My first triathlon is this weekend! To say I’m nervous would be a total understatement. I signed up about 7 weeks ago and started “training”. It has been quite a crazy seven weeks. I signed up after seeing my sister complete her first every Olympic triathlon back in June. I had so much fun watching the race, I thought to myself, I could do this. A sprint triathlon is a 5k run, an 11-mile bike ride and a 400-meter swim. I knew I could do the run part. I hadn’t been on a bike in over a year, but even then I’ve never really ridden a bike for any distance. I had no idea how far I could bike but I figured biking isn’t really all that difficult. I did a few cycle classes back in April and May so surely I could do an 11-mile bike ride. All that remained was the swim part. I had no idea how many laps in a pool I could swim but I figured that a 400-meter swim was only 8 laps back and forth on a 25-meter pool and certainly I could do that, so I signed up for the spring triathlon.
Boy, was I wrong. First, I had no idea what sort of “training” plan to go with. I only had 7 weeks to get tri-ready. I decided my plan would be to bike 3 times a week, run 3 times a week and swim as often as I could. Training for the tri became exhausting and overwhelming. Before signing up, the only activity I did was running. Running was easy to just walk outside my door and run miles around my neighborhood. Swimming required making a plan that revolved around when the pool was open and preferably when the pool wasn’t too crowded. It also hinged on when I had eaten-it’s pretty gross to swim right after lunch and be burping up hummus. Swimming also required a lot of gear-bathing suit, goggles, earplugs, towel, test kit, snack for low, water, sunscreen, hat, cover up and flip-flops. Biking was also more difficult than running because I have a pretty hilly neighborhood that I don’t really care to bike ride through so I would have to go out to an area to bike ride that was about 15 minutes from my house. This was a business area that had a nice 6-mile loop that I could go around several time to add mileage. The problem was that since it was a business area, I had to plan my bike ride around rush hour. Already, a lot of planning was going into my training.
For my training, I started slow at first. I ran a few miles, and biked a few miles. I swam breaststroke and slowly increased laps and speed. I had about 3 good weeks of training where I built up my mileage on all three activities and then I went on vacation. I was only on vacation for 16 days but the packing and getting ready before the trip and the unpacking and recovering from vacation afterwards, meant I didn’t work out for 3 weeks (I planned on working out during vacation but that never happened). Getting back in the swing of things after vacation meant I only had 2 weeks to train. But this last week was supposed to be the “tapering off” week. So overall, I have had 4ish weeks of training for my first ever triathlon.
When I first started swimming, I was in for quite the shock. I couldn’t swim 16 consecutive laps without stopping. I couldn’t even swim 4. I had to slowly build up to where I could swim 16 consecutive laps. In addition to being out of swim shape, I had to deal with another issue. All my life I have had problems with my ears, so I wear earplugs when I swim. I do not like earplugs so I usually just swim breaststroke, without putting my head underwater, thus not needing my earplugs. I am pretty darn good at breaststroke. However, breaststroke isn’t really the fastest swim stroke. I also found out that I would have to go under water to change lanes in the pool for the triathlon so I tried to incorporate freestyle to my swim stroke. I go much faster swimming freestyle but I also get winded much quicker. I didn’t start swimming freestyle until last week and I never built up enough to where I could do more than 4 laps of freestyle without stopping. So for the race, I’m going to start with freestyle but then switch over to breaststroke at some point.
In addition to swimming, biking and running, I also had to do “brick” training. Brick” training is when you bike ride then run afterwards. At first, it felt very weird but after a few times, I actually started to prefer running after the bike ride over just running. My sister says its because the bike ride warms you up and I agree. For some reason, it seems much easier to me. I have done a couple of 6 mile bike rides followed by 2 mile runs and one 12 mile bike ride followed by a 3 mile run and they weren’t easy but that weren’t as hard as I would have thought. I still haven’t done a swim, bike ride and run all in the same day. Sunday will be my first time attempting all three activities.
As I said above, I typically bike ride through a business area. It has several big hills with which I have managed to do OK. Two weeks ago, I decided to switch up my bike ride and bike the course for the race. The course for the bike race was supposed to be flat with one big hill. I say it was “supposed” to be because when I did the trial ride of the course two Sundays ago, it was way hillier than I was led to believe. I actually thought I was going to die when I did the bike ride. Granted, it was my first bike ride back after vacation and it was 12 miles, which is a lot for the first bike ride after vacation. I did the bike course again this past Sunday and it was much easier. Mentally, I had prepared myself for a hilly, hard course and as a result, the ride was much easier than the first time. I have also run the race course part of the triathlon a couple of times. It isn’t the easiest course either but I think it’s manageable. It goes around a pretty lake and through a scenic park so that helps to pass the time a little bit more than just running on the street.
Besides all the training for the triathlon, I have the added bonus of worrying about how my blood sugars are going to do during the triathlon. In the past, when I’ve done races (10k, 8k and 5k) my blood sugars have surprised me and done pretty good. However, a triathlon is a whole different beast. Adding swimming and biking to the mix and an extra hour of actual competing makes me very nervous. For a while I was good about keeping an exercise log to track and understand how exercise affects my blood sugar. However, the triathlon training has been so time consuming that I haven’t really had a chance to record, observe and make any changes to my blood sugars. Overall, I think I know how each activity affects my blood sugar. All three tend to lower my blood sugar. Sometimes swimming can lower it a lot, sometimes biking does. It’s always a question mark on if I will stay pretty level or if I will drop a lot. Or it could be totally random like when I ran 3 miles on Thursday. My blood sugar was 160 when I started running and it was 270 when I finished. I still have no idea what happened. I didn’t do anything differently.
I plan on testing my blood sugar and possibly eatting to treat a low blood sugar during the transitions. This will add time to my transitions that others racing won’t have to deal with. I am planning on doing a temp basal during the bike ride of 50%. Then testing after the bike ride to see how my blood sugar is doing to determine if I keep doing a temp basal or go with a normal basal during the run. Everyday is so different with diabetes that I still have no idea how my blood sugars will do race day.
I’m getting excited to race my first triathlon but I’m also so nervous. Since this is my first triathlon I have had so many questions. The most important one was what do I do with my insulin pump for the swim portion of the race. The transition area closes at 6:45AM but I most likely won’t be swimming until 8AM so I wouldn’t get back to my insulin pump until 8:15AM at the earliest. That’s an hour and a half disconnected from my insulin pump, which I do not want to do. Luckily, I emailed the race officials and they have given me special permission to give my insulin pump to my husband during the swim part. So, I can stay connected to my pump until it’s time to get in the water and then grab it from him when I’m done, resulting in about 15 minutes disconnected, not 1.5 hours-phew!
Some other questions I have been stressing about in preparation to the race:
- Do I do a temp basal during the triathlon? I will do 50% during the bike, but what about the run?
- Should I eat breakfast before the race? I’m going to eat my usual waffles the morning of.
- What time should I eat my breakfast? I’m getting to the race location at 5:30AM so I’ll eat at home before I leave around 5AM.
- What time do I need to get there? I’m planning to get there at 5:30AM, but probably won’t start the race until 8AM.
- Since I’m going to eat at 5AM, will I need a snack before I start the swim at 8AM? I’m not going to eat a snack unless I notice my blood sugar dropping too low.
- Will I be able to complete it in less than 2 hours? I hope so!
- How difficult will it be to get my pump from husband? We tried to practice at home but I think race day will be a lot different-hopefully it goes well.
- Do I eat and possibly get high during the race or wait until I feel low? I’m going to make this a game time decision based on how my blood sugars are doing.
- Will I be able to see before and after swim? I have bad eye sight but will be wearing my prescription sunglasses for the bike ride and run but won’t have anything for the swim part so I will be blind for a good 2 hours before, during and immediately after the swim.
- Do I swim freestyle or stick to my breaststroke? I think I’m going to do a mix of the two.
- How will my earplugs do?
- How will my clothes do? I don’t have a wetsuit or tri-suit so I’ll be swimming in my bathing suit and putting my running clothes overtop. This was hard to practice because my clothes didn’t go on too well when I was wet but I didn’t want to spend money on a fancy trisuit if this is the only triathlon I’ll be doing.
- Do I run with my test kit and snack in my hand? In the past, I’ve always done a race with my husband and he has carried a bag with my test kit and snack in it. I ran one race without my hubby and I carried the bag and it was a pain so I’m probably going to try and go without this time.
- Do I push hard on the bike or try and save some energy for running hard? I haven’t decided how hard I’m going to push myself
- Do I try really hard to tackle the hills?
- Will my limited training pay off?!
I’m hoping to finish in less than 2 hours. I think I’ll finish the 400M swim in 12 minutes, the 11-mile bike ride in 56 minutes and the 5k run in 38-40 minutes. If I add 4 minutes for each transition (2 transitions total), I should be right around 2 hours. For a diabetic, a triathlon is much more than a physical test, but hopefully I can break 2 hours all the while maintaining good blood sugars.