Overall, 2014 was a successful year for me with respect to continuing my 2013 New Years resolution of getting into shape. I overachieved in my first race of the year, which was a 15k trail race, and probably because I was running “blind” without a GPS. Its amazing what your body is capable of when your brain doesn’t get in the way. I did injure my left IT band in that race, which slowed me down a bit for a few months.
A friend of mine told me that you really start feeling the aches and pains after age 35, and that is certainly true in my case. I underwent physical therapy for my left leg, which fixed me up before my first triathlon in April 2014. Still, I was not able to train much in the month leading up to the Monument Avenue 10k, and my time was nearly two minutes slower than my 2007 time.
On the upside, I completed my first three triathlons in 2014, building from two sprint distance races to an Olympic distance race in September. I managed not to embarrass myself, and even learned how to swim freestyle (correctly) for the first time in my life. When I first began swimming in March 2014, I couldn’t swim more than two lengths of the pool without stopping to catch my breath. By the time of the Richmond Rox triathlon at the end of the season, I was able to complete the 1500 meter swim in the James River without too much difficulty, even without a wetsuit. I certainly couldn’t call myself a strong swimmer, but I wasn’t the slowest swimmer of the bunch. Given that I only took one lesson and learned the rest from YouTube videos and from reading e-books on the subject during Jackson’s karate practices, I’d call that a success. Actually, there was a lot of practice involved as well.
I did complete a second Tough Mudder and Spartan Race in 2014, but my focus had clearly shifted away from obstacle course racing. The triathlon bug bit me quickly, and I already knew that I had no plans for obstacle course racing in 2015. I really wanted to concentrate on triathlon, which seemed a bit more serious and competitive. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of very competitive obstacle course racers, including pros, but it seemed to be more of a party scene than a competition. In fact, the Tough Mudder isn’t timed, which is anathema to me. In my book, somebody has to win and somebody has to lose, and that’s not possible when the “race” isn’t timed.
As to my training volume, I was working out about five days per week in 2014. Roughly 60% of my workouts were swim/bike/run with the other 40% being strength training at home in my bonus room. The strength training was largely focused around the P90X3 and T25 programs – which are only 30 minutes and 25 minutes long respectively. At the time, it felt like I was working out a lot, but in looking back at my Mapmyfitness log, I was only averaging about 3 hours per week on swimming, biking and running. That’s better than sitting on the couch, but not enough to make substantial gains. When factoring in my strength workouts, my weekly average was between 4 and 5 hours.
In looking to take the next step in triathlon, I had already registered for the Ironman Raleigh 70.3 triathlon on May 31, 2015. The 70.3 stands for 70.3 miles of racing (1.2 mile swim/56 mile bike/13.1 mile run), and is also called the half-iron distance. Obviously, a full-distance Ironman is twice as far. I knew that I would need to step up my training substantially to complete the Raleigh race, and I was already looking into 70.3 specific training plans at the end of 2014.
As 2014 came to a close, I was hoping that the injury bug would not bite in 2015, but unfortunately, 2015 would be very similar to 2014 in that respect. My IT band problem would rear its ugly head again, leading to an MRI and another cortisone injection. Nevertheless, my positive momentum would continue into 2015, and 2015 would be another year of firsts for me. I’d complete my first half marathon, I’d complete my first half-iron distance triathlon (in unrelenting heat), and on a rainy day in July, I’d stand on a triathlon podium for the first time.