Sunday, 24 May 2015

Triathlon challenge - 8 weeks to go ...

In exactly 8 weeks' time I will be waking up with that strange mixture of excitement, apprehension and dread in my stomach that can mean only one thing - that it's the day of my first ever triathlon. Sunday 19 July is a big day for me and it's beginning to get scarily close. It doesn't seem very long since I had 16 weeks to go and now, in what seems like the blink of an eye, that has been slashed in half.

Serious triathlon training began in January and I've been training hard since then with at least 3 training sessions per week and 4 if I can fit an extra one in. I've certainly come a long way since the beginning so here I am with a very overdue training update, some highlights and what I'm planning next.

The Swim

I've always considered myself to be a fairly rubbish swimmer and have never particularly enjoyed it. (I blogged about my swimming here.) When I decided to do a triathlon I knew I would need to put a lot of work into the swim even though it's the shortest section of the triathlon. So in January I signed up for lessons with S4 Swim School - South Staffordshire and I've been amazed not just by how much my swimming has improved but also by how much I'm enjoying my lessons. The coaching has been fantastic and has certainly pushed me far more than I could ever have pushed myself. My technique is now so much better than it was and I'm swimming a lot further too.

Even though I've only ever done butterfly a few times before, a couple of weeks ago my instructor had me doing 4 back-to-back individual medleys (fly, backstroke, breaststroke, front crawl)! OK, I doubt the butterfly looked pretty (more like drowning than swimming I expect) but I did it!

Last week's session was even tougher with lots of sprinting, not much rest in between and then my own personal favourite, anaerobic swimming! Basically that's swimming whilst being starved of oxygen and involves swimming lengths whilst limiting the number of times I take a breath. Yep, it's about as much fun as it sounds!!

I expect the next session will be tougher still but that's exactly what I need. I'd much rather be working hard than being given an easy ride as that's the only way I'll improve. I've already improved a huge amount since my first lesson and with 8 weeks still to go there's scope to make even more progress.

Highlight: Swimming a total of 1250 metres in my lesson last week - that's about double what I was doing a few weeks ago and is only a couple of hundred metres short of a mile! Believe me, it felt like it too!

Next steps: I'm going for my first ever open water swim tomorrow (eek) at Cliff Lakes Open Water Swimming Centre!! I'm very nervous so my aim is just to get in the water and potter about a bit ... and then go and enjoy a bacon butty. Now there's an incentive! I've also booked on to a beginners' session on 6 June. That still gives me a few weeks to fit in some more open swims before the triathlon. 

The Run

When I joined the Boldmere Bullets Running Collective and their Couch to 5km programme back in January, I could just about manage to jog 5km with a bit of walking. I ran a Race for Life 5km last year but training had lapsed over the winter and I really needed to get back into it. A week or two later I ran the whole 5km but it was hard work. I've run with the "Bullets" nearly every Sunday since then in all weathers as well as doing a mid-week run if I can squeeze it in.

A very wet Sunday morning run

Running as part of a group is a great motivator, making it so much easier to get up and out of the house at 7.30am on a Sunday morning. It's a really friendly atmosphere and everyone supports and encourages each other. We also go for coffee afterwards which helps (obviously) and I have recently discovered that the Bullets' favourite haunt does refillable coffees! I managed 3 cups this morning ... or was it 4!?

I've sometimes felt a bit disheartened that I always seem to be at the back of my group. But a couple of weeks ago I surprised myself on one of my solo mid-week runs. Feeling good when I got to the end of my normal route, I decided to keep going. When I got home and checked the distance it turned out I'd done 9.5km - the longest run of my entire life!! The following week I went one better and broke the 10km barrier for the very first time!

This morning's Bullets run was tough with a new, partly cross country route involving a a nasty hill. On the plus side, I saw a part of Sutton Park I've never seen before so it was worth it.

Highlight: First ever 10km run.

Next steps: Speed sessions/hill reps to try and get the old legs to run a bit faster. Sign up for a 10km race (although I think I'll get my triathlon out of the way first!)

The Bike

Highlight: Overtaking two blokes on bikes going up a hill.

Low point: Nearly colliding with a dog with a death wish as it came careering towards me. At least I now know my brakes work!

Next steps: Some longer rides and brick sessions (i.e. bike followed immediately by a run). Apparently, it's really hard as your legs feel like jelly when you start to run after being on the bike.

I'm doing the triathlon to raise money for Pregnancy Sickness Support. If you would like to sponsor me, I would really appreciate your support. My fundraising page is here. Thank you.

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