What's Next?

I’ve officially started my next block of training.  My next adventure will be an Olympic distance triathlon 13 weeks from now.  Now I just need to select the exact race.  I’m feeling delightfully neurotic as I pick apart my choices and try to narrow it down.  Even so, it is really hard to choose.  I don’t want my triathlon season to go too late, since I plan to have a run focus in the fall.  Hence the desire to look for early/mid-September races.  It turns out my target weekend has three good looking contenders.  Help me decide!

The Nation’s Triathlon

Okay, so this race has some excellent company among these bucket list races.  Is it really that good?

Photo from Nation's Tri

Photo from Nation's Tri

Pros:

  • A flat bike course means speedy times, right?
  • The bike course rolls through several of the monuments, and the run course heads through the Tidal Basin.  Basically, all the DC majesty you could ask for.
  • This is local for me…I live inside the Beltway.
  • Local means family support.  Although my parents are not big fans of navigating into DC (who is?) they might be willing to do it to come cheer.  And my brother has cheered for several of his friends at Marine Corps.

Cons:

  • Right up front: there are loads of races full of DC majesty…and I’m local, so I can do any of them.  Would I rather do Marine Corps or Cheery Blossom, or any of the running races that won’t involve hauling tri gear downtown?  Definitely the biggest thought in my head.
  • On the heels of that, you have to rack you bike the day before for this race.
  • Metro doesn’t open early enough race morning to take transit to the start, which means driving and parking in DC.  Ick.
  • Several reports I’ve read talk about the bike course being extremely crowded, and having irritating “no passing” zones.  I’m not super comfortable with my bike handling, so that makes me nervous.

 

Reston Triathlon

This race is a local mainstay, having started in 1984.  Kind of hard to argue with that kind of history.

Photo from Reston Triathlon via Tony Estrada Photography

Photo from Reston Triathlon via Tony Estrada Photography

Pros:

  • The bike course is three loops, which would be good for spectator support.  I also like a loop course because I can try to improve on each loop.
  • This one is very local, and extremely convenient.  Closer than DC and better parking!
  • Like Nation’s local means the possibility of family support.  And again, the lack of DC parking makes it even more likely they might want to come out and cheer.
  • The finish is at the high school track, so it has a nice feel.
  • The local nature means I could do this as a season closer each year to check my progress.

Cons:

  • Reston has hills, no two ways about it.  The bike and run courses are hilly.
  • HOA rules mean no training in the lake, and no warm ups in the lake even.  You warm up in the pool nearby.
  • Point to point bike means two transition areas.
  • This is jokingly called the “NOVA Championships.”  It is a super speedy field, and I could be lonely at the back

 

Patriot’s International

This would be a weekend race-cation for J and I down in Williamsburg, VA.

Photo from Virginia Maryland Triathlon Series

Photo from Virginia Maryland Triathlon Series

Pros:

  • Flat and fast bike course
  • Flat run course on paved paths, wooden bridges, pea gravel, and mulched trails
  • The VA MD Tri series is supposed to be incredibly well run, with great volunteers, good pre and post events, and nice swag
  • Did I mention race-cation?  Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg could both be fun ways to spend a long weekend.

Cons:

  • The out and back course doesn’t look particularly spectator friendly, so I’d need to motivate myself rather than feed off crowd support
  • Race day is Saturday instead of Sunday, so that could be a bit tricky for trying to actually plan the race-cation.  What days to take off?  When to have non-racing fun?
  • Money.  Because this would involve a hotel and travel, even though the sticker price of the race itself is lower, the overall experience would cost more.

Some people say to do the coin flip.  Once the coin is in the air, you get a gut reaction of which one you want to do.  My gut is failing me!  The problem is, there are really strong pros and cons to each of these races.  None of them are going to sell out anytime soon, and I do love to hem and haw over a decision, so maybe I should just enjoy the scheming while I get a chance to do it?  Which would you pick?  

The Pooliversary

I’m coming up on my pooliversary, the one year anniversary of me getting back into the pool after a long hiatus.  The last 12 months have been about systematically improving my swim.  I started with a 5 month Learn-to-Swim program I found online, followed it up with group lessons, and am now steadily increasing my workouts.  How cool is to have a plan and follow through?

My home away from home for the last year

My home away from home for the last year

I swim at least once but usually thrice weekly.  Since May I have soaked myself in chlorine for 106 hours, 11 minutes, and 37 seconds.  I have traveled 224,865 yards, all while following a black line to nowhere.  Knowing all that, I thought it would be fun to look back and see what a year can do.

First, let’s talk distance.  I returned to the pool on May 2, 2015.  I swam for half an hour and lost count of my laps almost immediately.  The second time I got in the pool was three days later, and I was prepared with a real workout.  I can’t say enough good things about swim workouts from Sara McLarty.  They are tough, they are free, and they produce results!  I swam 600 yards that day.  Over the next five months my workouts slowly increased to 1800 yards, and once January rolled around I was sitting pretty at 2000 yards.  Proof positive that little changes add up over time, and the body and mind adapt.  Yesterday I swam 2300, and by the end of the year I hope to have 3000 yard workouts.

Obviously the next thing to talk about is time.  Or, more accurately, pace.  When tracking my swim training, I generally turn the watch on, swim, then turn the watch off.  This means that my pace includes my rest times at the wall.  Since I’ve always done that, it’s nice and consistent.  It isn’t perfect, because obviously when I’m resting at the wall I’m not swimming.  You’ve been warned.  When I first started, my paces were hovering around 2:52-3:15/100 yards.  I noticed a nice increase in speed over the fall when I was taking swim class.  I didn’t get a lot of corrections on my freestyle, but learning the other strokes helped my feel for the water.  These days, my paces are coming in around 2:16-2:24/100 yards.

Let’s also take a moment to discuss those other strokes I learned during class.  While I do know butterfly now, the strokes that I practice the most besides free are breaststroke and backstroke.  On my first day of swim class, I was mortified to discover that when I tried to swim breaststroke, I moved backwards.  Backwards!  For the next several weeks, I became a breaststroke machine.  Being so focused didn’t hurt my freestyle at all.  In fact, I truly believe that learning all the strokes is incredibly beneficial for triathlete swimmers.  Learning to feel the water in different ways makes it more obvious when you’re getting something right, which in turn helps you practice with good technique.  Definitely a win!

The other gains aren’t as easy to quantify, but the big one is confidence.  I chuckle now to think of how anxious I was of going to the pool last year.  I thought people would stare, or make fun of me for being a bad swimmer.  My experience was nothing but positive, and now I have lots of confidence on the pool deck.  Tiny bathing suit?  Whatever.  Weird drill sets?  Sure, why not.  I identify strongly as a member of the swimming gang at my local REC center, and swimming is where it’s at.

Now comes the time to look ahead.  Yes, I’ve had a great year, but I want to continue to improve.  I have big goals, and none of them can be won in a swimming pool come race day.  The next big step on my swim journey is taking on OWS = open water swimming.  I have some logistical challenges I’ll need to figure out, since Fairfax County is apparently very anti-OWS.  I’m really looking forward to venturing out of my comfortable little pool and swimming in the real world!