Monday, March 13, 2017

A Tale of Two (indoor) Triathlons

Hard to believe that my new hip is already 5 months old.  Even harder to believe, with the new hip, that I ever had a problem in the first place.

Funny how time can alter what you remember about "what was".  Meaning, I just reread my last blog entry, written right before Ironman Wisconsin last September and about three weeks before my surgery.  I had "forgotten" how bad my limp was; how I had to calculate my every step and move; how hard I had to think about walking around the lake or down the block or from my car to the office.

Now?  Try to stop me.

I was very fortunate to have a pretty easy recovery.  I was in and out of the hospital within three days; off pain meds by the 5th day; walking around the block using a walker, then a cane, and finally by my big girl self unaided within a couple of weeks.  Riding a stationary bike was a very welcome part of my physical therapy, as was strength training.  I got back on the golf course in December, playing the course at Arizona State University with Warren.  It was the first time all year that I could walk the whole course again.  Joy.  Swimming started at the 12 week post-surgery mark.  Getting back in the water felt fantastic.

All these milestones:  golfing, strength training, spinning, swimming, WALKING were critical to me in that they each represented a move back to things being "normal".   Hallelujah for normal.

Which brings us (me) back to triathlon.  For years now, normal has meant that I participate in triathlons.  Hip replacement doesn't mean the end to this.  Instead, it just means some adjustments.  Speed walking instead of running (maybe moving to a run/walk rhythm by the end of this year...); shorter distances rather than Ironman distance (unless its a relay, or maybe by performing some other magic trick...).  But I'm still at 'em, starting with two of my favorite indoor venues:  Tri U Mah and the YWCA Indoor Tri

For newbies out there, indoor tris are a very easy and non-threatening way to "tri" our sport.  No scary lake to swim in; no potholes on the road; no hills on the run.  The only real equipment you need is a swim cap (unless the race provides it); a pair of goggles, your race outfit and shoes.  No fancy (or not-so-fancy) bike required; no "one day USAT membership" fee to pay.  Basically, you swim in a pool; ride a spin bike and run on a treadmill or a track.  That's it.  And after you're done, you are a triathlete (and can eat pretty much whatever you want for the rest of the day. BONUS).

I started my triathlon love affair in 2005 by doing Tri U Mah.  I've done it every year since then. If I could do it then, as a middle aged, chubby, triathlete wannabe, and if I can do it now, an ever more middle aged, less chubby "hipster", so can you.

Tri U Mah is held at the University of Minnesota Rec Center in February and consists of 30 minutes each of swim/bike and run.  Everyone gets 10 minutes of transition between the swim and the bike and then 5 minute of transition between bike and run. Winners are determined by the total distance covered during the race.  Swag for the event is usually pretty nice, although the tee shirt this year was cotton, not technical.

I was a bit nervous going in to the race, as it would be the first time stringing the three disciplines together since surgery.  I did just fine.  The swim went well; the water feeling smooth and velvety around me.  I played with my paces a bit on the bike, pushing it just enough but not killing myself.  The run for me was really a speed walk, with me trying to just concentrate on doing the best I could, without feeling too jealous of my friends who could actually run the run.

I ended up with my fourth best distance covered for the race since I started doing it.  Not so bad for a girl who is part titanium.

The Y tri was yesterday. There are actually four indoor tris scheduled during the winter months, just enough to keep you interested and to measure your improvements over the offseason.  The last one for 2017 is slated for April.

 The Y tri distance works similarly to outdoor tris.  You select the distance you want to race.  I picked the sprint:  500 yards in the pool, sharing a lane; 10 miles on a spin bike and then a 2 mile run on a track.  They also offer "long" distance (600 s/12 b/ 3 r) or "mini" (400 s/ 8 b/ 1 r).

The volunteers are always GREAT, the swag is always nice, and if you race more than one event in the series, you get different swag for each event. I only could schedule one event this year, but got a very nice technical shirt.  Best of all,  among the food they offer racers, volunteers and spectators, there is a nice, warm party-sized thermos filled with coffee.  (Always thinking, those Organizers....)

I shared  my swim lane with a man named Ken, who was doing the mini distance.  We exchanged the usual pleasantries before the race started.

Took me a very average time to get through my 500 yards, but was very pleased to see that only two other women were out of the water before me.  Struggled (as per usual) to get my socks on and my bike shoes (HATE not wearing socks, even though it S L O W S my T1 time down in a big way).  But got on the bike fairly quickly.  Happily pedaled along listening to loud, upbeat music and watching the runners from the heat before mine run the track.   Eventually, hit the 10 mile mark, made a fast transition out of the bike shoes and in to my running shoes and started my fast-cadence, arm-swingin', hope-I-don't-look-too-much-like-an-idiot speed walk around the track.

At one point my buddy, Ken, caught around me along the track.  We had been cheering each other along on the bike and could now chat a bit.   He was slowly jogging as I walked as fast as I could.  I told him that I had just had my hip replaced and he said "ME TOO, four years ago".   I said "And you're still doing triathlon! That is cool!"

Here is how I knew we were kindred spirits:  he replied, "Yea, I am, because it makes me feel normal".  Rock on, Ken.  

He finished; I finished.  And just like that, my 2017 season began.