By Lexie Morris
I hit two milestones in my training this month, one of which was accidental.
After a particularly long bicycle ride with my boyfriend who is also doing the triathlon with me, we decided it would be a good idea to do a quick run afterwards to get us used to putting two sports together.
It was painful, I won’t sugar coat it. I was very tired after the cycle – we must have covered at least fifteen kilometres up and down various hills – and getting back out the door straight away to pound the pavements took some mental power. But pound we did, and although we didn’t get very far (two kilometres tops) we felt like we had done the right thing. It was also the first milestone - our first brick!
It was accidental because we didn’t know the significance of it until we were congratulated on our first brick by the team at charity Leonard Cheshire Disability on Twitter, but once it was explained it made sense. Apparently a brick is a triathlon ‘buzz word’ for putting two or more disciplines together, so called because your legs feel strange and heavy like bricks afterwards. Our legs did indeed feel heavy, but they also felt painful on this occasion.
The problem was shin splints.
It is something both of us have experienced recently, and can be very serious if you are not sensible about it. According to medical advice, you are not meant to run through the pain, and in the worst cases you could have tiny fractures to the shin bone in the lower leg, and persevering with the running could mean serious problems.
After we experienced it we got some advice from running experts and made sure we didn’t push ourselves too unnecessarily. We want to do this triathlon, but we don’t want to cause ourselves permanent damage in the mean time – it’s not worth it.
One of the causes of shin splints is having poorly fitted sneakers, and as I admitted to you previously, I have been wearing my mom’s old ones as they are comfortable and new ones always looked too expensive. But after this bout of shin splints I figured it was a good idea to get some proper sneakers, so I went along to my local running store and had a gait analysis. This is an hour-long session where I was filmed on a treadmill to ascertain my running style, and measured and questioned on how far I run and how often by a salesperson, who was incredibly knowledgeable. This was to find a style of shoe that suited me, and it was incredibly and impressively thorough. Apparently I overpronate, which is quite common, and means that I was rolling my foot inwards on each stride. The upshot was I got some swanky new shoes that support the inner arch of my foot to encourage it to straighten out, and I have really noticed the difference since then. I haven’t had the shin splints pain I was having, which is a relief, and the sneakers feel supportive on my feet, which is definitely a good thing.
My second milestone was swimming race distance in a reasonable time. We are swimming every Saturday morning at the moment, and as part of the session I will time how long it takes me to do the race distance, which for the sprint event I am doing is sixteen lengths, or 400 metres. I have been quite slow as I build my strength up again, and that’s why when I did it in fourteen minutes I was really pleased. I am sure I can improve on that, and I still have a few weeks to do so.
So far I have only worn my triathlon suit once. Yes, I have caved, and it feels great. I was in a quandary about what to wear on the day, and the suit was always on the sidelines as the easier, more convenient option over shorts and a t-shirt. Talking of clothing options, those cycling shorts are just as amazing as I thought they would be. Why didn’t I get them sooner?
So now, in the proper gear and doing bricks as and when I feel like it, I could almost pass as a professional. Almost.
The professionals are those amazing athletes that I have caught a glimpse of in the World Triathlon Series that has been on television recently. Olympians like the Brownlee brothers who take it all in their stride and come back from injury to smash the world record in Austria. That was Alistair, Jonny was out with a stomach bug apparently.
This is part of a world that I had very little awareness of until I started training for my own event. I know that I could never match the skill or fitness of those guys, but then again, I never thought I would enter one at all, and now look at me. Now I watch the World Series with interest, to see how they transition, what they wear, how tired they look, and wonder what it would be like to compete at that level. Pretty cool I imagine, but incredibly hard work. I find it difficult to get into the pool on a Saturday morning, and that’s after a cup of tea and a stretch. These guys must start training every day at the crack of dawn and carry on all day, at least those are the rumors from the Olympians at London’s 2012 Olympic games.
At 27, I am too old anyway to start being a world champion. Training starts in Kindergarten, with pushy parents encouraging kids to spend hours at various lessons. I think I’ll stick to my sprint distance and the day job for now.
Apparently it’s triathlon season at the moment. There seem to be events springing up all over the place, none of which would have really caught my attention until recently. Our swim is indoors, but many of the events I have heard about are in the open water. I often wonder whether that would be harder or not. I suppose with the currents and significantly lower temperature that would make it more difficult, rather than the lack of a roof. The other issue with an open water swim is the wetsuit. At the World Triathlon Series it looked like the professionals had a knack to getting their arms out the sleeves on the run between the swim stage and the bike stage, but for those not accustomed to the speed of it, it could be tricky.
But that is the beauty of the beginner triathlete – doing your best and learning every step, pedal and stroke of the way.