I’ve only done a handful of half ironman races, but from what I can tell, long distance triathlon racing really comes down to getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. In an Olympic distance race,, my typical race distance, you can get through the entire race feeling relatively good. I’m not sure that ever happens in a long race (or at least I’ve yet to experience it).
With this in mind, much of my training so far this winter has focused on being ok outside of my comfort zone. I’ve done some back-to-back workouts, like running after lifting weights. I ran outside during the polar vortex. I’ve also done some trainer workouts where I’ve tried to keep pushing myself even when I’m starting to see stars. But so far I’ve found the most benefit from hiking.
You may be thinking, how is a walk in the woods going to make you a better triathlete? Well, I’m not just talking casually walking down a trail. This is hiking that is way, way beyond most people’s idea of what hiking is. Think: no trails, no set time frame, cold, snow, ice, stream crossings, cliffs, limited food, etc. Basically, a lot of situations where you have no choice but to be uncomfortable.
I’m not an elite when it comes to scary outdoor pursuits, so it doesn’t take much to get me out of my comfort zone. My hiking partners, on the other hand, are veterans of mulit-day adventure races so nothing really scares them. Here’s a look at what I'm talking about:
SJ pointing to the field where we started yesterday's hike. We managed to climb from the valley to the top of Gertrude's Nose in Minnewaska State Park. This is a popular hiking spot in the summer. Most people arrive here along a pretty trail from the parking lot; we arrived by scrambling up a cliff. Notice, I am clutching Maya so that she doesn't run off the edge of the cliff.
SJ carrying Amy up the snow covered cliff. I was too afraid to watch.
Making my way to the top of the rock scramble, after almost crying at the bottom of it.
All smiles from these guys.
Stream crossing with dog in one backpack, baby in the other.