Triathlon on a Budget

This Sunday, I will attempt my first triathlon. To say this is a “bucket list” item is not really true, but it is something I’ve been curious about for some time. The biggest fear holding me back has been the first leg of a triathlon: the swim. Open-water swimming, to be specific. Swimming in a lake and not being able to touch or see the bottom, if we really want to get technical. So when the opportunity came to do a triathlon, with the swimming leg in a pool, with chlorine, life guards, and the ability to grab a wall half way through, I threw myself into the deep end. 300 yard swim. 10 mile bike ride. 5k run. Let’s do this.

I’ve approached this task a little unconventionally. Normally, when I take on a new challenge, I’ll dig deep into research, talk to others who have done this, and prepare like a rookie wide receiver trying to make the NFL. For this triathlon, I’m writing the manual on what not to do.

Before I signed up, my main goal was not to make any new investments in any type of gear or gadgets. With less than 48 hours before the start, I have accomplished that goal. I didn’t ask for any advice either. When I told others what I was doing and they started with some advice, I suddenly got the urge to go to the bathroom and ghosted out of the conversation.

I also didn’t want this race to slow down my progress towards my goal of running 1000 miles in 2017. The training has taken a little bit from that as I replaced a few of my Sunday runs with some bike miles. I had 3 long 20+ mile bike rides and I did not add those to my total running miles. I lost about 20 running miles by doing this, but I have plenty in the bank and this won’t set me back. Plus, the bike has been a nice change of pace and has helped relieve some pain I was experiencing in my knee.

Because I have not made any investments, I will be using my almost 20-year-old Trek 820 mountain bike. Everything is original on this thing. It’s a beauty. I bought it when I moved to Chicago so I could navigate the city. Actually, I bought it so I could ride over to my fiancée’s place before we were married. After we got married, that bike didn’t see many more miles. It has followed us to 4 different homes and looks fantastic in our garage. It’s like a piece of furniture. My wife will disagree, but that’s another post.

I’m not worried at all about the bike or run portions. My limited training rides have been great. One time, I rode 10 miles then ran 4 miles and that was the only bike/run combination I have done. While I wasn’t breaking any personal records, I was able to do it. I have been running long enough, and I’m in the best running shape of my life, so the 5k will be a breeze.

Ok. I’ve kicked the can far enough and now it’s time to address my fear. The pool. Full disclosure: I can swim. I spent my youth taking lessons, learning to float, and learning how to get from one end of a pool to another. Most of my summers were spent at the pool. But I wasn’t swimming laps or competing on a swim team. I spent my time doing can-openers on the high dive, getting dunked by my older brother’s friends, and eating French fries from the Westwood pool snack bar.

The last time I was in water was last August. I spent time in the Atlantic Ocean and in the small pool of our rental in the Outer Banks. While we watched Michael Phelps make history in the Olympics, I was not working toward any gold medals. I was body surfing and cooling off from the heat.

I watched one YouTube video on efficient swimming. That was enough. If I don’t know how to do it now, I’m doomed. Plus, if I can’t swim 3 football fields at my current fitness level, I might as well hang ’em up right now. While I haven’t spent a nanosecond in the water, I’ve increase my yoga practice and core workouts for the past 6 weeks. That’s the story I’m telling myself to get me in and out of that pool.

This whole experience is going to be fun. I’m looking forward to accomplish the triathlon on a budget. There will be no Speedo’s or wetsuits. No goggles or expensive road gear. Just my running shorts and shoes, a couple of old dri-fit race shirts, a 10 year-old Timex IronMan watch, one old and heavy mountain bike, and one big smile.

While I don’t have any expectations other than finishing, oh hell, who am I kidding? Of course I have a number in my head. I’ve already broken down my time expectations for each interval and I know what I’m capable of doing. Sunday will be a great test.

The next 48 hours will be key. I’ll need to get my best night’s sleep, tonight, as Saturday evening will be filled with nerves and excitement. It will probably be filled with pizza and gummy bears, too. With a 5am wakeup call on Sunday, I’ll need all the rest I can get.

I’m planning on documenting as much of this as I can with my phone. You won’t get any pool shots, 1.) because my phone doesn’t do that, and b.) you don’t need to see me with my shirt off. Check out my Instagram story for some updates. Unless I don’t make it out of the pool.


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