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Early mornings. Late nights. Exhaustion. Massive appetite. Trade offs.

These are the first thoughts that come to mind when I take a step back and reflect on the emotional and physical journey during the past three months of Ironman training.

While there are certainly many aspects of training that I’m getting better at, there are still times where I feel like I’m swimming with my eyes closed–literally and metaphorically.

In the Water

The occasional fish sighting, or just the mere thought of a fish sighting, can send me in a panic all on its own. One of the ways I’ve learned to cope with this fear is to keep my eyes closed underwater while swimming.

Though not ideal (ask anyone who’s swum behind me how much time I lose swerving), the trick has allowed me to continue training for the swim portion without panicking every time.

Yet, despite making the effort of getting in the lake several times a week, and spending numerous hours in the pool months before official my Ironman training plan even began, my swim has not gotten any better.

At my last aquathon (a swim followed by a run), my overall time only improved by two seconds. While I’m grateful that I’m not getting slower,  the amount of time I’ve dedicated to training for the swim deserves better results than two seconds.

On the Bike

Training rides are never complete without a group of cyclists with $10,000+ bikes zipping past me. Or if they’re not passing me, they’re likely already ahead of me.

A few months ago I showed up to a Meetup group for triathletes. While it was still early on in the training, I felt confident about my capabilities and overall endurance. Yet I fell far behind the rest of the group and turned around early so I didn’t make a total fool of myself. And after the ride finished, the organizer sent a message around calling some of the cyclists in the group “slow” while bragging that the ride attracted cyclists at “all levels” (I can take a guess who he may have been referring to).

The Gear

I’ve owned the same pair of bike shorts for the last six years. And it’s only within the last year I’ve owned a proper bike shirt (note the use of singular nouns here). This has left me with just running clothes to wear during training, which are now full of bike grease and the smell of Lake Monona.

From now until September, I’ll be spending most of my days scouring the internet for outlet prices on workout gear that doesn’t break that bank. But those types of prices are the exception when it comes to triathlon gear.

The Only Leg That Comes Natural

The one portion of the triathlon I can say with 110% certainty that comes naturally is the run.

It took several months to get here after recovering from a stress fracture earlier this year, but my running times and endurance have consistently improved throughout the last three months.

This Sunday, I’ll be lining up on the shores of Lake Monona to compete in the Wisconsin Milkman Triathlon (70.3). For the time I may lose on swim and bike portions, the run will definitely make up for it.

After the race, I’ll have exactly three months left to learn how to open my eyes more–both in and out of the water–until Ironman Wisconsin.

{Photo credit: Flickr user malkovitchlicense}

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