Becoming a "real" triathlete

This post started out as recap from QT2 Camp, but most of the details were covered on my teammates blogs (check out posts from Matt, Jessie, and Kim, and a post + video from Pedro).  But, I was in a unique position at camp, and it got me thinking quite a bit about where I was a year ago, where I am now, and where I am headed.

I keep reflecting on the past year, and how much things have changed.  How much I have changed.  A little over a year ago, I went through a tough personal time, which led to a lot of self-reflection.  Most of which I’m not comfortable talking about on a public blog, but it significantly put me in a different state of mind, and I turned out all the better for it.  I learned a lot about who I am and what I want out of life.  This all coincided with the beginning of my journey into triathlon.

I remember so well the first time I took my road bike out on the road last February.  I was scared of clipping into the pedals, about controlling the much lighter and faster bike…but a unseasonably warm day took me away from my trainer and to my first adventure outdoors.  The first time I got on, I fell over.  Standard rookie move.   But I got back up and tried again.  And I rode.  For 12 amazing miles, I felt fast and free.  I started to realize that this could actually be fun, and maybe not so scary.

I remember that first race – a small duathlon, last April.  I had no idea what I was doing (seems to be the theme for me in triathlon so far…along with “fake it til you make it”), but with the help of a few friends, I got the right gear, figured out the whole setting up transition thing, and lined up for my first multi-sport race.  I ran hard, hoping to gain some time before what would surely be getting destroyed on the bike.  But I didn’t.  I held off most of the women until the last 1/2 mile, when I got past by one.  But I got it back within a couple minutes on the run.  I came across the finish line in first place.  I had thought I could maybe finish top 5 or so, but never expected a win in my first race with any biking in it.

And how about that first half ironman?  The longest race I’ve ever done, by far.  I didn’t know if I could stick it out for 5+ hours – I knew I had trained enough to complete it, but could I actually race it and enjoy it?  Turns out, I could, and I did.  I loved almost every minute of that race, and soon after realized that I wanted to continue with triathons and see where it could take me.  Which lead me to QT2 Systems – a new coach and a new team, bringing along new training and a new lifestyle.

Fast forward a bit.  I recently got back from 10 days of training camp with 19 PRO triathletes.  I was the rookie.  The freshman on the varsity team.  As an inexperienced age-grouper, I was honored to be able to train with such an amazing group of athletes.  But I’m not gonna lie – I was also overwhelmed and intimidated by it as well!   A lot of doubts went through my head before the camp began – could I handle it?  Was I totally out of my league?   Would I get dropped during the workouts?  Could I keep up with the high expectations set for us during camp?  Even though I was a little nervous, I knew this was an amazing experience that I couldn’t pass up.  For Jesse and Tim to invite me to camp, that was taking a chance.  I wanted to prove to them, and to myself, that I belonged there.  That they didn’t make a mistake.

The camp ran for 17 days, but since I had to go back to work, I only attended the first 10 days.  But, 10 days was plenty for me!  We did over 35 hours in the first week alone – considering my normal schedule is around 10-15 hours right now, this was a huge increase!  But, I learned that this is possible by nailing the recovery (through sleep, dietfish oilNormatec, etc.), getting support and motivation from teammates, and having a coach that could motivate his athletes and know when to apply the right amount of stress.

The first day, Tim said that I would gain 2 years of triathlon experience in the 10 days I was there.  And he couldn’t have been more right.  Swimming, biking, running, and recovering side-by-side with Ironman champions and top-level pros gave plenty of learning opportunities.  Plus, we lived in a triathlon bubble where all we had to do was train and recover – it was total immersion into the sport.  Oh yeah, and I got a new bike the week before camp, and it was my first time riding it outside, and my first time riding with aero bars!

There were some great workouts throughout camp, and I felt like it only took my body and mind a few days to get over the initial shock and start really stepping up to the challenge.   My running and swimming were solid, and my biking certainly improved (thanks to numerous 4-5 hour rides!).  Of course, there were some workouts where I just couldn’t hang on (like getting dropped in the crit course loop and one particular swim set that I have strategically blocked out of my memory), but these fueled the fire and made me want to get up the next day and prove that I could do it.

All in all, an awesome experience.  I was pretty trashed when I got back, but the hard work there is starting to show now, and I feel ready to start the racing season.  Next weekend will be my first tri of the season –  Texas 70.3!  It will be great to see where I stand after months of training, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with the team.  They really are an awesome group, and I’m proud to be representing QT2 this year!

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