The chronicles of my first open water swim

Ok – let’s just go ahead and start this out by saying, this is how I thought I would feel…

Triathlon Swim Buoy GIF - Triathlon SwimBuoy NewWaveSwimBuoy GIFs

But, this is how I really felt…

drowning GIF

Open water swims are HARD and are absolutely no joke. To give you my full swimming background for context, I started swimming to train in January and was in full COVID lockdown, meaning no pool access, at the beginning of March. So with a mediocre two months under my belt, safe to say I struggled with the open water swim.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it though! It was honestly such a great workout both physically and mentally. Physically, the difference between lap and open water swim is clear, there is no pausing at the end of a 25 or 50 yard lap. It’s maybe a brief pause at the end of the 100 or 150 yard lap, which is a huge difference to get used to. And mentally, even though there weren’t more than 20 people in the water, swimming in that proximity, maintaining my strokes, breathing and learning to sight while also simultaneously trying to keep up, not hit or stray into head-on traffic was a mental challenge to say the least. Talk about sensory overload.

Toad Hype Overload GIF - Toad HypeOverload Overload GIFs

But here are a few things that I did right for my first open water swim

  1. I went with a familiar buddy
    • It is always easier to try something new with someone who isn’t new! In my case, I was so happy that my mom came with me. She has been swimming in open water for a few years now and is comfortable with the scenario, which in turn made me feel more comfortable as well.
  2. I joined up with a larger group and coach
    • Instead of my mom and I just heading out to a lake and paddling around for a little while, we joined up with the local Playtri group for the swim. Playtri had a beginner and more novice-advanced swim group option and a coach accompanied both swims to give guidance and direction. Being in a structured group with others who considered themselves beginners made it much easier to relax and feel comfortable in the water.
  3. I was patient with myself
    • I know that I have mentioned this in other blog posts, but just to reiterate something about myself: I am not a good beginner! As competitive as I am, it is so hard for me to try something and not automatically be fighting for the top spot. Knowing this about myself, I went into the swim being OK knowing I wouldn’t be leading the pack or swimming circle around my other beginner swims. I certainly got frustrated (especially with sighting), but when I need to, I rolled onto my back, took some deep breaths, calmed down and kept trying.

If you are in the DFW area, I highly recommend checking out Playtri! They helped make this experience much more successful than otherwise. Here is a link to their open water swim page.

No matter what, just keep swimming!!

just keep swimming finding nemo GIF

Recap of the 12-week Lifetime Sprint Triathlon training plan

I can officially say I am 12 weeks into my Ironman journey! My journey to Ironman is a consistent build from sprint to olympic to half-Iron to full-Iron. To start myself out, I have been following the Lifetime sprint triathlon training plan. Itโ€™s a 12-week program meant for novice triathletes. Having the base fitness I do, I felt like this was the right plan for me.

Check it out here:

Now I will be honest with you, I completed this program in the most basic way possible. I didn’t pay too much attention to heart rate zones, or other training measures outside of the basic amount of time prescribed for each activity. My goal was simply just to get it done! I needed to learn how to follow the plan and let my body ease into each of the disciplines comfortably and at its own pace.

My very first ride!

I grew so much during these 12 weeks. My running became stronger and I learned to trust my bike, how to clip in (and maybe most important…how to clip out) and I found that this is a good journey for me. I loved every bit of this program, even the parts I didn’t want to do! There were definitely days, more than I should admit, that I did not want to go out and run or bike, but I made the effort to always push forward. Even if I wasn’t going to run the whole time, I at least went out and completed the time as a walk. I learned a valuable lesson in showing up. And in doing so I accomplished some awesome things! I completed my first (second and third) 10K, road my longest bike distance of 25 miles and completed 3 Ironman VR challenges.

Being a beginner isn’t something I am generally good at as someone who chases perfection and really, really, really likes to compete. The 12 weeks reinforced the value of challenging and allowing myself to be new at something and enjoy the full ride and all of its up’s and down’s.

I have so enjoyed this first step of training and I can’t wait until I can compete my first triathlon. It has been amazing to become part of a truly inclusive and supportive community of other athletes at all stages.

So what’s next? I am embarking on another 12-week sprint triathlon training plan, this time, it is one created by USA Triathlon. This go around, I will be focused on all the fun data, HR zones, improvements and pushing as prescribed to truly track progress. Also this time…I am betting on getting to swim (wasn’t able to swim 99% of the program due to COVID closures).

If you’re considering starting a new challenge, whether it be triathlons or anything else, as a reformed perfectionist, I highly recommend it.

Enjoy some photos taken during the last 12 weeks!

3 Ways I Made My Sunday Run Not Suck

I’ve done it. I have cracked the code for not hating Sunday runs. In runner communities Sunday’s are generally dubbed long run days. And let’s be honest – calling a run “long” is not the least bit motivating or exciting to me. Last Sunday I did 7 miles and it felt awful and for a few reasons. I had unrealistic expectations, I pushed myself into a run I wasn’t properly prepared for and I was dreading it the whole time and even during the run.

I went into this Sunday with a different goal for my run. The new goal was to take the run as a time to recalibrate my body and set my mind up for a successful training week.

I did three things in particular to achieve this:

  1. Choose a manageable, but challenging length. For me this week, it was 4 miles. My goal was to not walk – no specific pace goal.
  2. WARM UP (goes for every training set). I havenโ€™t been doing a good job at all of warming up my joints and I could really feel that pain after last weekend. Taking the time to warm up allows you to acknowledge your body, the work your about to do and call to mind your goal for the run.
  3. Visualize how I want to feel during the run, rather than focus on hitting a specific pace. My goal was to feel strong and feel every step and acknowledge the work I was putting in. So instead of working on my pacing, I felt my body and adjusted throughout the run accordingly. I strongly believe in the power of visualization and also thought about my goals I had for the week to come.

By doing these three things, I achieved so much in four miles that I am proud of. And most importantly, I am motivated and energized to take on the training week ahead. Bring it on!

Crushing Ironman VR7

Dj Khaled GIF by Music Choice

That’s right – I did another one! This weekend marked my third Ironman VR experience. This was the second sprint tri simulation. The challenge consisted of a 1.5K run, 20K ride, 5K run.

I was hoping since this was my second sprint tri simulation, that my time would be the same if not a little better, but actually, it was about 7 minutes slower. Disappointing, sure, but I wouldn’t have changed one thing about it. I will tell you why as I relive each activity in the challenge.

will ferrell snl GIF by Saturday Night Live

1.5K Run

This was arguably the most extra way to do a 1.5K run. But I will let you in on a little secret about me…once I set my mind to do something, rain or shine, I get it done.

I knew I wanted to break apart this VR series, instead of completing it all in one go like last weekend. My plan was to do the 1.5K run and ride on the same day with the 5K the next day. So that left me with completing the 1.5K run on Saturday. And guess what. The weather forecast Saturday was torrential downpour. Did I postpone my run to Sunday? Psh, what fun is that? Nope – I suited up in my best rain deterrent gear and headed out.

Peep the tin foil hat I was given. Apparently the family thought I look like someone evading government satellites. Also rain sunglasses are a game changer.

This was the only event in which I beat my prior time (the rain is a great motivator). Bested it by a minute and in pouring rain. Something to be proud of!

20K Ride

The ride was fun and challenging for a couple of different reasons.

  1. It was my first Zwift experience (makes a heck of a difference when you can’t coast down a hill!)
  2. I rode my mom’s Felt tri bike
  3. I had just run a dang fast mile in a torrential downpour

Zwift was so much more challenging than I anticipated. It was both my first time on a smart trainer and off my Litespeed bike. I think it’s criminal that you can’t coast. It was a tough ride for sure. The time was nearly identical to my first 20K ride outdoors.

5K Run

Ok so I will just put it out there that I had big plans for this 5K. It was going to take me 28 minutes and I was going to feel like a champ. That absolutely did not happen, but for a few reasons.

Some of which are: I was up until 3am the morning of helping my brother with a project, Zwift really kicked my leg’s into sore mode and the absolute worst one – the weather. It was one of those really sunny days after a downpour and the streets are even sweating and you are breathing thick air and let’s just put it out there…It’s the worst weather ever. And I can’t forget this, my family made me laugh so hard before running that my abs were sore and I was out of breath. This kind of laughing followed me for half the run coming from series a reality series worthy family. Note to race creators: comedy 5Ks will yield the slowest times ever recorded.

All done

Although it was not quite the amazing time trial I was hoping for, I had so much fun getting to complete this one surrounded by my family and I wouldn’t change a thing. Check out some of my favorite moments below!

Even more videos of the rain run are up on my instagram (@watchalextri).

Shifting my training mindset

What a time to be a triathlete. What a heck of a time to be a beginner triathlete! When I began this journey in January, I planned to participate in two sprint triathlons – one in April and one in May. Of course those have both been cancelled and I am just about finished up with my 12-week lifetime sprint triathlon training plan that would have finished this Monday for Captex tri.

Sad Am Fine GIF by MOODMAN
This was me when all of the races started to cancel

Now on my final week of that plan, I have been struggling with how to continue training. Do I train to an imaginary race date? Do I just train by saying I bike 3x a week, strength 3x a week and run 4x a week? What on earth are we supposed to be doing??

I Don'T Know Idk GIF

While I figure out the best way for me to continue to train, I know there are 3 goals that I want to work toward before my first race:

  1. Build endurance. This is a no brainer! My athletic history is not full of endurance sport. I ran sprints in track, 2-mile races in cross country and skated 3.5 minute programs as a figure skater. I have a lot to learn about building and maintaining endurance not only through runs, but through triathlons of various lengths! My specific goal here is to be able to get off from an 20K bike and immediately jump into a 5K run that I can complete at least at a 10min/mi pace.
  2. Work on speed. This is where my short burst activities come in handy, but I have a lot of work to do to find those fast-twitch muscles again and learn to incorporate them with the new endurance side of training. My specific goal here is to move my base 5K pace from 10min/mi to 9:30min/mi and my mile time to a consistent 8:30min/mi pace.
  3. Dial in on strength training. I have a lot of extra time on my hands now and that is giving me more of an opportunity than usual to focus on cross-training, preventing injury and making me stronger through each part of a triathlon.

As part of working toward those goals, I identify benchmark activities that indicate my fitness and race readiness. This could be a specific workout every two or three weeks, one of the Ironman virtual races or even a homemade triathlon.

How are you training during this time? Have you had to modify your training method?

In the meantime, however you train, I hope you are still having a blast with this. I know I am.