Friday, July 11, 2014

Pine Bush Triathlon Preview

Before I started competing in stair climbs, I raced in several editions of the Pine Bush Triathlon. It is a true sprint with a short 375 yard swim, a 11.5 mile bike ride, and a 3.25 mile run. When I first started doing the Pine Bush, I had pretty decent splits, but I was nowhere near the top athletes. But year after year, I slowly improved as I started to take the race more seriously. I did a lot more cycling and I worked at getting more efficient in the pool (I was already a pretty decent swimmer). However the biggest challenge was always the run.

Running wasn't always my weakness, bun I never really excelled at it either. I did track and cross-country in high school and although I was typically somewhere in the middle of the pack, I was closer to the front of it during my senior year. I stopped running once I got into college. I wasn't very good at running and I lacked the motivation to exercise. I picked up running again briefly in my mid 20's but I hurt my knee and took a few years off. In my late 20s and early 30s, I ran a few local 5Ks and then tried my hand at the Pine Bush Triathlon. Running was an off and on again love affair; I'd train well for a few months and then have to take a few months off because one thing or another (injury, work, etc.).

At 34, I kicked up my training into high gear. I had just finished my first stair climb and I knew I had found my niche. That summer I was in the best shape of my life and I wanted to finally kick some tail at the Pine Bush. But as luck would have it, my right foot developed nerve damage - a condition called a Morton's Neuroma - and running became painful. I decided to grit out the Pine Bush since I was in such great shape, even though my running performance (which was mediocre at best) was slowly fading.

I managed to set a PB at the Pine Bush that year, but I was still disappointed in my performance. I finally made it into the top 20, but I had a poor run. I was passed a couple times during the final mile and I missed out on an age group award by just a few spots.

After the race I hung up my running shoes for good. If I couldn't put in training miles for the run, I'd never have a shot at a good placement.Fortunately, I didn't matter too much; Stair climbing was my new passion and I was training intensely to get good at it..

This Spring I decided to come out of retirement to give the Pine Bush one more go. Although my foot hasn't healed, it hasn't gotten any worse over the last few years. The idea of giving the Pine Bush another go came to me while I was recovering from an extended illness. By late April, I had lost a huge chunk of fitness and I wanted to try something new to help get me motivated and back into shape. Preparing for another triathlon seemed like a reasonable goal.

My training hasn't been all that much different than usual. I still get into the stairwell once per week and still do interval training on the Preccor Stepper. The only big change is that I've incorporated a little bit of running on my recovery days.

When I say a little bit of running, I mean it.

On Wednesdays I've been doing 5 sets of:

  • 2.25 minutes on the treadmill (at 6.5 to 7.1 mph)
  • 45 seconds of either push-ups or pull-ups (keeping the treadmill running at a 4 mph)

The pull-up/push-up breaks up the run so my foot doesn't start to hurt. Plus it really jacks up the heart rate. All together, I get in about 1.5 miles in about 15 minutes.

On Sundays, I'll go for a slightly longer 2.5 mile run. I've run outside a few times but generally I like to stay on the treadmill since it puts less pressure on my nerve. Just like on Wednesday, I break up the run into smaller chunks to make sure my foot doesn't start to hurt.Generally I'll do intervals of running for 2.5 minutes followed by a 30 second break (where I either walk or shake out my foot). Usually I'll finish in about 24 minutes or so.

So with less than 48 hours until the start of the Pine Bush Triathlon I'm getting nervous. I'm in fairly decent shape so I know I'm going to have a good bike ride and I should have a decent swim (I've only been in the pool twice, but felt quite strong). The wildcard is going to be the run. If my foot hurts, it could take as long as 32 minutes to complete the run (since I'll have to run/walk). On the other hand, I'm in such better shape  now than I was 3 years ago, that breaking my time from 2011 (24+ minutes at ~8 mph) isn't out of the question.

Win or lose, I'm looking forward to retiring from triathlon for a 2nd time. It's been fun, but my nerve can't take much more and I have my eyes set on the Sears Tower in November.I'm still not back in peak shape, but I have another few months of training to get better. I'll need it!

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