Beginner Training for Harlech Triathlon - Progress Report!

Published: 13.03.2020

It’s been a while since I blogged about my triathlon training progress. Every week seems to throw up something new and before I write it down we’re in to a new week and I’m swimming, cycling and running my way over new (figurative) hurdles. I still switch between believing I’m a separated at birth Brown-Lee and googling other triathlons to see what else I can enter, to cursing the day I agreed to do this and counting the hours until my daily activities aren’t governed by an online training platform that punishes me by turning red when I don’t train for long enough.

Here are the high/low lights from the last three weeks:

Getting Injured

After a short family bike ride my lower back was a bit sore. It then proceeded to get worse until I was struggling to stand up straight. I googled, I did heat and ice. I moaned. I freaked out that I had really actually hurt myself and that my triathlon journey was over, just as it was getting started. I was struggling to tie my shoe laces let alone do any training so I went to see a wonderful lady by the name of Cheymoon O’Reilly. I was first introduced to Cheymoon when I was in late pregnancy and suffering from back pain. She is a deep tissue massage therapist and I honestly wouldn’t have got through those last 6 weeks without her. I walked in the door feeling like Quasimodo. I walked out bruised but upright and under strict instruction to not even look at my trainers for the next two days. Nearly 48 hours later, I felt so much better I went for a little run. The lady is a miracle worker.

I’ve been fine ever since but it was a bit of a wake up call, firstly to take care of myself and listen to my body and secondly and most surprisingly, that now I’ve started, it’s really important to me to complete this challenge and I’d be gutted if anything got in the way.

Recovery Week and Transition Practice

Here’s some learning. Recovery is just as important as key training sessions and most coaches (like mine) will prescribe it. In my training plan we have a programmed recovery week every 4th week. Recovery week is designed to rest your muscles and your brain, allowing your body to recover before the next block of training. Training doesn’t stop but the intensity is lower whilst still focusing on the skills you do in your normal training. Allowing your body to recover stops you wearing out and allows you to continue to progress.

I felt fortunate that my injury occurred at the beginning of my recovery week so I wasn’t too stressed about missing a couple of sessions early on and taking part in some low intensity sessions at the end of the week was just what I needed. My favourite of these was a coached session on transition skills which basically involved how to get on and off your bike as quickly as possible whilst looking cool. It was one of those sessions that if you were an alien landed on earth and came across it, you would have thought mankind was surely mad. We started with some bike pushing practice, using the saddles only to control and steer our wheely metal friends in and out of cones, avoiding each other in the progress. It might be a quicker way to push your bike and yes it does keep your legs out of the way of the pedals but it certainly takes some practice. We then moved on to actually hopping on and off our bikes. As beginners we were very sensibly wearing trainers and were not clipped in to peddles at any point. Looking back, if this wasn’t the case it could have been a whole other kind of story.

It turns out I’m pretty good at scooting along, swinging my legs over and threading them through to get off again. I might not be proficient at swimming, biking or running but at transition I’m a natural. I rode horses for many years so I’m attributing it to that. The general consensus in the group was that for beginners transition is a weigh up of ‘risk over reward’. I loved this session and one day I hope to be throwing flying dismounts left, right and centre but this time (in my clips) I might just stick to stop and hop off. I will be investing in some elastic shoe laces though – yep I’m starting to take things seriously now…

Long Rides on the Bike

I could be, maybe, possibly, starting to enjoy riding my bike. Not on the turbo trainer; this is still the worst sort of sweaty, boring, horrible thing ever invented, but my plan now includes a ‘long ride’ most weekends and this it turns out is actually a really nice thing to do. I’ve been on rides with some of my favourite people and one on my own at break neck speed as I had to be back to collect my daughter from my Mum before her pilates class.

I’m not very good at choosing routes and understanding how long a ride will take me but that’s ok as I can just follow someone else and fortunately route planning is not part of a triathlon.

My Special Run

Possibly my favourite comment so far came from one of our coaches Ashley at one of our coached running sessions. We had done a few drills and were just jogging round to a new location when he ran up beside me and said ‘is that your real run?’. You know something is bad when someone suggests your putting on a comedy version. When I tell this story some people are shocked, but those people haven’t seen me run. I wasn’t shocked because ever since I was at school people have laughed at the way I run. Trust me, the struggle is real. If you’ve seen that episode of Friends where Pheobe and Rachel go running you’ll be able to picture the scene.

All these years though, there’s been a lot of laughing and not a lot of helping…until now. We did some running drills. Ashley shouted at me every time I lapsed back in to ‘Pheobe’ and by the end of the session I was (so I’m told, I can’t actually see myself running) running better and FASTER. It’s life changing this triathlon training business I’m telling you.

Moving House and Falling Off the Wagon

Basically, I moved house and fell off the training wagon for a week.

Getting Back on The Horse

It was pretty hard to find my enthusiasm again. We didn’t have the TV set up so I couldn’t get my normal Dancing on Ice fix whilst enduring the pleasure that is being on the turbo trainer. I think this week being another recovery week helped my motivation in the end, not because it was an easy week but more that it concerned me having two weeks in a row when I hadn’t trained very hard. It’s times like this when having an experienced coach to guide you really helps. I spoke to Rhian about my worries and we decided to tweak my plan so the previous week would count as my recovery week. I also hadn’t been too well over the weekend and Rhian made sure I felt 100% well again before agreeing to adapt the plan. Our final decision was to keep the beginning of the week as it was then add in some of the key sessions I had missed later on. You don’t get that kind of support and reassurance from a free download.

Running Off the Bike

One of the key sessions I missed and was keen to catch up on was my first ‘brick’ session. This has nothing to do with bricks but instead refers to a session when you go straight from one activity in to another. I still don’t know why it’s called a brick session but I’m sure someone reading this can enlighten me. I had heard about how running off the bike felt like your legs were made of jelly and that it took some getting used to but my recent run and bike sessions had gone really well and I was feeling strong and confident.

I decided to set off from the AAH Events Hub. This decision was based on me easily being able to leave my bike and go straight out on a run. I figured the time it would take to climb the hill to my house or take the wheels off my bike to get it in the car before going for a run would pretty much defeat the object. There is also a nice flat cycle path close to work that would make a great out and back to do the 20 minute time trial on my bike. I headed out taking it steady and warming up for 20 minutes, I thought how lovely a day it was and how nice it was to be out on my bike enjoying the great outdoors. I was already to ride as hard as I could back to the office, so I turned around…right in to the wind.

I was pretty tired when I got back to the office but I pressed on, changed my shoes (still got to put those elastic laces on my trainers) and headed out for a run. Oh my gosh. It was the hardest 15 minutes of my training journey so far. I had no control over my body and my special running style was amplified a million times. It felt like I wasn’t moving and my lungs were bursting. I’ve never been so pleased to end a session and I had to eat all the left over food from the Anglesey Half Marathon to recover. Rhian has told me ‘it will get easier’ but at the moment I am wondering how I am ever going to manage 6km and with a swim thrown in before the bike too. It’s a real spirit dampener when I felt like I was starting to get to grips with the individual disciplines. What a silly idea to do them one after the other!!

3 Weeks to Go

It’s only three weeks to go till the event now and I’m excited and terrified. I feel fit which is an awesome feeling (I’ve never really felt it before) and I’m quietly confident I could now capably complete each section as an individual element. I have a pretty good idea of how long each section takes me but I don’t know how much more time it will take when I put everything together. Everyone keeps talking about adrenaline and ‘race pace’ but after my previous experience of running off the bike I’m not convinced.

Next week I’ve entered the Harlech Aquathlon so I can reassure myself I’ve got it in me to do the swim distance and get a feel of the run route. I’m definitely someone who likes to know the routes and how much further I have to go! It’s quite keen to enter a second event isn’t it – I’m impressed with myself.

I’ll keep you posted and let you know my results. If you can’t wait then don’t forget you can join my facebook group Tri-Hard Mummy for more regular updates.

Here’s some links that every beginner triathlon should have, they take you to wonderful people who don’t laugh at you and make sure you stay alive:

Evolution bikes. Despite everything I LOVE my bike. It’s just the most perfect bike for me. These guys really did get it right when they helped me choose it and because it’s been fitted properly it doesn’t cause my body any aggro. If you need bike advice, talk to these guys.

Rhian Roxburgh TriRox Training. Having Rhian support my journey has helped me more than I could ever have known. She explains everything, she makes things fun and she pushes me to achieve.

All my wonderful friends and colleagues at Always Aim High Events. Everyone is working so hard at the moment yet they still find time to support my efforts and be positive about me basically leaving them to cover my workload at Harlech whilst I take part.