The Long Black Road
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The Long Black Road

Finding motivation as a solo summer triathlete.

The Long Black Road

"Beep beep beep"

The alarm goes off, it's 4:40 am in July. As much as I want to stay covered under the sheets and wait a bit longer I know that if I dose off again, I probably won't wake up until it's too late. The swim center has morning open lap hours from 5:30-7:15 and whether I like it or not, that's the time to go. I make sure that lunch is packed, and my day clothes and materials are too, as well as my jammers, goggles and swim cap. I have to be at work by 7:45, so everything will need to be ready once I'm done swimming.

Work all day consists of leading recreation programs for elementary school kids until 5 pm, an exhausting task on its own. After commuting back across town to get home, it's immediately time for session number two. I need to get it done before the sun sets, and still get enough sleep before the process starts over again. On tap is a 10-15 mile warm up road ride, followed with 4-6 by 1.5 mile repeats, which I do on a track. Now it's time to eat and prep for the next day.

Being a triathlete in a place with a very small multi-sport community is not always an easy task, and 99% of my training is done solo, but I've learned over time how to motivate myself enough to keep moving forward. A challenging aspect when I first entered the triathlon world was turning the spring and summer into my full-fledged racing season. Ever since high school, summer was always the time to cover long, slow distances while I built up my endurance base for CC running and nordic skiing, and now I had to reverse my mentality and look at the fall and winter as an offseason to prep for summer races. I have a consistent training plan designed by my coach, Matt Parks, and access to seemingly endless miles of high altitude training out my door, but in Montana races are so few and far between and usually require several hours of driving to get to, that it's tough to keep focused waiting as many as 3 months for the next one.

One way I have learned to cope with this is to diversify my sessions beyond the standard swim/road bike/road run. I try to do wetsuit swims in Hyalite Reservoir, and when possible follow that up with a summit run on a nearby trail. I'll take my mountain bike on one of the local trails to work on my bike maneuvering and handling skills. I also find time to roller ski on the days after races in order to both keep my nordic ski technique fresh and do a more familiar motion.

While it's unusual for a college-aged endurance athlete at MSU to shrug off more attractive mountain sports in favor of triathlon, I have found a personal joy with incorporating the 3 sports into a single event, and taking my skills to the water and road. Hopefully this racing career is far from over.

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