The past two weekend group trainings have brought welcome twists to the routine for the past 4 1/2 months. Two weekends ago we had our first practice triathlon. Last weekend we had our first outdoor bike ride.
The practice triathlon involved swimming for 25-30 minutes in the pool, spinning on our bikes and trainers for 45 minutes, followed by a 5K (3.1 mile) run. The overall time/distance is about half about what we will be doing at the actual event. Rather than swimming laps as usual, the lane markers were removed and we swam the perimeter; half the time one direction, then switching midway and swimming the opposite direction. This was an eye-opening experience. We had done some drills earlier in the weak to practice swimming next to others, learning how to draft and swim across other swimmers when necessary. This took it to a whole new level since we were swimming with everyone in the group, having to periodically look up to see ahead of us, and deal with all of the other bodies around us. This definitely helped me get an idea of what it will likely be like on the actual event day.
The rest of that training went pretty well. Biking wasn’t much different as before, though I did pay more attention to the timing of my consumption of water and energy drink (I’m trying chia fresca) to practice for event day. With the exception of my feet, overall I felt good and confident through the end of the run. My Vibram FiveFingers are starting to chafe and cause hot spots again, which is frustrating. Not a good time to be happening just a few weeks before the race. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do about it… deal with it and risk blisters by the end of the run, fall back to my traditional running shoes, buy new FiveFingers, use the new Invisible Shoes huaraches I just purchased, or find something else.
This past weekend was our first scheduled outdoor bike training. Oddly enough I felt a little nervous hopping on the bike without the trainer. I was so used to its rigidity and stability. The weather was quite cold, too… 37º F when we started and it didn’t get much warmer over the next few hours. We road an 18 mile out-and-back route at Kensington Metropark, followed by another 14 mile out-and-back route through the connected Island Lake state recreation area. The 2-hour ride went surprisingly well. I managed to stay near the head of the pack the whole time, which was reassuring. However, I could barely feel my toes by the end of the ride, it was so cold. I had worn two layers of socks (one pair of Injinji toe socks and a pair of wool hiking socks) and used plastic grocery bags to stop the wind. It wasn’t enough. When I went to put the Vibram FiveFinger shoes on, I couldn’t even tell whether I had managed to get my toes in the right places. I had to pinch each of the shoes’ toes to make sure there was a toe in each one! A number of my teammates have neoprene booties for slipping over their biking shoes. They seem to swear by them for training in cold weather. If I keep doing these early season triathlons, I’m definitely going to invest in some.
The first mile of the 3.5 mile run was awful. I could barely feel my feet, though I could feel enough to know that my ankles were having a hard time flexing. I clomped down the paved pathway that leads through the park, clenching my teeth and hoping my feet would warm up soon. It was one of those times when I was seriously considering giving up and turning around, but then thought of the cancer patients having to endure chemo. They have no choice, and if they could bear all of that, I could deal with this. So I did. Gradually my feet and ankles did warm up. I turned around at the mid-way point and had a decent run back, finishing with a 9:15 min/mile average pace.
I don’t know how well this cold weather training is preparing us for the event in Florida in four weeks, but at the very least it seems to be preparing me to just grin and bear whatever gets thrown at me.