I’ve blogged in the past about the triathlon and the incredible awe I have for those who don’t just choose to run, but also include a swim and a bike ride. These are the individuals who make it all sound so easy, but perhaps even more so than training for a marathon, triathletes must be so much more regimented in their training. If you are thinking of taking marathoning to the next level then read on. Today’s guest blogger, Sarah Schoolcraft shares her story of transitioning to a multi-sport event. Learn more about her adventures via her blog, Sarah Runs a Lot.
Guest Blogger, Sarah Schoolcraft
I began training for marathons in graduate school a few years ago. A friend and I decided to run together a few mornings each week just to force ourselves to spend a bit of time away from books and labs. Those mornings quickly became the highlight of our week, and we decided after a few months to sign up for the Philadelphia Marathon. Although a bad case of bronchitis rendered me incapable of completing the marathon that year, I was able to complete it the following year, and I’ve been hooked ever since. In these past few years, I’ve raced a lot of shorter distances, as well, but I’m an endurance athlete at heart—the more time I spend pounding the pavement, the better (well, except on race day, of course—I want to reach that finish line as quickly as possible!).
In January 2010, I finally achieved my Boston qualifying time. For marathon runners, Boston is THE race to run—the Holy Grail. Unfortunately, the 2010 Boston Marathon was already sold out, but I was able to register for and complete the 2011 Boston Marathon. Typically, I experience what many call “the post-race blues.” You spend months training for an event, and then when it’s over, you don’t really know what to do with yourself. Plus, running releases endorphins, and running extensively while training for a marathon releases a lot of endorphins. When you don’t experience endorphin releases to that extent anymore, you simply don’t feel as happy. My remedy for this has always been to sign up for another race, but I knew it was time for something new after Boston, and decided to give triathlon a “tri.” Being an endurance girl, I signed up for the 2011 Timberman 70.3—a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run.
Marathon training has always been something I’ve done on my own, but because I’m a novice cyclist and a horrible swimmer, I knew I needed all of the help I could get. I joined a local triathlon team that provides structured workouts and immense amounts of motivation and support, and I also hired a coach. I quickly learned that triathlon training is a completely different ballgame. It takes a lot more time, involves a lot more strategy, and is super expensive. At first, I was exhausted—adding the stress of two other disciplines took its toll. Eventually, though, I got used to the 5am wake-up calls, I learned what to eat (and when!) to ensure I had the necessary energy to get through each workout, and before I knew it, I found myself at Lake Winnipesaukee on a cool August morning ready to compete in my first half-Ironman.
One of the biggest differences between the marathon and triathlon is that there are many, many opportunities for something to go wrong while racing a triathlon—you could lose your goggles on the swim, get a flat on the bike, etc. However, as many chances as there are to falter, there are just as many chances for redemption. My swim at Timberman was far from pretty. Despite having swam the distance numerous times in open water, nerves got the better of me, and I panicked a few hundred meters from shore. I had to spend a bit of time on my back, and even had to stop at one point to tread water because I found it so difficult to breathe. As badly as I wanted to be pulled from the water, I knew that if I got through it, the rest of the day would happily be spent on dry land. So, I swam slowly, but I swam it all, and as I jogged out of the water towards transition, I told myself that there was absolutely nothing that was going to happen that day that was worse than the swim, and I was right.
I just started cycling seriously a few months ago, and my heavy road bike looked a little out of place next to all of the expensive tri bikes. Still, though, the two of us got through it just fine, and I enjoyed the 56 mile jaunt along the New Hampshire countryside. When I got to the run, I knew I was almost home. I saw each of my teammates at least once along the two-loop half marathon, and I’m pretty sure I kept the smile on my face the entire time. It wasn’t the fastest half-marathon I’ve ever done, but it wasn’t as daunting as I feared it would be after the bike ride. I crossed the finish line ecstatically 6 hours and 9 minutes after first entering the water, and I knew I was hooked. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I’ve signed up for another one! In just a couple of weeks, I will be competing in the Poconos 70.3, and next June I will be competing in my first 140.6 event–Ironman Coeur d’Alene.
Although my affection for long distance triathlon is rapidly increasing, the marathon will always have a special place in my heart. Like Sallyann, I’ll be at the Philadelphia Marathon in the fall. I enjoy reading her blog, and I have no doubt that she will crush it and earn her BQ. Good luck!