World’s Worst Running Blogger – Lessons From the Triathlon

“The further you are from the action, the easier things appear.” – jmb

In the middle of the Schuylkill River, swimming toward the railroad bridge in the first stage of the Philly triathlon.

In the middle of the Schuylkill River, swimming toward the railroad bridge in the first stage of the Philly triathlon.

If there was a manual for writing a running blog, I would  likely fail in most departments. The thing is, I know it. I even confessed earlier this year in Not Your Typical Running Blog. This weekend was a perfect example.

I jumped into the Schuylkill River Saturday morning in Philly for my first triathlon, a topic that could fill a running blog for months. Rather than write about training, transition strategy and mental preparation in the weeks leading to the race, I wrote about a writer’s retreat, running books, a hard rocker, street art, and Haruki Murakami. Seem odd? Not in my mind, because if your read my posts, there are always (well, almost always) lessons about running buried inside; just not the type of lessons you find in a typical running blog.

Before the triathlon with sons Jay and Dan.

Before the triathlon with sons Jay and Dan.

The lessons from my first triathlon are more explicit—never underestimate a challenge, and things are not always as they appear. Consider that I’ve completed thirteen marathons, am an avid cyclists, and swam a half-mile on three separate occasions before the race. The triathlon I competed in was a sprint–half-mile swim, fifteen-mile cycle and 5K run. Easy stuff, right? That’s what I thought, and that was my biggest mistake.

The catch with a triathlon is that training to swim, cycle, and run as separate events doesn’t prepare the body to transition from one event to the next without a break. At the end of a half-mile swim, body muscles are pumped and to a degree, fatigued. Once out of the water there is an immediate transition to cycling, and the body has to adjust on the fly. In my case, it took more than five miles on my bike to find a rhythm. Then, after pumping the thighs, legs and lower torso for fifteen miles, there is an immediate transition to running. I thought I’d kill the 5K, half the mileage I run routinely, but after swimming and cycling, my thighs and calves felt like cinderblocks and I never found my stride.

After the race with Jay and lifelong buddy Ed.

After the race with Jay and lifelong buddy Ed.

I had considered signing up for the Olympic triathlon—0.93-mile swim, 25-mile cycle, and a 10K run—which would have been a disaster, because the swim would have been tenuous. I can’t even imagine the Ironman—2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle, and a full 26.2 mile marathon. To say I gained an appreciation for triathletes is an understatement; and for that matter, people who master any skill—musicians, chefs, carpenters, nurses, police officers, writers.

In nearly any vocation or avocation you can think of, the further you are from the action, the easier things appear.

Advertisements

About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
This entry was posted in Health, Marathon, Running and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to World’s Worst Running Blogger – Lessons From the Triathlon

  1. Pete says:

    Great piece Jim! I never thought that you have to transition between the races when you do a triathlon. I run every day, and swim twice a week. I wouldn’t have the energy to do the two right after each other.

    Like

    • Jim Brennan says:

      Hey Pete. It was my first tri and I learn by doing. If I would have listened to experienced triathletes I would have been better prepared, but instead suffered. There are drills to prepare for the transitions, and I will surely adopt one for my next tri. Thanks for weighing in.
      Jim

      Like

  2. Yours is the only running blog i follow and i find it perfect.
    P.S: You look so fit!

    Like

  3. Sophie33 says:

    A very interesting post, Jim! I learnzd a lot too!

    Like

  4. paigesato says:

    Your post is so timely. I’ve just signed up for my first sprint tri, but haven’t really started the training yet, because I know I can complete each of the events, in and of themselves. You’ve motivated me to hop up on the that “brick” bandwagon, and start taking this a bit more seriously.

    Like

    • Jim Brennan says:

      I’m glad my words helped. The most important lessons I learned was not to underestimate the challenge of doing the three events in succession, and open water swimming is not the same as swimming in a pool. Respect the challenge of the tri.

      Like

  5. I’ve always wondered how you get out of the water and then ride a bike in wet shorts. That sounds like major legue chaffing to me. Do you wear special shorts or lots of lube?
    In a moment of delirium, I actually thought about signing up for a sprint triathalon someday. I was shocked that the thought even crossed my mind. I’m good at not drowning but certainly not very good at actually making forward motion in the water.

    Like

    • Jim Brennan says:

      They do have shorts designed specifically for triathlons that are perfect for swimming and cycling. They are suprisingly comfortable and the material dries almost instantly. My son was the first in the family to compete in a triathlon last year, and I told him I would sign up next year if he completed it. That was the fastest year of my life. Now my youngest son wants to do it next year. Here I go again. But I’m glad for the experience. I never would have appreciated the magnitude of the challenge. Swimming is my weakest event as well. I joined a pool and trained, but swimming in open water and in a pool are completely different. Nevertheless, I survived. In retrospect, it was awesome.

      Like

  6. LB says:

    A couple things:
    I’m not a runner and I LOVE your blog! I want to travel to some of the places you’ve written about (and will!) and you tell a great story.
    Also, congrats on the triathlon! It reminded me a bit of friends who have not trained for those 3 day breast cancer walks because “it’s just walking”.

    Like

    • Jim Brennan says:

      You are too kind, LB. I only wish I could spend more time with my travel blog, but have been swamped with other projects. I will get back to it someday, there are so many stories and pictures I want to share. And, I love Life on the Bike! You do a great job.

      Like

  7. Still a Runner says:

    I find my favorite running blogs go off topic – and somehow meander their way back to running. I appreciate your triathlon recap. With months spent nursing my skiing injury, I have been cleaning up some rudimentary swimming skills. A little itch at the back of my conscienceness is saying ‘now is the time to try a try.’

    Like

    • Jim Brennan says:

      One of the benefits of training for the tri was getting back to swimming, something I hadn’t done seriously in decades. It’s a total body workout. Another lesson I learned in the tri was that swimming in a pool and swimming in open water are completely different. Next time I’ll be better prepared mentally. Go for it!

      Like

  8. aaronwest says:

    Yours is one of the few running blogs I read, so I’d say you definitely do not fail in that department.

    Nice job. Triathlon is a beast of a sport. Kudos to you for giving it a go.

    Like

Comments are closed.