age, I’m no longer able to skip stretching. I’ve always been reasonably good about it, but now I need to do it religiously or my muscles seize up. I need to stretch before and after each and every training session or I pay a price in pain and tightness and will undoubtedly injure myself. ‘Nuff said.

I’ve also decided that I need to add strength training.

I also learned that checking out the race course prior to the race is not just desirable, but essential. My major mistake in my first tri was not making a visit to the pool where the competition was taking place. If I had, I would have realized that swimming in chlorine water was a much different experience than the salt water pool I’d been training in. It also felt very different because the deep end was 12 feet rather than 5 feet deep. For my next tri, I will be sure to drive the course and take a practice swim the day before the race.

And finally, I learned that I haven’t lost the joy of competition…and I hope I never do! Whether I am competing against myself to improve my time, or competing against others to place higher in my group, I love the feeling of constantly trying to excel and do better.

Cheers, Sparkers… wishing everyone a fit and fantastic day!
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