The Final Exams – Part 1: Summer School

If you read my 2018 Boston Marathon recap, you know I pressed on through an injury to run the race. I really shouldn’t have been running the race, but Boston has a no deferral policy. It was either go in 2018 or re-qualify at some point. I managed to finish, and with that came the big question many people asked: “What’s Next?” They meant long term, and I didn’t know.  All I knew was that if I didn’t heal up, there’d be no next anything.

Post-Boston, I stuck to cycling only while I took 10 days off from running. I started running again around the first of May, limiting myself to about 10 miles per week.  By June, the hamstring was doing much better and my coach and I had the answer to the “What’s Next?” question – at least short term.  Summer school would be training for for my second sprint triathlon.

Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series

I last did a sprint triathlon in August of 2014, race 5 of the yearly Charleston Sprint Tri Series. I decided race 5 for 2018 would work again, and we had just over two months to train. The swim and bike workouts would be good cross training as my hamstring continued to heal. So, on June 5th, I hit the lap pool for the first time in two years. I had not missed it one bit.

My mind will not let me train just to finish. I needed goals. Given I was going to do the same race as 2014,  I decided my goal was to beat Father Time by finishing faster than 2014.  That year I swam the 600 (liars!) yard swim in 12:22, biked the 12 miles in 37:21, a 19.5 mph average, and ran the 5K in 23:38. For 2018, I wanted to improve on the swim, average 20+ mph on the bike and at least come close to 24 minutes on the run.

So, from June to early August, I did two swim workouts per week, in addition to many bike, and run workouts. I felt really good about my swimming, and a tune up to the old bicycle had me hitting some bike speeds I had not reached in a while. Run workout volumes weren’t great but they increased each month, and I felt good and on race day.

Exam Day: August 12

Unfortunately, the biggest flaw in my race preparation showed immediately after the start of the race. I had done no open water swimming this time around, and I struggled out of the gate during the swim, running into others and having trouble with direction. I struggled mightily, and didn’t think I’d ever finish. 600 yards seemed like 6000. Finally, I dragged myself out of the water. My watch didn’t have a triathlon or open water swim setting, so I didn’t use it during the swim.  I had no idea if I was better than 2014 or not. It didn’t feel like. I semi-staggered my way to my bicycle, had a decent transition, and headed out.

I was so drained from the swim, I continued to struggle on the first half of the bike. Finally, I started to feel better and started picking up my pace, but couldn’t consistently manage over 20 mph like I wanted (I had activated my watch by now). The bike finally finished, and I transitioned to the run where I quickly realized my goal of 24-ish for the 5K was not going to happen.

The first mile was a struggle at just over 9 minutes. I actually stated feeling better as the run continued, and about the half way point, I passed a guy who had mowed me down on the bike. Ha, take that.  My watch beeped for the second mile split, and I saw I was slightly faster than the first at 8:59. I continued on, and kept improving. At the third mile, my watch beeped again and I saw I had improved again – 8:42. Now, the finish loomed large and I gutted it out, so happy to be done.


Turns out, I had finished the swim at 11:53,  beating my 2014 swim by almost 30 seconds, but I had only managed 19 mph on the bike. My run ended up being 27:06, three-plus minutes slower than my goal. So, overall , the 50 year-old me was three and a half minutes slower in 2018 than 46 year-old me. 1:16:04 versus 1:19:27.

Greg Fowler: Charleston Sprint Tri Series – James Island County Park
Swim (600 yds) T2 Bike (12 miles) T2 Run (5K) Total
2014 12:22 1:53 37:21:00 0:52 23:38 1:16:04
2018 11:53 1:56 37:34:00 0:59 27:06 1:19:27

Oh well, any thoughts of training for a half or full ironman were put on the back burner and probably eliminated from the “What’s Next?” possibilities pool.

Summer School/Tri exam grade: C+.

Post Race – The Author and Coach

Good news was my hamstring held up well, and I had basically kept Father Time at bay in the swim and bike. Bad news was, as primarily a runner, the run result irritated me. I consoled myself in the fact that I stepped down the time on the miles, which was a negative split on the run. This irritation did help me make up my mind as to what the next short term “What’s Next?” would be, though.

To be continued…