Wednesday, January 16, 2013

8 Lessons from first triathlon

1. Public declaration helps in motivation

For the first few weeks of training, I was not as regular as I would have liked. It was cold outside, I had a long day at work, I had too little sleep last night...The excuses were nearly limitless. I decided to raise some money for cancer research, and asked my friends, relatives, colleagues to sponsor me. As slowly the money started trickling in, there was no turning back. I HAD TO COMPLETE my race. The mere thought that I had took money from so many people who in good faith have parted with their hard earned money plus the fact that I have to go back to them give it back saying that I did not compete kept me on my toes.

2. Little and often - goes a long way

First challenge was to do a full 400m of swim. (I did a "fun" sized triathlon 400m Swim, 12.5 KM Bike and 2.5 KM run) I could barely swim for 12.5 meters (thats half length of our local swimming pool). First couple of weeks, I targeted 10 laps (8 would get me my 400m). I could not finish even 3 laps. I knew I had to change my approach. I focused on one full lap without any stop, did that for few weeks. Then moved to 2 laps without stop, then 3, and so on.

It so happened that on the day of the race, was the first time I finished 8 laps without a stop.

3. Tread mill is no substitute for open space

Tread mill is just a mill. Open space - engages multiple senses, its fresh, allows you to notice the chirping birds, scurrying squirrels, the beautiful butterflies and wonder what sort of a storm are these fragile wings cooking up elsewhere. While you are at it, ditch your music player, you would not need it since you can tune into the rhythm of life.

4. Exercise bike is easy (relatively)

The biggest learning for me was, training on an Excercise bike only get you so far. I do wish I had spent more time practicing on my bike on the road. I could have better understood my bike, the terrain and the appropriate gears to use.

5. You can do more than you think

Often when I trained, particularly running, the first few minutes will be allright, and soon there comes a phase where I would feel that this is it, I have to stop. The first couple of times I did stop, but then one day, I just didn't stop. I kept going. Once I was past that uncomfortable phase I could go on and reach my goal.

Once you muscle your way through the initial "quit now" reflex, I guess all kinds of possibilities open up.

6. Dont run for distance - run for time.

This was key. Foolishly I decided to practice my runs by targeting distance. I wanted to go for 1KM mark. As you might of guessed, I could not. Inability to reach your target, in a strange way, instead of motivating you do better next time, totally puts you off from trying.

Now I could not afford to give up. When I looked around in the forums for running/triathlon, I learnt that for newbie runners the trick is to run for time. Ie, Make a note of how long you are able to run at a steady pace, and simply aim to run longer than last time.

Combined with the next lesson, I was able to complete my 2.5 KM run.

7. Interval training rocks

I can not recommend it more. Instead of running or working out at a steady pace, alternate between a very high intensity run followed by a medium pace run works your body harder and a very good tool to increase your stamina and also good for "after burn".

8. Act, observe, adjust

The most important lesson of all, I learnt a major thing about problem solving. It does not matter what problem you are trying to solve, you need goals, and a action plan (avoid analysis paralysis). Here comes the important bit. Act, observe how the consequences of your action are playing out, and make adjustment to your execution plan and continue act, observe and adjust till the goal is reached.

PS:
I finished my race in about an 1h and 27minutes.
In my category I was the last but one.
The winner of the fun sized triathlon finished the race in 45 odd minutes.
2 Ladies, who looked much older than me over took me in cycling part of the race.
This year I am starting my second triathlon training - Not decided between the fun sized one or the sprint triathlon (800m Swim, 25KM bike and 5 KM run)

Gireesh Triathlon Teaser.
Gireesh Triathlon promotional video.
Selected images from Henley Triathlon 2011.

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