Escaping the Swimming Plateau

I’ve been dealing with a swimming plateau since, well, practically since I started swimming. I was a lifeguard and a swimming teacher in high school, and the classes I took to become certified in those areas means that I have a basic understanding of the correct form for the major strokes and the ability to do said strokes passably for a maximum of 5-6 strokes as a demonstration.

I didn’t start swimming for fitness until I quit track in college.  Swimming allowed me to take advantage of the free access to a pool and to break up the monotony of running. I really enjoyed it and, even after never swimming more than the required 500 yards in lifeguarding in-services for years, I picked it up relatively easily. I quickly added volume to my long, slow swims without much effort and remember swimming my first mile and quitting only because I was bored, not because I was tired. Since then, I stopped and started swimming regularly based on whims and my passing fancies (and free access to a pool). I never had much trouble picking it right back up again and hitting the point where I can swim a mile or so without exerting myself too much.

The relative ease with which I do this makes me think I might have some sort of affinity for swimming. However, due to the on-again, off-again nature of our relationship thus far, I’ve never been able to fully reap the benefits of that affinity. Even when I actually started training for a triathlons, swimming took a backseat. I knew I could swim the 1.2 miles in a half Ironman. I had no such confidence in my ability to ride 56 miles or to run 13.1 miles after the previously mentioned cycling. So I exchanged one swimming workout a week for an additional cycling or running workout. This was the right decision at the time, but my swimming never advanced noticeably further than is accomplished by regular ol’ getting-back-into-shape.

Ironman 70.3 swim exit (2014)
Ironman 70.3 swim exit (2014)

This year, I focused more on swimming, and while I did see improvement in the 1000yd time trials I did during training (an overall drop of over a minute), some of that was because of the different efforts I put into them. I swam the first one hard. I raced the third one (against myself, but still…). My actual races this year didn’t give me a realistic picture, either. My 1500m swim leg was 30:36 and my 1.2 mile swim leg was 33:08 compared to my times from the previous year at the same distances of 27:14 and 38:54. I’m pretty sure the former course was long and the latter was short, so they weren’t the best measuring sticks. I do feel like I’ve improved some this year, I’m still a back-of-the-front-of-the-pack swimmer like I have been since I started triathlons. This isn’t exactly uncommon. Once a basic level of competence is reached, swimming often takes a backseat in triathlon training. The reasoning is simple: you can train hard as a swimmer four times a week and take 3-5 minutes off your swim time or you can focus on cycling and/or running and take off 6-10 minutes in those disciplines. If you are looking for an overall PR, it’s a pretty obvious choice.

The water is very low this year. Usually, the swim exit would be way up where the green rug takes a sharp turn.
Swim exit at Jordanelle (2015)

But, as I said earlier, I think I may have an affinity for swimming, and as such, I’d like to reach my potential. So I finally gathered up all my motivation and started attending the masters swim team that meets (really early) in the mornings at my pool. I didn’t get a really good sense of what it was like my first day because we worked solely on breaststroke. So I basically drowned for an hour and spent the next couple of days so sore I could barely cross my legs. I made sure to ask the coach (who was very helpful and didn’t make fun me at all, even when I am sure I looked like a drowning rat) what the typical schedule was so I could try to avoid breaststroke days in the future.

So I started regularly going to the pool at 6am for masters once a week. Now, I’m a morning person. I’m productive in the mornings, I like being awake when I know others are asleep, and I find the time very peaceful. But I like to get up early and do some reading or writing. I like to get up early and maybe do an easy swim, run, or bike ride and enjoy seeing the sun come up. Waking up at 5am so I can go swim until I feel like my lungs are going to explode and my arms are going to fall off is less appealing. And that’s exactly what happens at masters where I have learned at least one very important fact about my typical swim workout—I spend way too much time resting between sets when I do swim workouts.

I set out all my stuff the night before (actually, I stuff it all in a bag-- laying it out is step one).
I set out all my stuff the night before (actually, I stuff it all in a bag– laying it out is step one).

Usually, when I finish a set and am tired and out of breath, I’ll stop, take a drink from my water bottle, shake out my arms, sigh dramatically, look at the clock, groan, give myself a little pep talk, and then start out on the next set. This is probably a hold-over from my track days where we would have nearly full recoveries between our reps. This makes a lot of sense when you are running 200s, 400s, and 800s as training for 200s, 400s, and 800s. It makes less sense when you are swimming 25s, 50s, and 100s as training for races that are 500+ yards, and that means that most swim workouts look a little different than most track workouts.

Standard swim workouts are often structured with a group of sets that look something like this:

8 x 50 on 1:00
4 x 100 on 2:00
8 x 25 on :35*

Basically, during the first set, you will start another 50 every one minute. So if you get done with the 50 in fifty seconds, you rest ten seconds then go. If you get done with the 50 in fifty-five seconds, you rest five seconds then go. The rest of the sets follow the same pattern. I’ve known about this convention of swim workouts for a long time, but I’ve never done it. And it makes a huge difference. The workouts are tough. I have to pick a pace that I can sustain throughout the reps, but I don’t want to go too slowly and eat into my recovery time (or look like a slow poke). After attending for a few weeks, I can already see these quick sets making a difference. Form is important while swimming, and when I start getting tired, my form slips. Doing these sets while tired and gasping for air gives me the chance to focus on keeping form while I’m tired. And all that practice will be useful at the end of a 2.4 mile swim.

Clock
Death clock. Only it counts up, not down.

Form is vital for speed in swimming—in my opinion, even more so than when running because of the drag you create in the water if you don’t have good form. The other benefit to masters class is having someone who can critique my stroke and offer suggestions. Like I said before, I’m a decent swimmer. My form is very far from perfect, but it’s honed to the point that online articles about how to better your triathlon swim leg are typically not very helpful. Even after going just a few weeks, I’ve gotten some good advice for my stroke. My most recent breakthrough? To keep my hips right at the surface of the water and to give me a better body position, engage my core muscles. Very obvious, but something I probably would not have figured out on my own. Time to actually add a core workout into my routine.

Masters class is early. It’s tough. In fact, these workouts are probably the toughest swim workouts I’ve ever done, and that’s a good thing. With a renewed focus on swimming hard and the added bonus of useful stroke critiques, I’m hoping that I will be able to make some real progress this winter.  I’ll have something better than poorly measured open water courses  to mark that potential progress.  So that we don’t swim all over each other while sharing lanes, we swimmers divide ourselves into lanes based on speed.  I’m currently in the third fasted lane (out of four).  Moving up to the second fastest lane is on my radar and has become an off-season goal for me.  Maybe it’s finally time to move on from my perpetual swimming plateau.

Fairmont-- before and after (my phone does not take high quality pictures at night)
Fairmont– before and after (my phone does not take high quality pictures at night)

*This workout is for demonstration purposes only. It is probably really worthless as an actually workout.

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Weekly Recap (9/21-9/27)

Monday: Swim—Masters swim team (2500 yds)
I learned something about the way I do swim workouts. I spend way too much time resting between sets. Usually, when I finish a set and am tired and out of breath, I’ll stop, drink some water, shake out my arms, sigh dramatically, look at the clock, groan, gather up all my motivation, and then start out of the next set. But standard swim workouts are often structured with a group of sets that look something like this: 8 x 50 on 1:00. This means that you will start another 50 every one minute. So if you get done with the 50 in fifty seconds, you rest ten seconds then go. If you get done with the 50 in fifty-five seconds, you rest five seconds then go. I’ve known this for a long time, but I’ve never done it. So, needless to say, it was a tough (in a good way!) workout today. I’ve been on a swimming plateau for a pretty long time now, and workout out with a masters team might be what knocks me off that. I’m feeling positive about my potential for improvement right now.

Tuesday: Run—5.1 miles (43:00)
I woke up this morning still feeling a little stiff. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I loosened up quickly and felt smooth during my run. I was getting fatigued enough by the end of the run that I was having to focus on keeping my pace up, but it wasn’t to the level that it was a struggle to do so. Although my 8:26/mile pace wasn’t much faster than normal, the run felt smoother and more natural than most of my morning runs do.

Wednesday: Rest
This was an unplanned rest day due to an unanticipated dinner with Rob’s parents. It happens. Workouts this week were a little dicey in general because of an unplanned but necessary commitment on Friday afternoon which meant I needed to get to work at 6:30 during the latter half of the week so I could take Friday afternoon off.

Thursday: Run—800m, 4 x 400 (1:45), 800m
Another day of getting to work at 6:30 and being busy in the evening. So I improvised and did a speed workout on the treadmill during lunch. This workout was downright demoralizing. Do you remember how I ran a 7:00/mile at the end of a five mile run a few weeks ago and felt great? Well, I used that to predict how I would feel during this workout which was 400s at a 7:00/mile pace at 1.5% incline. I thought I would feel great and was planning on doing 6-8 of these. I stopped after four because I felt like crap, was having trouble breathing, and was getting dizzy. I’m glad I decided to try a speed workout early instead of just diving in because I’m less frustrated knowing that I have time to acclimate to speed work again before my workout plan demands them.

Friday: Bike—30 minutes
I was in a rough spot on Friday morning and did not feel like going on a bike ride. I really just wanted to sit on the couch (I was working from home) and feel sorry for myself. And I considered doing just that because I have been pushing myself in my workouts recently (see last week’s 54 mile ride) and have been dealing with a cold. But I knew I was only going out for 30 minutes, and I wasn’t balking because my body or mind was struggling with training. I was balking because I was struggling with life which meant that a short spin would make me feel better, even if getting out the door did take an abnormally large burst of determination. And I did feel somewhat better after getting back. Turns out that I can tell the difference between needing to rest for my physical and mental health and wanting to hide from the world. I’m thankful for that self-awareness.

Saturday: Bike—East Canyon (2:40:52)
I rode East Canyon today for the second time. I knew what to expect this time around which made the final, slow grind at the end feel more manageable. Even though I didn’t ride quite as fast as I did last time, I felt stronger. And, more importantly, the leaves are starting to change in the canyon which led to some fantastic views. Really, this was the kind of ride I live for—tough but not so hard it’s not enjoyable, great conditions, beautiful views, and a much needed escape from the real world. It was the kind of ride I do because I love cycling and not because I’m training for anything. In total, the ride was 37 miles.

Seriously... look at these colors!
Seriously… look at these colors!

Sunday: Run—7 miles (58:44)
I thought this would be a rough run. I was still feeling a bit stiff after Saturday’s ride, and I haven’t been feeling my best this week. I made sure to get an early start so that I was cool the entire run (I prefer chilly runs). And I felt pretty good. I was feeling tired at the end, but I was actually able to push it in faster than usual. The last part of my run is downhill, but the last few weeks I’ve been getting side cramps that have slowed me down and haven’t let me take advantage of that. But my side felt much better during this run, and I was able to cruise downhill at a good clip to finish off the run with an 8:23/mile pace. I’m thinking of either upping the mileage on this run next week or doing a tough interval workout in its place, just to start getting ready for the onset of marathon training.

On Blogging

I’ve been blogging regularly for a little over a month now.  I know, I know.  I’m still basically a blogging baby.  But I went from reading almost zero fitness-type blogs and absolutely ­not­ being a blogger to reading and writing various blog posts regularly within the span of a few months. Despite being quite active on Facebook and several online forums, until recently, I don’t think I’ve documented my life through social media the way many people do.  For instance, I still don’t understand Twitter despite trying really hard, and I don’t even know how to approach Instagram.  Like, do I just take pictures of my food and my boyfriend’s cat, or what?  So taking the plunge into actively chronicling a large part of my life online was a big step for me, and I’ve already noticed a few ways that blogging has changed the way I approach both my training and my life in general.

1. I’m more aware of my workouts.

I’ve considered keeping a training journal for a long time.  The idea of consciously remembering my workouts and tracking them so that I can look back on them if I ever need or want to always appealed to me.  It seemed like it would be a really worthwhile pursuit, especially since I am no longer working out just to stay fit and sane.  I would really like to see improvement in my times and my abilities.  Of course, that never happened, maybe because there wasn’t any sort of accountability (real or imagined) attached.

Blogging has given me the push I need to start doing that, and I can already tell I’ve benefitted from it.  While I’m working out, I pay more attention to how I feel because I know I’ll be writing a short paragraph about it later.  I’ve started timing my runs because it seems less-than-satisfying to report that I ran five miles but have no idea how long it took because I couldn’t be bothered to time it.  And because I’ve started timing my runs, I’ve started running them a bit harder and more deliberately.  Every Sunday as I’m finishing up my Weekly Recap post (I recap each workout the day I do it and then just post it on Sunday), I get the chance to see and review each workout I’ve done that week.

My training has more integrated into my life and not just something that I do in the mornings.  I’m hoping this increased awareness helps pull me through some of the long winter months that will inevitably lower my commitment and excitement towards triathlon.

2. I’m more aware of constructing a narrative.

Our lives are not composed of perfect narrative arcs, tied up with a perfect little bow.  Neither we nor the people we know are characters populating those narratives.  But I think we tend translate the events of our lives into narratives after the fact to make sense of them and to communicate those events to others.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does tend to remove our objectivity.  We’ve all done it—someone says or does something that rubs us the wrong way, and then we think about previous interactions with them and interpret those actions through that new lens.  It sometimes makes me feel a little uncomfortable when I find myself actively crafting a narrative about something that I intend to write a post about while I’m going through a certain experience.

For example, when I visited my family over Labor Day, I found myself acutely aware that I was going to be writing about my experiences later and felt pressure create the story as I experienced the weekend.  I had to make sure to take a picture of TriTown because I knew it would be a good photo to include in a post.  I had to think about what elements of the trip I would include and exclude while I was experiencing them.  I was creating the subjective, somewhat fictionalize narrative arc that I would include in my post in real time.

Sometimes, this feels disingenuous.  For instance, the day I put the finishing touches on that post about my Labor Day weekend, I felt horrible.  I had a really rough day the day before.  I felt awful and sad and tired.  And even though I had been feeling positive when writing the post, it felt a bit like I was lying to post something so positive when I was feeling so negative.  I was acutely aware that the narrative I was publishing was, at the very least, incomplete. I’m not sure exactly how to feel about this.  On the one hand, I want to avoid painting a “social media” portrait of myself where I’m smart, upbeat, hard-working, and happy and where every day is “OMG the best day ever!”  And when I’m blogging, I sometimes catch myself writing that narrative.  On the other hand, we narrative-ize our lives every day, and I think being aware of the fact that I’m doing it can help me do so more responsibly.

3. I’m learning about new things.

I’ve never really blogged before, at least not in a way that was not essentially an excuse for me to write dramatic vents online for my closest friends to read.  And I am really enjoying learning how to do it.  It’s been a while since I’ve done something completely different for no other reason than my own edification.  In fact, I think the last time I did that was when I started doing triathlons.

After a couple of years in grad school and now nearly a year as a technical writer, I’ve loved getting back into some form of more creative writing.  I’ve loved learning about the kind of posts that people enjoy and are more likely to read versus the ones that they are more likely to skip.  (This is one of the posts they’re likely to skip!)  Interesting titles, pictures, and stories are what seem to attract people to a post.

I’ve also learned how to integrate photos into a piece of writing which is something I’ve never done before.  And it’s been fun to play around with.  When I first realized I wanted to include more pictures than I felt was prudent, I recalled how many times I’ve seen photo collages on Instagram.  I thought to myself, “I can do that!”  So I found a (free) app on my phone (I’m not ready to graduate to an Instagram account yet!), and got started there.

Guys.  Those were the most fun hours of my week.

Sure, I made some collages (or was it just one?) for my blog.  But then I started collaging everything.  And every collage was the best one ever and needed to be shown off to Rob (the person who would pretend to care for the longest).

“Hey, I made a collage of our ride!”

BikeRide

“Look, I made a collage of the seasons!”

Seasons

“Now I made an autumn collage!”

Autumb

“Here’s one of some unrelated Utah landscapes!”

Landscapes

“I made a collage of the cat!”

Cat

Yeah, I wore out my welcome pretty quickly that evening.

4. I want my training to have more variety.

It’s really easy for me to fall into the trap of doing the same old thing every day.  I like routine.  I’m the person who ran three miles a day five times a week and six miles a day once a week for over a year straight.  No change in my routine at all.  I’m the person who typically prefers training to races, even though I know that races are good for me.  I am boring.

But I like blogging and I like my blog, so I don’t want it to be boring.

This has inspired me to do more interesting things so that I can then write about them.  I’ve made a concerted effort to climb new canyons and sign up for races.  I signed up for the Salt Lake City half marathon, a $50 decision I may not have made if I hadn’t known that I would be able to write about it afterwards.  I’m thinking of doing a few sprint tris during my Ironman training cycle.  I’m actively thinking about new rides I can do and new bodies of water to swim in.  This really does help me stay excited about my training and mix things up, but it’s something I know I wouldn’t be doing if I wasn’t actively looking for new topics and experiences to chronicle in my blog.

Many of the changes in my perspective due to blogging are positive, but some of them—like the tendency to want to present a whitewashed view of my life—are more complicated.  And that’s okay.  So far, writing this blog has been a positive experience, despite the fact that I feel like it edges me a little bit closer to fulfilling the stereotype of the narcissistic, screen-obsessed millennial.  It’s good for my training, and—perhaps more importantly—it’s fun.  And if it ever stops being (mostly) fun and positive, well, I’ll write about it.  Gotta make sure to avoid only presenting the good side of blogging.

Eleven Month Checkup

As of today, I am exactly eleven months away from Ironman Coeur d’Alene.  I thought it might be a good idea to check in monthly with a little update as to where I am in my training cycle.  I basically just write posts about things that I would want to read in a blog, and I know that I’d love to self-consciously compare my workouts at a specific point in Ironman training with someone else’s workouts at that same point.  So I’ve decided that I’ll do a monthly post on the 21st of each month that documents my levels of preparedness for various aspects of the race.

Physical

Fitness:
Considering I’m not actually on an official training plan right now and have been taking advantage of that to get some rest, I’m feeling good about my physical fitness.  I am loving not having to do multiple workouts a day, but I’m also trying to make sure the workouts I do are quality, unless they are specifically for recovery.  That has helped my running a lot.  Running with my pace in mind instead of just going out for long runs has already brought my average times down and has given me a solid understanding of where I currently am as a runner which I will need in November when I start marathon training.

General health:
The only health issue I’ve had lately is my appetite.  My appetite is a constant struggle for me.  I often do not feel like eating which leads to me underfueling and losing weight.  It got pretty bad earlier this summer to the point where I’m pretty sure it was affecting my performance (I was down to 126 pounds).  But I’ve been doing better lately.   Most days, I don’t have trouble getting food down.  But I haven’t been able to back all the weight I lost yet, and I still have days where the thought of food kind of turns my stomach, especially in the mornings.

Mental

Overall, this was an encouraging month.  Because of that, I’m feeling mentally strong right now.  The fact that I’m not on an official training plan at this point has allowed me to shrug off bad workouts in a way that I would struggle to do if I felt I underperformed or couldn’t meet the goals of an “official” workout.  I’ve enjoyed the freedom to do what I want.  And I’ve enjoyed the rest too.  I am really loving taking it easier during the week and hitting it hard on the weekend.

Superlatives

Longest swim workout: 2000yds

Longest ride: 54 miles

Longest run: 7 miles

Most encouraging workout: Tied between my five mile run at a 7:44/pace (wait, I’m still kind of a runner?!) and my 54 mile Big Cottonwood ride (hard miles that I was thrilled I was able to finish).

Most discouraging workout: A hot, uncharacteristically slow climb up Emigration that left me feeling sick and frustrated.

Average time per sport per week

Swimming: 52.5 minutes

Cycling: 4 hours 17.5 minutes

Running: 1 hour 42.5 minutes

TimePerSport11

Looking to the future

It’s pretty clear from my averages this month that I’ve been focusing on cycling.  I wanted to take advantage of the pleasant cycling weather in late summer/early fall and get some hard miles in before it gets too cold.  I’m happy with the miles and climbing I’ve done so far and feel confident I made the right decision.  However, I’m starting marathon training in November, so I expect that partway through October, I’ll start shifting focus from the bike to the run so that I’m ready.  Swimming will probably continue to take a backseat until it gets too cold to ride outside on a regular basis.  I’ll have time to hammer the swim a couple times a week once the Salt Lake City winter really hits.  I expect the above chart to look very different in a couple of months.

Weekly Recap (9/14-9/20)

Monday: Swim—300 swim, 300 kick, 300 swim, 300 pull
This is typically an easy, recovery-type swim workout for me. I’ve been trying to do a pretty hard work out for my one swim workout a week, and this one obviously doesn’t fit the bill.  I had a rough Sunday, not workout-wise but just life-wise.  So I decided for my own mental health to do an easy swim.  That was part of the bargain to get me out of bed at 5:00am.  And I don’t feel too bad about it.  In this case, an easy recovery swim was a better option than skipping the workout all together and a more feasible option than forcing myself through a tough workout.

Tuesday: Run—5.1 miles (43:24)
It had been stormy here in Salt Lake, and it was supposed to be stormy for the next few days.  So I felt lucky when it wasn’t raining and the wind wasn’t terrible Tuesday morning when I got up.  This was a pretty average run.  I felt tired (how can you not when it’s 5:30am?) and stiff, but I did the run in an 8:30/mile pace which is pretty normal for me for this kind of run.

Wednesday: Swim—Masters swim team
I did my first practice with a local masters team today which was scary (because people!) but fun.  The coach was very nice and understanding that I was completely new to a swim team environment.  It turns out that on Wednesday, they work on specific strokes.  Today was breaststroke which I hadn’t done in at least seven years (wow, I’m old…).  So, it was tough.  Not only is my form questionable at best, but my breaststroke muscles are not in good shape at all.  The shoulder muscles it uses are somewhat different than what front crawl uses, and the leg muscles are very different.  The breaststroke kick uses the groin muscles, and it certainly felt like I don’t use those muscles much.  I didn’t notice my shoulders until later. I drive to work straight from the pool, so I didn’t notice my shoulders tightening up until I got off the freeway about 45 minutes after getting out of the pool and starting taking 90° turns.  Turning the steering wheel kind of hurt. I’m definitely planning on going back once a week or so, and maybe twice a week during the winter.  But… maybe I’ll skip breaststroke days…

Thursday: Rest day
I was sore.  So, since the weather was a bit iffy and I planned watching the football game in the evening, I took Thursday as my rest day.

Friday: Run—30 minutes
I just ran based on time and feel—I don’t know what my pace was at all.  I didn’t get to bed until late the previous night because of the aforementioned football game (go Broncos!), so I decided to sleep in and do my run during lunch.  It was nice to run while it was fully light outside.  And, as a bonus, when I got back, HR was giving out free root beer floats.  Score!

Saturday: Bike—Big Cottonwood Canyon (4:02:09)
I decided to ride Big Cottonwood Canyon again this weekend, maybe just to prove to myself that I could really do it.  This time, I started from Rob’s place which adds another 12 or so miles to each end of the ride. I ate a good breakfast (one egg, a bowl of cereal, and a banana) and took a sleeve of Pop-Tarts and $2 with me.  The first, steep part of the canyon was a bit tougher when I wasn’t on fresh legs, and I felt like I was going really slow, maybe because there was no one else there to distract me.  But I felt reasonably strong up to the top.  I bought and ate some Reese’s before heading back down, which wasn’t nearly as easy as I would have liked due to a fairly strong headwind.  When I had about ten miles until I got back to Rob’s place, everything hurt—my butt, my legs, my arms, my neck, everything.  But, as tired as I was, I didn’t bonk.  I definitely didn’t have any more miles left in me when I finally got back, though.  This ride ended up being 54.5 miles long with about 6,000 feet of elevation gain.

BigCottonwood

Sunday: Run—3.5 miles (31:47)
After Saturday’s ridiculous effort, I decided to do a 3.5 mile easy run instead of my regular 7 mile run.  I’m glad I made this decision before I started my 7 mile route because I’m honestly not sure my legs could have carried me that far.  I was rethinking the decision to run at all after about half a mile.  I made it through the run at a 9:05/mile pace.  As much as I viscerally hate seeing a pace that slow for such a short run, I’m totally okay with it because I know how tired my legs were from the day before.

Big Cottonwood: A Beginner’s Trek

Living at the foot of a mountain range means that I am surrounded by a lot of amazing climbing opportunities on my bike.  But I’ve spent most of my time in Salt Lake City pretty scared of most of the these opportunities.  I’ve got Emigration Canyon down and recently surprised myself by making it up East Canyon with a (very) slow but steady pace. Still, I haven’t felt like a cyclist who is really ready to handle Salt Lake City’s terrain.  There’s a gate-keeper that has been standing in my way, keeping me from exploring the many varied and difficult climbs in the area.

Big Cottonwood Canyon.

When I first moved here, I asked Rob what the second easiest canyon in Salt Lake was, and he told me it was probably Big Cottonwood.  So from that point on, I rather arbitrarily felt like I needed to ride Big Cottonwood before I could tackle any canyon besides Emigration.  I put Big Cottonwood on my list of goals for the summer, but I never really found the right time to do it while training for Jordanelle.  With Jordanelle being only an Olympic distance race, I only had one three hour ride scheduled, and I knew that Big Cottonwood might take longer than that.

But with the mornings getting a little cooler than they have been and with my training focusing on cycling for a few months, it was the perfect time to tackle this ride.  Rob, being the more socially competent of the two of us, got together a group of folks from work.  We planned to drive over (the ride would be a little too long for a fun, social ride otherwise) and meet right at the base of the canyon at 9:00am.

This only sort of worked out.  Rob was running a bit later, as were another couple we were meeting there.  We ran into more delays when we got near the mouth of the canyon.  It turns out there was a big marathon going on which meant closed roads and no easy way to make it to the meet-up point.  So, a few harried phone calls and detours later, we all managed to find our way into the same church parking lot just a couple miles away from where we had originally planned to meet.

This is what happens when Rob and I take both bikes somewhere.
This is what happens when Rob and I take both bikes somewhere.
GettingReady
Everyone else unpacking and gearing up for the ride

A lot of unpacking and a bit of small talk later, and we were ready to take off—at about 10:30am.  It was a much later start than intended, and I was a little worried about the heat during the climb, but that turned out to be (mostly) unfounded because as the time passed, we climbed higher up the canyon where it was cooler.  We were climbing with one other Big Cottonwood first-timer, and she and I were a bit nervous because we had both made it partway up in previous rides and been intimidated by the difficulty.  The veterans in the group assured us that the hardest part is actually the first several miles which offered a bit of solace, but I think we were both still a little skeptical.

I wish I could convey, either with words or iPhone pictures just how gorgeous this ride is, but I’m pretty sure I can’t.  Just know that it’s by far the most gorgeous ride I’ve done in Utah.  That should be telling.  However, for the first few miles, I wasn’t able to enjoy it much.  It was pretty warm, and it was steep.  Pretty early on in the ride, you hit Storm Mountain.  Storm Mountain is what turned me around the last time I started up Big Cottonwood.  I had been (unbeknownst to me) just minutes away from the top when I finally decided that Big Cottonwood (and climbing and cycling in general) sucked and started back.  This time around, I had the both knowledge that it didn’t last forever and a few companions with hi-tech bike toys so I could know the grade and feel justified in my pain.  According to them, the grade was ranging between 9% and 11%.  Ouch.

Near the bottom of the canyon
Near the bottom of the canyon

But then, before I knew it, things felt easier.  I looked over at Rob.  “Was that the end of Storm Mountain?”  He confirmed that it was.  I played it cool, but I was pretty stoked that the worst part was (apparently) over.  After that, the ride levels out a bit into some gorgeous meadows.  And I found out what a “social ride” actually is!  I chatted with Tara (the other Big Cottonwood newbie who also happens to be a triathlete) about injuries, swimming, races, and the like.  And some of the more cycling-minded of us (in other words, not me!) played a game of charades by impersonating various professional cyclists for the others to guess.  It was… fun!  I even lost track of time for a while, and I realized why people talk about doing group workouts when training for Ironman races.  It’s a lot easier to get through a long ride when you are focusing more on the conversation you’re having than on the fact that you are still on your bike.

During a flatter portion of the ride
During a flatter portion of the ride

A few miles before the top of the canyon, the road gets fairly steep again, but it was easier for me to focus and feel positive than it was during the first steep section because I knew we were almost there.  As I was huffing and puffing up a steep grade at nearly 8,500 feet elevation, I just thought about Ironman Coeur d’Alene and how much easier it will feel to ride a much flatter course at just 2,500 feet elevation.  I foresee that being a continual comfort as I chug up the canyons here in Salt Lake City.

When we reached the top, I was most excited for a chance to get my poor, aching butt off my bike.  I was secondarily excited that I had finished a good workout and had finally climbed Big Cottonwood Canyon—and at a conversational pace, for the most part.  Tara and I high-fived to celebrate our first summit of Big Cottonwood, and we all sat around and chatted a bit before starting back down.  The ride back down was less absolutely terrifying that I thought it would be, too.  My fear of descending has mostly gone away over the course of the last year or so, so the only thing I hate about descents now is the wind roaring in my ears (but it’s worth it for the fun of going fast!).  I think the ride down may have been even prettier than the ride up, if only because I wasn’t too involved in climbing up a mountain to pay attention to the scenery.

Views from the top
Views from the top
During the descent (don't worry-- I definitely stopped to take this photo!)
During the descent (don’t worry– I definitely stopped and dismounted before taking this photo)

When we got back to our cars, we had been out for 2:38:08 and done 31.43 miles, including over 3,000 feet of elevation gain.  I was really encouraged by this ride.  Not only was I able to socialize without embarrassing myself (gasp!), I was also able to climb a canyon that I don’t think I would have had even a chance of climbing a year ago.   Plus, this ride pushed the total odometer on my bike computer past 1,000 miles (which would mean more if I could remember exactly when I got this computer—it was something this year, though).  I’ve been feeling strong and confident far more often than not lately, and I’m thankful for that.  I know that Ironman training will have its ups and downs, so I want to make sure to actively enjoy the encouraging moments.  Maybe taking note of encouraging rides like this will help when I’m feeling flat and frustrated in the future. This is just another goal achieved and puts me one step closer to being a strong, competent cyclist. So here’s to goals achieved and setting new goals in the future.

I broke 1,000!
I broke 1,000!
PumpkinPie
Homemade pumpkin pie– the best post-ride recovery food

(By the way, the first of those goals is to remember that elevation matters in regards to the sun and to be much more diligent about applying sunscreen, especially when climbing a canyon.  My poor forearms are burned to a crisp.)

Weekly Recap (9/07-9/13)

Monday: Run—5 miles (38:42)
I have no idea what happened on this run.  The average pace was 7:44/mile which is much, much faster than usual for me.  In fact, if you’ve been following my workouts at all, you may remember that just last week I was frustrated by a 5 mile run at an 8:51 pace.  Even though this was over a minute per mile faster than that run, it didn’t feel noticeably harder until the last mile (which I ran in about 7 minutes).  Maybe it was the elevation difference (I was in Nampa which is a couple thousand feet lower than Salt Lake City) or maybe it was because I was running with my dad and subconsciously wanted him to be impressed (success!).  Whatever the case, this run was great, and I can only hope more of my runs turn out like this.

Tuesday: Swim—4×500
There’s not much to say about this workout.  It’s a basic mid-distance workout for me, and I didn’t time any of the 500s because my watch band was broken.  I got a new watch, though I just got a cheap one because committing to the cost of a Garmin is too much for me right now.

Wednesday: Bike—Emigration Canyon (1:23:54)
I was a little nervous for this ride considering how unpleasant my last post-work trek up Emigration was.  I made sure to hydrate and brought some cereal to work to eat before leaving so I wouldn’t be stuffing my face right before taking off on my ride.  (Turned out this was a good idea.)  So, after work I started my ride with the goal of riding strong and not throwing up.  I felt strong most of the ride, and when I turned into the final switchback, I got a sudden burst of energy due to a woman right in front of me and the hope of breaking my PR.  I passed the woman easily, and ended up just 28 seconds shy of my PR.  I know I’ll get it soon.  On the way back down, the woman passed me back, then I passed her, then she passed me when I was on the side of the road with a flat (but she did ask me if I needed anything!).  I fixed my flat and made it back with a total time of 1:23:54.  Not bad!

Thursday: Bike—30 minutes
I just did a quick spin in the morning.  I’m really enjoying having one full rest day and one day where all I do is a very easy spin.  I may keep that up through the winter.

Friday: OFF
This was my rest day this week which I probably needed before my big ride the next day.

Saturday: Bike—Big Cottonwood Canyon (2:38:08)
This was my first time braving Big Cottonwood Canyon.  I’m going to post about the ride in more detail later, so I’ll keep this pretty short—it was gorgeous, and I was pleased with how I felt on the way up.  Overall, this ride was 31.43 miles long with over 3,000 feet of climbing, so it was a solid workout for sure.

Sunday: Run—7 miles (58:02)
After running so well in Nampa, I think I had a bit more confidence coming into this run.  I did my usual Sunday morning route which contains some pretty obnoxious hills.  And I felt pretty good.  Halfway through my run, I do a loop around a park with some hills, and it’s easy to slow down. But there was someone behind me during that stretch who helped me keep my pace up.  I just kept up a good pace on the way back (which is mostly downhill).  I focused on my breathing to help avoid side cramps, and I was able to break an hour pretty easily and hit an 8:17/mile pace overall.

Of Road Trips, Birthdays, and Fast(er) Runs

It was a road trip weekend!

It had been over a month since I had been to Idaho to visit my little niece and nephews, so I took advantage of Labor Day weekend to go visit my family (and celebrate my nephew’s third birthday while we were there).  It’s been a rough few weeks for me, although not for any reason in particular.  I’ve simply been feeling run-down and unexcited about most things.  Because I’ve been in a bit of a slump, I was very excited to take a day off work and get away.  I was counting down the minutes until I could leave work on Thursday, and I can only describe my attitude as that of a college student the day before Christmas break.

The road trip got off to a spectacular start on Thursday evening when my little Honda’s air conditioning suddenly and inexplicably broke while I was driving home from work.  Awesome.  Who wants working air conditioning, anyway?  At my urging, we decided to stick with the plan and drive my car up anyway.  This was ostensibly so that my dad could troubleshoot my AC problem and let me know if it was a cheap fix or an expensive one.  While that was one reason, I also had a less practical (perhaps more influential) reason.  I had been looking forward to a nice Saturday morning ride with Rob, and if we had taken his car, we could have only brought one bike.  So, my little Honda it was.

I picked up Rob at 6:30am on Friday morning.  We stopped at McDonald’s for our traditional road trip breakfast and drove up to Boise.  The drive up was as wonderful as a five hour drive can be.  Most people I’ve met think the drive between Salt Lake City and Boise is ugly and barren, but Rob and I both find the colors of the desert gorgeous, so we always enjoy the scenery.

We were both hit with a wave of nostalgia when we came into Boise.  I know this is clichéd Idaho-speak, but it really is a gem of a city, and nowhere else has managed to feel like home quite the way Boise does.  We stopped by Hyde Park to visit TriTown, our old bike/triathlon shop.  We got some lunch while we were there and basked in the joy of being in Boise again.

Visiting TriTown for the first time in months
Visiting TriTown for the first time in months

Once we got to my parents’ place, the evening was mostly taken up by playing with the little monsters and stocking up on vegetable bouillon.  Yes, you read that right.  I can’t find anywhere in Salt Lake City that sells Knorr Vegetable Bouillon cubes.  Chicken and beef?  Always in stock.  But vegetable?  Nowhere.  Not at WinCo, Harmon’s, Smith’s, or anywhere else I’ve checked.  It’s absolutely absurd that I need to travel 350 miles to get vegetable bouillon.

All the little monsters
All the little monsters
SO. MUCH. BOUILLON.
SO. MUCH. BOUILLON.

I was unreasonably excited to go on a bike ride with Rob on Saturday morning.  I wanted to ride around Lake Lowell with him.  It’s a fairly easy (and very pretty) ride, and it’s perfect for a not-too-intense workout.  But it was cold.  Like, unseasonably and unreasonably cold.  There was no way Rob was making it out with the clothes we had packed (knit gloves and arm warmers), and it sounded pretty miserable to me too.  I was really disappointed—far more disappointed than any 27 year old has the right to be when something that small goes wrong.  I wanted to work out, but I certainly didn’t want to go on a 50° bike ride on a rainy day—especially when that ride was supposed to have been a fun, glorious ride.

So I moped around for a while (“I drove up here with no air conditioning to go on this ride!”) and lamented the weather before I was struck with a grand idea.  Sunday was supposed to be a perfect day, so Rob and I could skip church and go out Sunday (I only felt a little guilty for this).  That meant I was running on Saturday.  And, while I would usually take a 30 mile bike ride over a 7 mile run any day, a 7 mile run in cold-ish weather is leaps and bounds better than a 30 mile bike ride in that same weather, so I was almost happy to run.  And I surprised myself on the run!  Maybe it was lack of hills or elevation, maybe it was the fact that I had been up and moving for several hours before running, or maybe I was just happy I wasn’t riding.  I felt really strong to start and got into a strong, easy pace.  I had no idea where the mile markers were, so I was running totally blind and just vaguely aiming for a sub-9 minute pace.  I looked at my watch when I turned around at 3.5 miles, and I was pleasantly surprised to see I had been out for just over 29 minutes.  Having such a strong start gave me an extra boost of energy, and I just kept up that strong pace on the way back and managed to finish the run in 56:57, or an 8:08/pace.  I’ll take it!

On Saturday evening, we celebrated the main event of this weekend—Clayton’s third birthday.  I love how excited toddlers get for their birthdays.  I thought Clayton was going to explode with pure toddler happiness whenever we reminded him that he had a birthday party that night.  He only got more excited as we played games, opened presents, and then ate cake.

I love how Jordyn is as excited as Clayton is.
I love how Jordyn is as excited as Clayton is.
Playing Lincoln Logs with Auntie Katie
Playing Lincoln Logs with Auntie Katie
OMG CAKE!
OMG CAKE!

My dad waited for the kids to be busy eating cake and then pounced on Clayton’s new Lincoln Logs.

Working diligently.
Working diligently.

He was very pleased with himself when he finished the cabin.

Rustin destroyed the cabin not long afterwards.
Rustin destroyed the cabin not long afterwards.

On Sunday morning, I finally got my glorious bike ride.  I had ridden around Lake Lowell before and knew the ride could be surprisingly stunning, and I found myself stunned again on this go-around.  I’ve gotten used to the mountains in Salt Lake, so the flat farmlands of the Treasure Valley seemed particularly beautiful because they are so different from what I see every day. Neither Rob nor I are usually the type to stop for pictures during a ride, but we were both pulling over for photo ops today.  The first half hour or so of our ride was pretty easy because we stopped several times, first to take some pictures of Rob riding by fields and then to take pictures of the landscape surrounding Lake Lowell.

RobCorn
Rob riding past a corn field
The foliage around Lake Lowell (this was prettier in person!)
The foliage around Lake Lowell (this was prettier in person!)
Riding into the distance
Riding into the distance

We picked it up while riding behind the lake, though.  After spending so much time climbing canyons, I felt like I was flying on this route.  We spent a respectable amount of time pushing 22mph without even struggling.  It made me think that maybe focusing on scenic 30 mile rides on cool mornings is the way to go as a cyclist and that struggling up canyons when it’s 90° outside might be for chumps. But I know that without those rough rides, the ride we did today would have been too long or difficult to be enjoyable, so I suppose I’ll keep training in those canyons after work.

We stopped one more time to take pictures from the dam that we crossed.  My poor iPhone photography doesn’t do the view justice.  There’s something about being surrounded by a large expanse of water like that.  I love open-water swimming, so being that close to that much water always makes me wish I were swimming across it.  The fact that Lake Lowell is known for being kind of gross and not really all that pleasant to actually spend time in did nothing to rid me of that primal impulse.

I need iPhone photography lessons
I need iPhone photography lessons

In total, the ride was almost exactly thirty miles long, and we did it in about an hour and forty minutes of ride time.  Considering the various stopping and starting we did because of our photography sessions and the ease in which we managed this pace, I felt pretty good about it.  It was nice to have a long ride that was all of the good things (fun, relaxing, speedy, etc.) and none of the bad things (hot, frustrating, boring, etc.).  We got back just as the whole crew started eating Sunday dinner, so we were able to refuel with lasagna and, later, a nap.

The day ended as it began—with a bike ride:

This was cute but kind of painful.
This was cute but kind of painful.

On Sunday evening, I mentioned to my mom that I was going to do a five mile run in the morning.  My dad perked up and looked over.  “You’re doing a five mile run?  Do you want company?”  My dad loves to run with his kids, but he doesn’t often get the chance, probably because none of us like being shown up by an old man.  (Seriously—last time he and I ran together, he destroyed me.  He spent the last half of the run slowing down and waiting for me, and I could barely move the rest of the day.)  But I knew how happy it would make him, and he’s good company, so I agreed.

We left at 8:00am the next morning which is pretty early for him.  His muscles take longer to warm up than they used to, so he likes to run a little later in the day, after he’s been up and walking around for a while.  Starting out early worked out great for me because it meant we started off the run at a pretty manageable pace—about 8:15 for the first mile.  I felt pretty good, and I continued to feeling good.  We ran the second mile faster and the third mile even faster.  I noticed I wasn’t having any trouble keeping up with my dad, so I picked up the pace a bit because I was worried he was holding back to avoid leaving me behind.  A few minutes after picking up the pace, I still felt really good.  When we hit mile 4, I saw that we were on track to break an 8:00/mile pace.  And I still felt strong.  So I picked it up even more.  At this point, my dad was struggling to keep up with me.  (Of course, he did keep up with me up until the last 100 meters or so because he’s tough.)  I focused on my keeping my head level and my arms moving and before I knew it, I hit the driveway and stopped my watch.  38:42 for a 7:45/mile pace.  And we had run the last mile in about 7:00 minutes even.  Oh, and in addition to pushing me to my fastest five mile run in a long time, my dad also fixed the air conditioning in my car.  Dads are awesome.

Fastest time in ages!
Fastest time in ages!

I’m finally back in Salt Lake after a long (and cool—thanks again, Dad!) drive.  Thinking back on it, I can’t imagine the weekend being any better.  It was great to see my little niece and nephews again.  My workouts felt great.  My appetite was strong.  And I was really relaxed the whole time.  I haven’t felt that way in a while.  I was just really happy, and that’s not something I can say about myself every day.  Of course, weekends away are essentially meant to foster happiness and reduce stress, so I don’t want to fall into the trap of romanticizing a situation just because it’s new and different.  I know I struggled plenty when I was living in Boise with no real friends or hobbies.  But I realized this weekend that I need to find a way to add more to my life here in Salt Lake.  Lately, the daily grind of my days has been wearing on me.  I get up, I work out, I go to work, I come home, I eat dinner, I dink around on the Internet, and I go to sleep.  I need to proactively seek out something to do to break up the monotony so that I can have those moments of relaxation and happiness throughout my week and not just when I travel 350 miles.  I’ve made some steps towards that already, like joining a triathlon club and even just starting this blog, but I’ll be on the lookout for more opportunities to do so in the coming weeks.

Weekly Recap (8/31-9/06)

Monday: Swim—2 x 50, 400, 4 x 100, 300, 3 x 100, 200, 2 x 100, 2 x 50
I don’t think waking up at 5am will ever not feel early (when I go to bed at 10pm, at least…).  But still, with some complaining, I was up and getting ready for the pool.  Now that I’m only going to be swimming once a week most weeks, I want to really push myself in the pool.  And I did that today.  Except for the 50s (which were for warming up and cooling down), I did the long sets at a pretty easy pace and the short sets hard.  More specifically, I swam the short sets hard enough that after the first 50, I thought to myself, “Ugh, I’m only half done!”  This swim felt pretty tough, but I was watching the clock during my recovery sets and was moving pretty quickly, so I think it just felt tough because I was swimming hard which is exactly the way it should be.

Tuesday: Bike—Emigration Canyon (1:28:27)
This ride destroyed me.  It must have been the heat because I was well-hydrated and reasonably well-fueled for this post-work ride.  But the temperature was into the 90s, and I was climbing with a tailwind (which doesn’t help you stay cool).  I started to feel like I was overheating no more than 15 minutes into the ride, and some pretty annoying nausea set in not long after that.  I felt sick and weak the whole way up, and I had to sit in the dirt at the top to recover a bit.  The way down was better (because I was going downhill, and that made it so much cooler), but the headwind was battering me.  I’ve never been so happy to reach a red light and experience silence.  Overall, this was a pretty discouraging ride, but not every ride is great, and I’m glad I was able to power through.

Wednesday: Run—5.1 miles (45:13)
I’m trying to get this workout recap out of the way.  This run sucked.  Maybe it’s because less than 12 hours before I started the run, I was doing a different workout that also kind of sucked (see above).  That’s what I’ve been telling myself to make myself feel better.  Regardless, I only managed an 8:51/mile for this run, and that turned it into an “I will never be able to do an Ironman!” day.  That attitude is something I need to work on.  If I lose all confidence in myself and my abilities every time I have a bad workout, I will be a very unpleasant person to be around for the next year.  So I’ve been trying to tell myself that the “No big deal!” confidence I had on Saturday and Sunday averaged with the “This will never happen!” doubt of yesterday and today still comes out to “If I work hard and take it seriously, I can do this!”  And that’s probably where my confidence level should be.

Thursday: Bike—30 minutes
It was great to shake my legs out with a really easy spin. I’ve had a lot of hard efforts the last week or so, and this was a welcome change.

Friday: REST
I spent my day off driving up to Idaho to visit my family for Labor Day. A post describing the weekend is forthcoming.

Saturday: Run—7 miles (56:57)
I did this run at an 8:08/mile pace.  WHAT.  I was planning on riding this morning, but inclement weather convinced me to run instead.  So I was already up, fed, and fully awake before I started the run.  Plus, no hills!  But I was still pretty shocked at the 8:08 pace.  My run times are all over the place, even when I put in relatively similar effort, and I can’t decide if that’s strange or if it’s too be expected.

Sunday: Bike—29.75 miles (1:40:05)
Finally got the bike ride in today!  Rob and rode around Lake Lowell, an important geographic feature in Nampa, Idaho.  The weather was gorgeous, and the ride was flat and fast (we didn’t necessarily ride it fast, but it’s a fast route).  We spent some of the time cruising at a good pace (20-23 mph) and some of the time just kind of noodling and enjoying the scenery.  Salt Lake is filled with beautiful mountain landscapes, so it was a nice change to see the late summer farmlands in Nampa.

See what I mean about the gorgeous Treasure Valley farmlands?
See what I mean about the gorgeous Treasure Valley farmlands?

First Look: Ironman Goals

I spent some time last week hashing out my Ironman goal times.  And by “some time,” I mean I wrote down some at least partially reasonable times in my notepad during a meeting a work and called it good.  I guess it beats the way I chose a goal time for my half Ironman.  To do that, I just went to the race results from the previous year and picked out a time that would put me (just barely) on the first page of results.  Very scientific.  Very logical approach.

This time, I actually had the benefit of having ridden a road bike and done a timed open water swim before creating my goal times, so I think these might be a little more accurate and meaningful.  I actually came up with my overall stretch goal a week or so ago.  I had been wondering if I should set a goal time at all for the Ironman, so I did some quick addition with some reasonable (but off-the-top-of-my-head) numbers.  1.3 hours for the swim.  7 hours for the bike.  4.5 hours for the run.  I did the addition on my phone and just kind of sat there blinking when the answer popped up.  12.8.  I did the math again (in my head this time), and the answer was the same.  That was under 13 hours which was far more impressive that I had been thinking was even possible for me to do.  But those numbers kinda sorta made sense.  And they did indeed add up to under 13 hours.  And thus, my stretch goal was born.  I fleshed it out a bit the other day, and I’ve come up with what I feel is a great little system of goals.  I like it because, even if everything goes terribly, I should be able to meet at least a couple of my many time goals.

GOAL 1:

Finish.

This speaks for itself.  Regardless of my time, I paid $700 for this race will have put blood, sweat, and tears into my training for this race, and I don’t want that to forget that even finishing an Ironman (if I do, indeed, manage to finish it) is really great accomplishment, even if I don’t meet the time goals I set up for myself.  Even finishing is something to be proud of because it shows commitment to a goal and shows I’m willing to work hard for things I care about (and other things your mother tells you when you try real hard but mess up anyway).

GOAL 2:

Sub-14 hour.

I break it down more specifically in this chart with a goal time for each portion of the race:

BaseGoal

You’ll notice that all of my goal time for the individual events add up to a time pretty significantly below 13:59:59.  That’s part of my “make sure I hit some of the goals” plan.  These are all time goals that I really do think I can hit based on my typical training times and my times during the half Ironman last year.  I’m quite confident I can hit these goals, but being “quite confident” almost a year out from a race doesn’t amount to much.

GOAL 3:

Sub-13 hour.

Again, broken down specifically:

StretchGoal

These are all times I know I can hit.  I just don’t know if I can hit them all in succession during race conditions.  Will the bike course be too hilly for me to hit my reach goal?  Will I have stomach problems or leg cramps during the run?  Will the waves in Lake Coeur d’Alene and the feet and arms of other swimmers slow me down on the swim?  I’ve been spending that last few days obsessively thinking about the different possibilities that race day might hold for me and how these factors will affect my ability to meet the above goals.  In fact, I’ve thought about it event-by-event.

Swim:
The swim is just a touch slower than my pace in the half Ironman, but I’m a stronger swimmer now, and I feel like my pace was pretty easy, meaning that as long as I train to swim that pace for a longer period of time, I’ll be able to without too much hassle.  The biggest obstacle here will be the waves.  There aren’t many large bodies of water in Salt Lake City (besides, you know, the Great Salt Lake), so the open water swimming near me is not all that different from swimming in a pool.  I’ll have to take a few weekend trips and get used to choppier waters.

Bike:
The bike time is quite a stretch.  I feel like I am a much stronger cyclist than I was even a year ago, so I’ve made this goal with the assumption that have improved since my half Ironman and will continue to improve throughout the next year.  I’m sure with proper training I could bike a 6:30 on a perfectly flat course, but the Coeur d’Alene course is not perfectly flat.  It’s not the level of climbing that one finds around Salt Lake City, but I need to make sure I don’t underestimate it.  I’ve read that this course is on the harder side of Ironman bike courses, and I want to make sure I respect that.

Run:
The run could go either way.  I think after doing marathon training this winter, I’ll have a better idea about my running ability.  I’ll be trying to pace my long runs this winter at a 9:00/mile pace which gives me a lot of pace time to play with during my run leg.  But there are enough horror stories about Ironman marathons out there to remind me that anything can happen and that running 26.2 miles after biking 112 is far different from going out on a long training run.

I wanted to post my goals early on in my training process (really early on, it turns out).  I think it’s good to get them out there and be accountable for them.  They may still change as my training progresses, but if I decide to change them, I’ll have to do so knowing that anyone who follows this blog will be hoping for a legitimate explanation of the change.

I’m sure this is not the last time I will analyze and over-analyze my goals, the Ironman Coeur d’Alene course, and my own abilities.  Anyone who knows me knows that if over-analyzing were an athletic event, I might be in the Olympics instead of writing a blog no one reads.  And it’s an important part of the process for me, so I’ll continue to document a small portion of it here.

353 days until Ironman Coeur d’Alene!