Triathlon, at its core, is a solo sport. When you are on the race course you are on your own. You are not allowed to draft on the bike, or get paced on the run (yes I know it happens but it’s not supposed to happen), so it goes hand in hand that a lot of triathletes train on their own. They are up at 4:30 AM to get a few miles in before work, then leave their office as soon as the whistle blows to get a swim in, or a quick 25 mile bike in on the nearest trail (or at home on their trainer). The only time training is done with a group is on the weekend, usually a long bike ride, because for some reason swimming and running is still on your own. And there are reasons for this of course. Unless you are lucky enough to work with people who share in your goals and passion, work schedules vary amongst the people you know, so meeting after work, or before work, is not always feasible. I cannot tell you how many times I have been at work two hours and see someone post that they are “heading out for a run before going to the office”. So schedules conflict and most of us with normal work-a-day lives have little option but to hammer through the miles on our own. I used to have the luxury of working with Jennifer, so our training was easy to plan, but since her move we have both been relegated to the lonely workouts.
But not everyone minds this. Some revel in the solitude of running 10 miles with just the road and their thoughts, and to be honest there have been times where it has been nice to “get away” from everyone. I suppose it would be even nice if I enjoyed running like some do, but I am working on that issue. Swimming is definitely this way for me. I enjoy getting in a pool and zoning out for an hour or so and swimming.
For other like me, we need the group atmosphere. It helps when others are looking for you and expecting you to be there for a workout. There are days when running just seems unbearable, but if there is a group expecting you then you are more likely to go anyway. Kate mentioned this last night, that if it wasn’t for the fact I was going to be there she and Alex probably would have bagged the run. None of us were “feeling” it last night, but I think all of us showing up and doing it made is feel better for it afterwards.
Finding the right group for you is another important factor though. I have gone to group rides where everyone was a Type-A triathlete and it was all about who could go the fastest the longest. Even though touted as a “no drop” ride the competition is there, and as you know from my writing that just isn’t an atmosphere I like to be placed in. There will be people who drop back to make sure everyone is together, but you get the feeling that they don’t like it and that you’re affecting their pace. I am very careful about who I ride with, and run with. I am not as fast as the people I ride with on the weekends … far from it … but I never get the feeling they get annoyed with my slowness. We have all ridden enough with each other that we know when to hold up and when to ride on. It’s a good bunch.
As far as running I have recently hooked into a group in St. Pete at the Running Company. Kate and I had noticed the store after a swim before they were even open, and stuck our heads in to check it out. The owners Cody and Janna have been very nice and open since day one, in addition to their outreach staff Chris. They have group runs on Monday and Thursday so it worked well with my training plan, and I have started building my weeks around these two runs. The group started small but has steadily grown over the past few weeks, which is going to happen as the word of the store gets out. The group has been very good so far. Personalities being what they are, you won’t get along with everyone, and the group is still small so there are stark contrasts between the ability of the runners there. I got questioned last night when asked what my run/walk split was and I answered 1/9, which is the program I am on (if you haven’t heard Episode 28 of the IMYO podcast … and why haven’t you … our guest Mark Sullivan outlined this plan for someone just starting or recovering from an injury. You start at week one with a 1-9 split, then week two at 2-8, and so on until you are running 10 and walking 1, and that’s where you stay for long runs). After I said 1-9 the response was “wow … why so slow?”. Well, I don’t have the time, or the inclination, to explain the program or why I am on it, nor do I feel like I need to explain it.
This is just one person, though, and everyone else there is outstanding. We had one woman who ran with Chris and did a 10k, others did a 5k, some did a walk-run, some did a walk. The great thing is that all are welcomed and encouraged. Chris actually brought my Injini Compression Socks to try out, free, because we had discussed it the week earlier, and Cody gave me some new Gatorlyte powder to try out as well. Where do you get attention like that? He also gave out free hydration afterwards to everyone. The store itself is small, but they are adding product every week (seems there is more each time I go in there). They are a “Gatorade” shop, so be prepared for that if you’re not a fan of that product, but it is not pushed at you in any way. Please, if you are in the area, check the store out and tell them the Fat Slow Triathlete sent you. After they get over the shock they will treat you right. Count on it.