Hello RWTR Readers! I am The Professor (as my wife, hereafter “the Blogger”, calls me) and I am a triathlete (wow, that sounds like a confession!). I have been training for The Rock’N’Roll Savannah Marathon with the Blogger for months now and we’ve finally reached the taper! She asked me to share some training thoughts with you all since this is my first marathon, so here we go.
In 2012 Alistair Brownlee ran a 10k at the London Olympics in 29:07. That effort would have placed him among the finishing times of the B-Standard athletes that ran the Olympic 10k … had he been competing in that event. However, Alistair is a triathlete who ran the 10k at an amazing 4:41/mile pace at the END of a 1500 meter swim and a 40km bike! With performances like Alistair’s it may be stated in some friend circles in hushed conversations in the back booth at the Huddle House after a brick workout that triathletes are superior athletes than people who “just run.”
Pipe down fitness blog vigilantes… I know not ALL triathletes think this way… but can you tell me that you don’t get a little grin when thinking about your 3 sports to others’ one? You’re grinning now…”
When we began training 16 weeks ago I thought, “I’m an endurance athlete. I completed the Half Rev 70.2 triathlon in Knoxville, TN in just over 6 hours. I am going to crush this teeny weeny 4-hour marathon! I’m prepared.”
This is the story of how I’ve been put in my place by the marathon…
As a triathlete, gaining proficiency in all three sports gave me a default excuse for not being great at running or great at swimming or great on the bike. It never struck me as impressive that a guy beat me with a sub-20 minute 5k. I could always say, “Yeah, well, I could do that too if I trained for just ONE sport!”
Well, the gig is up! This year I focused on one sport only: running. I did not excel! Under my theory, I should have rocked this ONE sport because I am a decent triathlete. By chopping off swim and bike training and focusing my efforts on running, I should realize huge gains! Or, so I thought…
The results: marathon training has brutalized me. Since the beginning of the semester I’ve been perpetually waddling across campus with tiny, purposeful steps like I’m about to crap my pants. Without the baked-in active recovery from swimming and biking, the repetitive use of the same muscle groups has left me, well, continually healing. Sure, we had recovery weeks… and we certainly included days off… but nothing eased the soreness.
When we ran 20, 21, and 22 miles, I bonked HARD despite eating on the run like Dr. Zoidberg at a buffet and running an incredibly relaxed pace. I remember looking up into the sky as my pace drifted from snail to molasses and asking no one in particular (well, I suppose the Blogger heard me… she was there and running fine), “What the hell is going on!?” Slow and sore, I felt defeated.
While this result may be unsurprising to many, it surprised me; I thought endurance was transferrable across disciplines. Remember my attitude prior to this moment: I run AND bike AND swim, which is hard! So, if I just run, I can certainly run a marathon! I thought challenging my muscles to long durations of activity over the last few years had built up enough muscle endurance to do ANY ONE THING for ANY AMOUNT OF TIME (except The Bachelor marathons… those are too much for ANY man).
My takeaway: it is short sighted to hide behind the illusion that doing three sports effectively is harder than doing one sport excellently. I respect running much more, and by extension, respect the efforts and abilities of all runners (and swimmers and cyclists for that matter).
I think this is the part where the Blogger asks you all some questions… So, what about you? Have you ever been put in your place by a challenge? Has anyone ever been so sore from a long run that you waddle around like Poopy-Pants Professor?