T Minus Ten Months and Counting

author : gsmacleod
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An overview of planning and implementing the first month of a beginner program.

So, here I am, ready to start training for a triathlon. However there is still a rather large question to be answered – where do I  start? I know that I want to go out and train in each of the individual sports, but how often, how long, how fast – all questions to which I had no answer. Well, fortunately for me, a quick search on Google turned up this site and after pouring over the articles, training plans and forums, I thought I might be ready to start training.

My first step upon deciding to complete a sprint distance event the following summer was to tell all my friends about my goal. The reason for this was purely selfish; I figured the more people who knew, the harder it would be for me to back out. It was also rather interesting to watch the expression on their faces as I told them, as only one or two were aware of the fact that there were distances other than the Ironman. So I set about to explain the basic distances and once they heard the distances involved, they seemed a little bit more secure in the fact that I had not totally lost my mind.

After having spread the word, it was time to plan out how I was going to do this. I looked at the two Couch-to-5k plans on this site and decided that with my current level of aerobic fitness I could handle the aggressive program. I should mention that this was by far the most daunting aspect of the training as the furthest I had ever run was 2.4km when I was 17, and that had taken me around eleven minutes. I had never enjoyed running and seeing that this program planned to have me running 5km by Christmas was more than a little scary. However, I decided to go with this program, figuring that if it proved to be too much that I would drop back to the conservative program. At this point I had been biking three or four times a week on a regular basis so although the program does not have cycling included until month four, I figured I would attempt to at least maintain my cycling fitness as far into the fall/winter as I could. As well, since my summer job with the military includes free gym access, I decided that I would start swimming again as well. This aspect of training did not concern me, as I had always been a good swimmer and the fact that I had not done any distance swimming in the past ten years or so seemed to completely escape my notice. I developed my plan, which would see me running (mainly walking) and swimming three times a week as well as biking twice a week. The big question that remained was whether I would be able to keep up enough hours during the school year, when I would be getting ready to get married in October, teaching, working at least two nights a week and many weekends, coaching and trying to keep enough hours free to spend time with my soon-to-be wife. Well, I figured, since I want to do this, I will just have to make adjustments and see how it goes.

With everything planned, I started training on August 23rd, 2004. I showed up to the pool around noon and got changed, stretched and jumped into the pool. Knowing that the swim was going to be 750m in the sprint, I figured I would just see how my swim endurance was – after fifteen minutes in the pool and only 250m to show for it, I realized I had a long way to go before I would be able to finish the distance. I was back in the pool a couple more times that first week and every time I felt like I was going to die.  I could swim 50m in around a minute fifteen but I had absolutely no endurance, spending the majority of time standing in the shallow end trying to catch my breath. By the end of the first month of training, I had been able to get out swimming (the majority in open water) eight times and I was starting to feel better about my stroke and recovery time. I started to realize that I would be okay -  I just needed to spend more time in the water and working on drills. However, as the weather turned colder and I was only able to get to the pool once a week, I knew that my swim was going to be weaker than I would like unless I was able to fit in at least one more workout a week.

Through the end of August and into September, I tried to get out on my bike as much as possible, knowing that soon enough it would be too cold to get out and train. This worked well in my schedule as I biked after school on most days, getting in a decent half hour to forty-five minute ride before getting home to start supper. My longest ride during the month was 32.5km and took an hour and twenty minutes to complete. I was finding the hardest part about the training was to maintain a steady pace – I really wanted to go as hard and fast as I could so reining that in was no mean task. The bike leg was not a big concern for me – in fact it was the portion I was looking most forward to, in both training and the eventual triathlon.

Finally, the first month of my run/walk program – the most feared part of the training, both because I hated running and I had problems with both my ankles and knees over the years. The first week, all walking, went smoothly enough with no problems walking a brisk pace for half an hour. However, the second week and the beginning of the running was just around the corner. The program recommends that if you are unable to do the running in one block (for example the second week has three minutes of running to twenty-seven minutes of walking) that you could break it up. Although I left this as a possibility if I ran into difficulty, I decided to always attempt the running as a solid block of time, sandwiched between two equal walks. So week two had a thirteen and a half minute walk, followed by a three-minute run and then another thirteen and a half minute walk. Most surprising to me was the fact the hardest part for me was to stop at the end of the three minute run, I felt strong during the run and wanted to keep going. Determined to stick to my training and stay injury free, I kept walking. By the end of the month, I was running for nine minutes at a stretch and did not really have much trouble. In fact, I was actually starting to look forward to my run workout more than swimming or biking, which I would not have believed one month previously. The most amazing thing to me was that after running I had very little soreness and was able to run these distances without finishing feeling exhausted. Being able to run 5km was starting to look like a real possibility!

So with one month of training finished that would see me race at the beginning of July next year, things seem to be going smoothly. Although I knew problems would arise, I had been lucky and avoided scheduling conflicts and the weather had been pretty much ideal. Which of course leads me to wonder how much longer this can continue.


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date: December 13, 2004