Monday, May 14, 2012

Trails, Track, and...Tri?

Not a lot to report about my training, but I wanted to catch you up...(you being the few of you that have clearly been sitting at home wondering: What is Sara Jane up to? Why hasn't she updated her blog??)

I haven't posted for a while because I had a minor setback. After (though not immediately after) running that frigid 5K I started having some pretty severe lower back pain. At its worst, it was excruciatingly painful to sneeze (something I do a LOT of in the spring) and putting on socks was a major challenge. I avoided going to the doctor because I didn't want to pay someone to tell me to rest, ice, heat, and take anti-inflammatories. But after a week or so, Wendy (my coach/primary care physician) convinced me that what I needed was some muscle relaxers. (I was kicking myself for having just thrown away all of the muscle relaxers I had been prescribed, but never took, for the herniated disc in my neck!) I finally listened to her and went to the doctor. Alas, he gave me muscle relaxers. Alas, it worked. I am still having some discomfort...but thankfully it does not seem to be what I feared: another herniated disc. It was the exact same type of pain as in my neck...(literally) so I was worried.

So, what's new? I've been running...a little. But I have also decided to finally take the plunge, stop making excuses, and work towards competing a triathlon. What has kept me from doing so in the past? Well I don't know how to swim (I mean, I can save my life in the water...but I can't even swim one length of a 25 yard pool without going completely anaerobic and all but hyperventilating!) and I don't (well, didn't) own a bike. Minor details.

I got to emailing to a friend of mine, Christina Meier (an IRONMAN!) about my desire to prepare for a sprint (the shortest version) triathlon to see if I liked the sport. I explained to her my deficiencies but she convinced me that all of them could be easily overcome. First, she said, lots of people do their first triathlon with a Mountain Bike. (I had gotten a cheap mountain bike off of Craigslist about a month ago so that I could get around town here in Duluth.) One problem solved. Second, she said she was convinced that with some guidance, she knew I would be able to swim. It's all about technique and the reason I have had such trouble is because I was jumping in the water with absolutely no idea what I was doing. She suggested I look into doing the Duluth Tri Team this summer, a summer training program she did in the past (with a Mountain bike!). I looked into the program, contacted the coaches, and I am signed up! I was also able to get into some swimming classes up at UMD for a few weeks to get me up to speed...and you know what? After two (2) classes I have a completely different take on my ability to swim. What a change a little instruction makes! I know I can become a swimmer. I know I can become a triathlete. I am excited.

Thanks to Christina (who you can read about here) as well as another friend and rockstar triathlete Tea (who you can read about here) for their encouragement. And, as always, thanks to coach Wendy (who used to harbor similarly negative feelings about swimming and cycling but has actually taken a cue from me and is going to train for a summer sprint tri herself! You can read about that here.) All three of these women have been great support not only for encouragement...but also just plain logistics. Cycling and swimming require a lot of gear that I am not the slightest bit familiar with and I have had a zillion questions. They have all been generous with their time and knowledge. OK...Wendy is almost as clueless as me...but she has super-perfect-husband-of-the-year Tim (currently training for his second half Ironman this summer) to bounce questions off of. So thanks Tim. I heart you, camo shorts and all.

One more stroke of good luck? A friend of my mom's, who happens to be short like me, sold me her road bike for an exceptionally low price (read: steal). So now I've got the real deal: A Trek 2300. (Tri people talk gear a lot.) So...instead of Triathlon being a sport that has always been out of reach because of the cost and, well, the abilities required - I have managed to get both  gear and some instruction for very little money...much of it, in fact, free!

So that's that. I am current working on my swim. I will also be heading out for my first attempt at riding my road bike (scary!!) with my pal Katie Beeman this afternoon. (My apologies in advance for being completely ridiculous on this bike, Katie!) Wish me luck...and send positive thoughts that I am able to clip into and, more importantly, out of those crazy pedals.

A final note...I have enjoyed a couple of books recently that made me even more interested in trying out triathlon. They are both about complete beginners, like me, just making the decision to give it a go. They are:

Can't Swim, Can't Run, Can't Ride: From Common Man to Ironman.
This book is VERY witty. Or at least I thought so.

You Are An Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dream of Finishing The World's Toughest Triathlon.

Oh...and as indicated before, I will still be running on the trails, track and, of course, the roads. I haven't yet decided what race I will do at Grandma's Marathon. I have entry into the 5K, half, and lots of options! Whatever the case, it won't be a "race" like it was last year. (Ah, such good memories...check out that race report here.) Part of me wants to just watch the races as I have a bunch of friends competing in both the half, US half championships, and the full, especially my super speedy pals competing for fast times and high places, especially Kara Goucher, Scott Breeden, and Eric Hartmark!

In terms of races: I'd like to do a sprint triathlon in late August. I'd also like to do a long (maybe marathon?) trail race this fall. Still, I'd like to work on my leg speed. Especially since I will be doing a shorter triathlon with only a 5K (or so) to run.

Lots to do. Lots to learn. Ready, set, GO!