Monday, August 11, 2014

Post triathlon thoughts

A few thoughts after finishing yesterday's Grind in the Pines Sprint Triathlon:

What went well:
  • Parking and registration.  I have a habit of showing up to races late and rushing registration and getting ready.  Since this was my first tri, I wanted to get there super early not just to register and set up, but to mentally prepare.
  • Transition set up.  This wasn't too hard as I just looked at how others set up and copied them.
  • Running.  Obviously.  This is my comfort zone.

What I will change for next time:
  • Fix my damn bike.  Or borrow a better one.
  • Remember my damn goggles.
  • Fueling.  I didn't bring any fuel with me.  I figured it would take me no more than an hour and a half to finish and I probably wouldn't need it.  I felt ok without any fuel, but next time I will probably bring at least one gel to take in the bike portion.
  • Hydration.  My bike doesn't have a water bottle holder, so I just did without.  As a result, I was getting dangerously parched during the bike section.  In my next tri, I hope to have either a better bike, or just jury rig some sort of setup with my current bike.
  • Transition: bring a small container with water to wash off my feet, a second towel to stand on, and a bucket to sit on.

So did I enjoy the triathlon yesterday?  Absolutely.  I enjoyed trying something new and pushing myself hard, and the sense of accomplishment upon completing it.

Will I do another one?  Absolutely.  I really want to make improvements in swimming and biking, make small changes to my gear and slowly improve my time.

So how do I improve my time?  Instead of joining a triathlon group (like I almost did last spring), instead of reading lots of tips online, instead of even training that hard for it, my plan was to establish a baseline for future races.  I knew my level of fitness would allow me to finish it, albeit rather slowly, so I just wanted to get through it so that I would have something to compare to.  Now that I know what a sprint tri is like, I can make small adjustments as I go and figure out what works for me and what doesn't.

This is pretty much the same technique that allowed me to knock off an hour and 26 minutes from my original marathon time and run a BQ last fall.  It's a slow process, and involves a fair bit of trial and error, but I believe that my own experience will count for a lot more.  Mentally understanding an event and drawing from personal experience will mean more than something a coach or training plan is simply telling me to do.

This is not to say that I wouldn't love to join a training group, at least for the camaraderie. Unfortunately, it's always going to come down to money.  I try to be as frugal as possible, and even I sometimes have a hard time justifying the amount of races I do.  It's no secret just how expensive triathlons are.  Race registration alone is astronomical compared to plain foot races. For reference: yesterday's sprint tri, the shortest tri distance offered, cost me $85, whereas entry into next summer's Ironman Lake Placid, the closest one to where I live, is $725.

Obviously I proved that you can do a tri without breaking the bank.  My only expenses yesterday were gas money to get to and from, and registration.  But if I want to get better and get into longer distances, it's going to start costing me.  I might need to join a gym to have someplace to swim.  I would need annual membership in USA Triathlon to compete in sanctioned events.  Depending on the weather, I might need a wetsuit for a given race.  I would love a sweet road bike and a tri suit and and and... But it adds up.  If I were truly passionate about the triathlon, maybe I could justify it.  But it's just not where my passion lies.

In the end, I will definitely return to the triathlon, but let's just say this blog will remain a running blog for the time being.

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