Last year, I set a goal of running a triathlon.  I then promptly got doored on my bicycle and broke a finger in my hand, putting me in a cast for eight weeks and a splint for another month-plus.  That precluded biking and swimming, and running sucked too because it made the inside of my cast all gooey for two days afterwords.  Consequently, no triathlon for me last year.

But this year, I was not going to be denied.  At the start of the year, I had my eye on the SuperFrog half-iron man, put on my the Navy SEALs here in San Diego, on Coronado.  It takes place at the end of September, and will be TOTALLY kick-ass.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  How in the hell do you think you’ll be able to do a half iron man by September?  Others are thinking what the hell is a half iron man?

So.  A quick primer on Triathlons.  There are several varieties.

  1. Sprint Triathlon.  Generally involves about 500m swim, 20-ish km (~12 mile) bike, and 5-ish km (~3.1 mile) run.  Not hard at all individually, but taken as a whole, more challenging than you’d think.
  2. Olympic Distance.  As an example, the OC Triathlon, which my friends and I are planning to do in May, is a 1.5 km swim, 50 km (31 mile) bike, and 10 km (6.2 mile) run.  Quite a bit more challenging.
  3. Half Iron Man. 1.2 mile swim.  56 mile bike.  Half marathon (13.1 miles).
  4. Iron Man. Double that.

There are some variations in the lengths but that’s pretty much how it rolls.

I shall now pause while various people’s eyes pop out of their heads.  🙂

Now, to answer the question, I could totally be ready for a half iron man by the end of September.  I’ve run marathons.  It takes ~6 months to train for one, and that’s starting from nothing, the way the Team in Training does.  I’m not starting from nothing.  But…  I’m not sure that I’ll actually go out for SuperFrog this year.  We’ll see how some other races go first.

Anyway, today two friends and I ran the SuperSEAL Sprint Triathlon, which is put on by the same guys who put on SuperFrog.  It’s a bit different from the sprint Tri that I described above in two respects: the run is 6k, not 5, and the swim, though advertised as 500m, was in fact more like 800m, based on my buddy’s GPS.  This was my first time running a Triathlon.  I gotta say, it was fun.  I also underestimated the amount of effort required for it.

Put it this way.  I run a half marathon in 2:10:00 – 2:20:00 or so.  I finished today’s triathlon in 1:43:00.  Not a great time, but I’m not interested in speed, at least for now; just in finishing.  So anyway, this thing took nearly the same amount of exertion (in terms of time anyway) as a half marathon.  I would say the half marathon is, in fact, quite harder.  Certainly a marathon is harder than a century (a 100 mile bike ride), so I don’t feel bad saying that.  And yes, I’ve done both.  But that’s not the point.  Point is, thinking of the events individually, I was like, “Yeah I’ve got this easy.”  But as we all know the whole tends to be greater than the sum of the parts.  And this was not easy.  It was not excessively challenging by any means, but not a cake walk.

As I said above, we’re planning another tri in May, up in OC.  This one will be longer, more challenging.  Between now and then, I need to spend a lot more time in the pool.  And get a different wetsuit. This swim was far more challenging than planned.  Part of it was my swim conditioning.  Part of it was that my wetsuit (which is the suit I bought back in 1999 for scuba diving in Hawaii) is not very good for normal swimming.  For one thing, I’m a little bit bigger in the chest (and belly, I’ll admit) now than I was then, so I’m already stretching the wetsuit just by wearing it.  For another, it’s a bit thicker than your standard triathlon wetsuit.  So trying to breath while reaching over my head while swimming freestyle was very hard.  Backstroke?  Sidestroke?  Not a problem.  But freestyle just didn’t work.  It was quite uncomfortable and annoying; I ended up in the very back of my wave, and was overtaken by a whole lot of swimmers from the wave behind me.  Which was annoying, and a little bit embarrassing.

So for next time, more swimming first.  Fortunately, it’s getting warmer now.  And when it’s warm, we spend our Sunday mornings in Mission Bay, a park a short distance north of where I live.  There are nice sheltered beaches there where they kids don’t have to contend with waves (which scare them).  And a couple nice convenient islands that I can swim back and forth to.  So that will be a big help in preparing better for the next one.

Anyway, long story short this morning rocked.  Not only did we have a lot of fun during the race, but at the end we all cracked open cans of Guiness, because after an endurance event there’s nothing better than a good beer.  And it’s St. Patrick’s day so really it’s required.  🙂