Lessons from a not-so-dry run

Courtesy Jennie Finch

Once terrified of open-water swimming, Jennie Finch is now prepared to crown it her favorite part of the triathlon.

It felt great to have a solid week of being home and focusing on training. I even got a complete Olympic distance tri in on Friday. I wanted to go the full distance before the New York race just to really know what I was in for, and this was the week to do it since I didn't want to do it too close to the "real" race. So I talked to Coach Gale and she agreed it was a good idea and shifted my workouts around.

It was just Lori, Coach Grampy and me. We did the swim in my in-laws' pond, and then had to drive a mile from the pond to the road to get on our bikes, so the transitions weren't exactly like they will be on race day, but we did get in the work and that's what was important. We started at 7 a.m., but the heat was brutal by the time we got to the run: 97 degrees and 97 percent humidity.

The 1,500-meter swim was actually easy for the first time! The others, not so much. Toward the end of the 40-kilometer bike, my legs started feeling tired and I wanted to get off and run -- until I actually got off to run, that is. The first two miles of running my legs felt so dead, all I wanted to do was get back on the bike again! It was rough, but it didn't get super rough until the 10-kilometer run, which I think was a combination of being tired and dealing with the heat. I didn't time myself because I didn't want to be disappointed; I just wanted to get it done and know what it felt like. But I'm thinking my goal is to finish around 3 hours in New York. It will be tough, but I think if I can get the training in this next month, I'll have a good shot at the 3-hour mark.

It's interesting how going into this whole triathlon thing I thought the run would be the easy part. I mean, I've run a marathon. I've done plenty of running for softball. At first I didn't like biking much at all, and I didn't think you could get much of a workout riding around. But as I've gotten more comfortable on my bike, thanks to getting it fitted just right, and getting a great seat and cycling shoes, I like to say that my Ruby (that's the name of my bike) and I are learning to get along. I love that you totally can get a great workout in with a lot less pounding than you get running.

And you've heard me talk about swimming on this blog -- it used to terrify me! I was worried about even finishing the mile swim, and now I think swimming is my favorite part of the tri! I'm still a little nervous about the race because I'll be swimming with so many other people, but physically I feel so much more confident than I did at the outset.

In the weeks I have left I need work in some more "bricks" -- ending a bike workout with a 20-minute run to practice pushing through that dead-legged feeling when you transition from biking to running. What a difference a couple months of training can make. Who would have thought swimming would become my favorite sport and running the toughest for me?

But mostly I've learned to love switching it up. Each sport offers a nice break from the others. I guess that's the beauty of the tri!

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