Monday, February 21, 2011

You don't have to be fast to TRI (Indoor Triathlon)

Yesterday I completed the Lifetime Fitness Indoor Triathlon and it was pretty awesome! (actually "Bolt Speedman" participated). It is a very different type of triathlon than I had run before. Besides being indoors - typically a triathlon is a series of distances you have to cover and your time determines how well you did. In the case of the indoor triathlon each event was timed - so how much distance you covered in each event scored points towards how well you did. So in the case of the Little Miami Triathlon where it may take people from 2.5 - 4.5 hours and I finished in 3.5 hours last time - in this case everyone finished in an hour but covered different distances. The event was spaced out in waves of 8 people starting every 20 minutes. I loved this format!

Here's Why:
1) During the winter I get the "itch" to compete in a triathlon rather than just try and keep motivating myself to train for the spring
2) The set times are short enough for almost anyone to be able to finish but allow for those who are in much better shape to really go hard and score a ton of points
3) While it was only 60 minutes I felt pretty worn out afterwards - the intensity of the events can be higher than an endurance triathlon which is more about duration
4) The event was very well run and LAID BACK! It is like an entry level triathlon so it had a relaxed atmosphere

I was interested in the triathlon as I have started taking some swim classes which at least makes me swim more - and I was curious to benchmark my swim. I think my results confirmed where I think I rate in each event.

While it will be hard to top my 1st Place Male - Elite Division finish in my first ever triathlon (funny story) - I know that I am towards the bottom end of triathletes overall (so far).

[ 10 min Swim ]
I'm in the far right lane -
and blurry because I am swimming so fast!
Based on my first swimming triathlon experience which I affectionately call the "Swim-bacle" my goals for this triathlon were:
1) Swim the entire time without stopping to rest or breathe
2) Try and swim 16 lengths or 400m

I accomplished my first goal but ended up only completing 13 lengths (which I believe was rounded up from 12.5 when time ended).

My swim rank was tied for #49-54 out of #59 which is about what I expected - I am not a very good swimmer. The top swimmers in this triathlon finished 30 lengths (750m) in 10 minutes! That is an Olympic Triathlon swim or almost 1/2 a mile! The median swim was 18 lengths.

I was pretty excited to just swim in a relaxed and controlled manner the entire time and basically be able to swim continuously for the 10 min which is an improvement from the 1st swim triathlon. My performance still would predict a 12 min 400m split for the Mason Triathlon this summer - but more swimming and less "swalking" (swim-walking).

[1st Transition ]
Similar to a "real" triathlon there was a transition time of 10 min to get out of the pool, into the locker room and change, and then up to the bike. The timing was perfect as it made you rush (like a real tri) and it was a bit hectic - but "do-able".

[ 30 min Cycling ]
I'm blurry because I am biking so fast..
I guess in general the event I enjoy the most and the one I think I do the best in is biking (aka cycling for those who bike good). However ahead of time I looked up the past results of these indoor triathlons and people were averaging 30+ mph which is faster than the Tour (de France) so I couldn't quite figure out what was going on. So NET - my goal was:
1) Cover "15 miles" in 30 minutes
2) Place in top-half of competitors

When I got on the bike I immediately realized I was "spinning" instead of cycling. There was a huge difference. My indoor exercise bike acts more like a bike you ride outdoors - the higher the resistance you set - the "faster" you go with each pedal as you are assumed to be in a higher gear. On these spinning bikes - the distance doesn't take into account resistance - just how many times around your pedals go - therefore they are set to have almost NO RESISTANCE. This is not at all what biking is like, but I enjoyed it. I quickly got myself to 30 mph and tried to keep it there as my (arbitrary) goal was to cover 15 miles in 30 minutes. This type of event doesn't help me and my high heart rate too much as it is almost all cardio versus using your muscles to be in a higher gear for speed. I didn't figure out the resistance strategy as I know many competitors had it set to now resistance so their pedals were actually getting ahead of their feet and occasionally they would slip in not being able to keep up. They probably is a good way to go for max distance. I kept my resistance really low but had enough to keep me in control so my pedals didn't spin freely ahead of my pedaling.

I accomplished both goals by completing 15.2 theoretical miles.

My biking rank was tied for #21-22 out of #59. I confirmed that biking is my best event of the three. Even though there are 3 events, almost 2/3 of my points came from biking! The best bikers in this event covered 18 miles. I hit ~35 mph at some points, so I hope to improve in this area for the next indoor triathlon. The median bike distance was 14.5 miles.

During the spinning event I noticed that the cardio was tough, but also it was tough on my hip joints (because you are pedaling so fast!). Even though it was only 30 minutes I was pretty sore afterwards (including my leg muscles) - so that is either a good sign that it is a good event for training or it is just too rough for my body right now without building up to whatever spinning requires.

One bonus of the bike was that they were playing recorded coverage of the Tour de France which was fun - and they had some great music playing/

[ 5 min transition ]
This transition was pretty straight forward and you just walk over to the treadmills. There was plenty of time to get ready for the next event.

[ 20 min run ]
I'm blurry because I am running so fast...
The run was pretty straight forward - 20 minutes on a treadmill. I knew I wouldn't do too well here for a few reasons, one was my heart rate gets pretty high with running (200+ bps - long story so I usually mix up running or jogging with walking). My best ever 10K time was averaging an 11 min miles and it was about 20 degrees out that day - so I knew I was going to be sub 2 miles in 20 minutes.
1) I had an arbitrary goal of 1.5 miles going into the triathlon on the run

I was pretty tired at this point (sad I know but the intensities of the events - for me biking - doesn't tell the whole picture versus the times of the events). I was taking it a little easy on the run and at the halfway point of the run I only had 0.70 miles completed and I was interested to see if I could push it a bit and get to 1.50 miles.

I was able to accomplish my goal and I finished 1.51 miles which tied me for a (sad) #56-57 out of #59 competitors on the run :(. This (unfortunately) is in line with my expectations and another area I need to work on (probably starts with my breathing / asthma).

The best runners covered 3.30-3.86 miles in 20 minutes! I'd like to get to 2 miles in 20 minutes soon.

Overall - Bolt Speedman came in a not-too-great but expected #51 out of #59 competitors. I guess my main point with this blog is you don't have to be fast at any of this stuff to enjoy it and see improvement because I have seen both even if I am at the bottom end of triathletes. It's like golf - there are enough good shots in there to keep me coming back and get better even if my overall skills aren't that great.

I also appreciated having a cheering section of Meghan and her mom - which I'm pretty sure put me #1 of #59 competitors in terms of size of supporters at the triathlon (overall it really wasn't set up for spectators).


Ivette said...

someone else I know did this i saw it on Facebook but now I can't remember who it was. Anyway, it's good to keep trying! I just started training for my next half today. It'll be the Geneva UNICEF marathon on May 15 and I'm excited to run a half in another continent! LOL'ed at your "I'm so blurry because I'm going so fast". :)

Dale said...

It sure wasn't Tom on Facebook. :)

Congrats Tom. Just think about how much opportunity for improvement there is!