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Rookie Triathlete: Part 7: The Open Water

The open water swim is a game-changer

Up until Tuesday, April 24th, none of my Rookie Triathlon training swims were in open water. They were all in a pool. The pool was daunting at first, but over time I became more accustomed. Clear waters allowed me to see the guiding, black line below. Lane dividers kept me from going all over the place and running into others. Protocol taught me how to share a lane with someone else and not crash head first. For good reason (whether I liked it or not), all of that was about to change.

open water

Sunrises at Barton Springs never get old.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about graduating to open water and becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable. Yeah, so I put off that graduation swim for a couple weeks. I found every excuse I could to not visit Barton Springs. I’d hit the snooze button, go for a bike ride, or return to the pool. Everyone I talked to about their first triathlon said they’re glad they did an open water swim beforehand. Others wish they had completed at least one non-pool swim before their first triathlon. I knew I needed to get out of the pool. I just needed to clear that mental hurdle.

Mental hurdle cleared

I jumped in Barton Springs (how else do you get in?!) this past Tuesday morning (4/24). I made sure I had my buoy (and noseplug!) for my first open water swim. This would be the longest continuous swim for me since my mock Rookie Tri championship. My breathing and form have improved tremendously. I didn’t want to lose all of that on my first non-pool swim. I wore running tights, no board shorts this time! The water felt good and I knew standing around wouldn’t help matters. So I took off.

open water

Can’t help but have a great day after that swim!

I tried to remember everything from the pool, plus sighting. My first long swim in Barton Springs would not result in running into someone. Everything started feeling good until about the halfway mark. That’s when the rocks disappear. Your energy starts shrinking. The form and breathing you’ve practiced goes out the window. But this is where Barny, my coach, kicks in. Just like anything else, it’s all friggin’ mental. I can’t control the rocks disappearing, but I can control my form and my breathing. Both of those impact my energy levels and my ability to remain calm.

Open water swim: Take Two

I needed to go back to the Springs. Barny had it built into my training plan. Rookie Tri is less than two weeks away. I need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Barny wanted to stretch out a new wetsuit in the Springs. He and I planned to return the next day, Wednesday (4/25). This time, he challenged me to do the swim with no buoy. After all, I can’t use the buoy on race day.

This swim was harder, not because of the missing buoy. I had a hard running workout with RAW Running the night before. Add to that, I biked to the Springs from our office (~4 miles one way). So my body wasn’t in peak shape. But in the end, this is all preparing me for Sunday, May 6th, at Decker Lake. As I mentioned, the swim was harder, I needed to breaststroke a few times to get me breathing back down. I paused at the end of the Springs to rest and catch my breath. BUT I DID IT. I feel my upper body getting stronger. Plus, I didn’t run into anyone!

If you’re a Rookie and have been in the pool 100%, I strongly encourage you to swim in the open water at least once before Rookie Tri. You need to experience something similar to what you’ll experience on race day. I promise you’ll be better off for completing at least one open water swim. I know I’m planning at least one or two more. Check out our next blog post to watch a video from Barny where he talks about the importance of an open water swim before your first triathlon.

Rookie Triathlete: Part 2: Mock Rookie Tri

Mock Rookie Tri Overall Champ

mock

The Beginning.

I’ll begin this blog by stating that I’ve always respected other athletes and their abilities. After this morning’s mock Rookie Tri I have a newfound respect for swimmers, cyclists, and triathletes. Holy smokes that was an intense way to begin a Friday morning. I don’t feel as bad as I thought I would, but I hurt in places that I didn’t know could hurt like that (aka my ass). I have a stand-up desk at work, and it’s been a back-and-forth battle all day of standing up to not aggravate my cycling “injury” and sitting down to rest my weary body. BUT… I did it.

My morning began with an earlier alarm clock than normal, can’t be late to my mock triathlon! I ate a Clif Bar and Clif Bloks for breakfast. I also weighed myself – 195 lbs. Coach Barny met me at Barton Springs. After running into my *friendly triathlon* arch nemesis (saving his intro for another blog) I become even more pumped to get this mock tri started. It was chilly with some occasional wind; my phone told me it was 46 degrees outside. My bed was much warmer.

So… there’s no motor?!

The swim

As promised, the 300m swim took place in Barton Springs wearing board shorts with running tights underneath. We all know the water temperature (~68 degrees if you don’t know). I’m accustomed to the water because that’s where I relax after my morning runs in the summer. No better way to cool off. Swimming the first 300m of your life on Feb. 1st on the other hand…Yikes. But, I jumped in (yes, I held my nose). The initial shock wore off; I adjusted my goggles to keep stalling, finally started Barny’s swimming watch that I borrowed, then began swimming. Completely unnatural motions for me. I tried to emulate what I’ve seen others perfect, the stroke, breathing in above water, breathing out underwater. It went well for about the first 50m and then I started flailing. Not flailing like I was about to go under, but flailing like I’m only 50m into this, and I’m this exhausted? I kept pushing until I reached a point where I turned on my back. Greatest decision of my life (besides marrying my wife, duh). I was able to regain my composure and calm my breathing. I alternated this method until I reached the 300m mark, nearly ran into the wall at one point! Towards the end, my goggles started fogging, so I need to look into preventing that somehow. I slowly exited the Springs, said some things under my breath while toweling off, and began my ascent to the parking lot where the bed of my truck was Transition. I think Barny and I talked; I just can’t remember what about for the life of me!

This first transition of my mock tri took longer than the second one. I dried off as best I could. Next, I took off my board shorts and put on some running shorts, threw on a shirt and a quarter zip pullover. Half the time spent in transition was trying to get my socks on. I’m finally ready, grab my nuun performance, and load it into a road cruiser that I borrowed from the office. Pro tip, get a helmet before riding. I didn’t get a helmet (I will soon!) and had to ride without one. My course was a safer “course” riding on the roads of Zilker Park, but still, Rookie mistake. Before I took off, I put on my Garmin watch so I could track my time and distance for the bike ride and run.

Giddy up!

The bike

My 11-mile bike ride begins. It’s crazy, how many memories come back to you when you haven’t ridden a bike since you were young (like standing up on the pedals to give your ass a rest). It’s also crazy how those memories immediately went away when I left the Barton Springs parking lot, took a left, and encountered my first hill. A few more choice words and lower gears later and I’m at the top thinking I’m out of my league. But by the final lap (the laps were ~1.25 mi) I felt good about the hill, my approach, and plan for attacking it and using different gears. There’s way more to learn, but much was learned between the first and last laps. My muscles started screaming at me in the last few laps. Passing a good buddy of mine, Paul Terranova, three times while he ran helped distract, and his words of encouragement were indeed needed. Thanks, Paul!

My ride ends at 11 miles on the dot, and I head to transition (aka my truck bed). I hop off the bike, and my legs begin wobbling immediately. I thought I was going down for the count. This foreign feeling had me worried about the run. Barny laughed at me and told me I’d be fine (he was right). I took some more hydration, gathered myself, and began my run.

The run

Two miles is nothing for me. Or so I thought. After swimming 300m and riding for 11 miles, my body felt as though I’d never run before. EVER.

It wasn’t as bad as Uma Thurman in Kill Bill when she wakes up from her coma, but it wasn’t pretty. My motion was different; my stride was off. I was shuffling the first half mile. Then muscle memory kicked in. I climbed the hill (that I just rode several times). My stride began to elongate. I started feeling better. I get back to my truck (aka transition), and I still have .75 miles left. But the loop was 1.25 miles. I thought to myself there’s no way in hell I’m running an extra half mile. Not today. So I ran towards the familiar Greenbelt entrance. Hit a certain point on the Greenbelt and turned around. I finished my mock tri right next to the Zilker water fountain. Just like I’d planned it. By then I was picking up the pace and feeling better about the day, knowing I was so close to the end.

GPS is always right.

After my mock Rookie Tri, I composed myself, checked my body to ensure everything was where it was supposed to be, got out some salted watermelon Clif Bloks (my go-to), and got in my truck. I sat for a few seconds to ensure I could operate a vehicle. It turns out I could. I made my way home, gingerly took a shower, swatted away Napoli, my blue heeler, who wanted to play, and headed to work.

The end. Right? Wrong. Now the training begins! Check out my splits below.

Overall time – 1:34:43

300m swim – 7:16

T1 – 6:00

Bike – 1:01:47 (5:35, 5:39, 5:37, 5:08, 5:23, 6:01, 6:03, 5:56, 5:44, 4:57, 5:44)

T2 – 2:00

2-mile run – 17:40 (9:06, 8:34)

Want to join the fun? Coach Barny (I think that’s what I’ll call him) has a training deal for Rookies (like me) who want to complete the Rookie Tri on May 6th (you HAVE to be a first-timer!). It’ll be a 12-week program for $400 total. That’s a steal and significantly less than what he normally charges. Plus, I need some training partners. Accountability is huge when training. It makes getting out of bed easier. It makes training in general easier. JOIN ME! Hit him up today and tell him you’re a Rookie who wants to #feelthebarn.