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Why Tri Now? – No One Said There’d Be Fish

August 1, 2012

Joyce is past the halfway mark with her training and her first triathlon is closing in. She’s got some ground, er, water to cover between now and then but he’s sure to make it. As long as the fish don’t trip her up. Her riding is rolling right along and her running sounds like it’s coming around too. Go Joyce, go!

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No one said there’d be fish.

by: Joyce Nugent

What a difference a couple of weeks make at this point. I have just completed seven weeks of training and have five to go until my first triathlon. When I look back at the first week or two, it is amazing to see how far I have come. My coach, Claudia Spooner, has done a spectacular job of always keeping me challenged without getting me frustrated or discouraged. A difficult line to walk.

At first, I was a little concerned that my bike fitness might suffer with having to concentrate on learning how to swim, and working runs into the mix. My cycling workouts were relatively easy with a lot of rides done in lower heart rate zones. My ride this previous Sunday proved that my fears were unfounded when I was able to climb the hills on 620, part of the infamous dam loop, with ease and faster than I ever had and all while keeping my heart rate lower than it has ever been.

Joyce out of the saddle and getting after it on the bike!

My running is finally coming along too. I’m running for up to an hour at a time now, including half-mile intervals at race pace. A mere seven weeks ago I struggled to run for 20 minutes straight without taking walk breaks.

On the swimming front, last week we decided it was time for me to take my swimming to the open water, just to get an idea of what it will be like. In order to accomplish this, I went to the open water swim class at Pure Austin Fitness at Quarry Lake. I had joined Pure Austin a couple of months ago, anticipating that it would provide the perfect place to venture into open water in a somewhat controlled environment. Claudia suggested that I go observe the class and only do as much as I felt comfortable with.

The Quarry Lake is behind the fitness center and you have to walk around a gravel path and then down a rocky bank to get to the dock. There were somewhere between 15 and 20 people who had turned out for the class, which was described as being appropriate for swimmers from beginner to intermediate and perfect for aspiring triathletes. I walked out on to the dock and looked out over the water, which suddenly appeared vast. A wave of nervousness came over me. I asked a guy who looked like he knew what he was doing how deep it was, which sounded really stupid as soon as it came out of my mouth. He said it was about 40 feet deep at points and I said, well if it’s any deeper than 5 foot 4 inches, I guess it really doesn’t matter if it’s 500 feet deep.

The instructor had us all jump in. I jumped in and got ready to do the first exercise, which was to swim around a few buoys in the water, fixed at 25-meter intervals. I took my first breath and put my face in the water and was hit with the first surprise. The water was clear as mud. I couldn’t see a thing, not even my own hands pulling through a stroke. It was a bit of a shock, as the black line on the bottom of the pool has become my friend over the last few weeks, giving me something to focus on as I cross back and forth. I got over it, however, and did my swim around the buoys. Oddly enough, murky as the water was, the bluegill that swam right into my goggles was disconcertingly clear. We were then instructed to swim at “race pace” to the first platform around the lake, which was about 125 meters away. I mumbled, “yeah, right, gurgle, gurgle, gurgle” as I started toward it, thinking that if I made it there at all it would be a triumph. Seeing as how I’ve never raced in water, I guessed that my race pace could be whatever I deemed it to be and so I deemed it to be what I now call “survival pace.” A speed that I figured I could maintain from here to that point on the horizon without sinking.

Halfway across the giant expanse of murky water that separated me from something to hang onto, I started wondering if the instructor had done any kind of head count to help determine if any of us didn’t come back. I’ve heard stories of diving expeditions in the Caribbean that have lost people and never realized it until they returned to shore. I remembered that I signed a waiver at the front desk before I walked down to the water, which I figured would at least help them identify me and notify family members if they had to drag my lifeless body out of the quarry later on.

The second thing that surprised me was how difficult it was to swim in a straight line with nothing to guide me. Every once in a while, on my way to the platform, I would look up to check my progress and sometimes I would find I was aimed in a completely wrong direction. I eventually got there, after everyone else, and hung on for a few minutes before starting back. When heading back in the opposite direction I got even more off course, I think due to the wind and current, and had to way over-correct just to make it back. The instructor said that some people have a dominant left or right arm that also can cause them to go off course. (All I could picture in my mind was a bug in the water with one leg missing that keeps spinning in mindless circles.)

We then did some more drills in the water near the dock and before I knew it, the class was over. All in all, I felt pretty good about it. On the positive side, it was kind of fun to swim without having to stop and turn every 25 yards like I do in the pool. I had more of a sense of getting into a rhythm and a flow that was uninterrupted. And it might be a blessing in disguise to have no visibility in the water so one doesn’t know what is lurking on the bottom. On the other hand, it was intimidating to think that to swim around the entire perimeter of the lake, which I had only swum about a fifth of, is 690 meters, which is just shy of the 700 I will swim in the triathlon. Claudia is going to accompany me on my first attempt and coach me through the experience of swimming the whole distance in open water.

Walls? Where we’re going we don’t need walls.

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About Joyce:

Joyce started her Bicycle Sport Shop career on the sales floor at the Lamar location about a year and a half ago, having relocated to Austin from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Then new to mountain biking and road riding, having been introduced to it just a couple years prior by her now husband, she was previously a runner and an equestrian. As soon as she started riding all she could think was, “where has this been all my life?” and was hooked.  As of April, Joyce became the new Marketing Director for Bicycle Sport Shop combining nearly twenty years of marketing experience at both ad agencies and on the corporate side and her passion for bikes. As Joyce says, “it doesn’t get much better than that!”

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