Case Study: Triathlon Training

Monday, July 9, 2012
By bsoule

a swam of racing bees

The Beeminder founders completed the NYC Triathlon yesterday. [1] I was nearly twice as fast as Danny in the swim — 1.5 km down the Hudson — but he took those 15 minutes back out of me on the 40 km bike course. Danny was hilariously lopsided. There were only a few people in his division slower than him in the swim (he doesn’t swim so much as tread water in a vaguely forward direction) and only a handful faster in the bike. (Full results for Team Beeminder: Jake, Mike, Danny, Bethany, Sharad.)

Interestingly, I was only 3 minutes slower than Danny in the 10 km run around Central Park. Maybe that’s partly because Danny was entirely balls to the wall in the bike and didn’t save anything for the run, but mostly it’s that I actually trained for the run a bit, thanks entirely to Beeminder.

I really hate running and the 10 km run was the most daunting part of the triathlon from my perspective. In the end my 10 minute/mile pace was not great compared to my division, but it was far better than it would have been otherwise. I planned way ahead and started a Beeminder goal to train for running [2] almost as soon as we found out we were in the tri in November. [3] It was an epic battle and I worked my way up to $90 at risk. I felt pretty annoyed at myself for letting the $30 slip by, and at $90 I was damn well going to stay on that road. [4] But as you can see by the number of orange dots, I was still riding the edge of the road most of the time.

snapshot of bethany's running graph for her triathlon

There were a couple epic close calls, including one night a couple weeks before the triathlon when I bolted up in bed at 11:48pm realizing that I had forgotten to do my run that day. I only had 0.7 miles to do, so it was technically possible, so out of bed I flew, threw on my running shoes which were nearby, and the first piece of clothing at hand (a minidress), and sprinted up the stairs and around the block. I eked out 1 mile in just under 9 minutes, which was probably a new PR for me at the time. About a week later I did the same thing, sprinting out of a hack night with friends at about 11pm, in my street clothes, to run a mile in the Pearl before I headed home (with a new PR of 8:41). I really needed Beeminder’s axe hanging over my head even to get the bare minimum done (and sometimes that bare minimum was pretty unambitious).

Ironically, I failed to stay on the road in the end. I kept doing only the bare minimum and leaving it until the end of the day, and the day we left to head to New York for the triathlon was no exception. We had an 11:15pm flight and at about 9:45 I still hadn’t even packed (because I procrastinate on everything). By the time I’d collected water bottles, bike shoes, helmet, tri gear, regular clothing, etc, there was no time left. It is hard to run on a plane. [5]

Next year I’ll plan ahead and start with more skin in the game. Maybe I can beat Danny.

Footnotes

[1] Our friends Sharad Goel and Jake Hofman and Jake’s brother, Mike, competed as well. We were officially Team Beeminder. Jake was the fastest of the five of us, at 2 hours 44 minutes overall. I crushed all four boys on the swim portion though.

[2] The only other training we did was our 10 mile round-trip bike to work 5 days a week.

[3] The event is so popular that there’s a lottery for the several thousand spots.

[4] Yes, unlike our meta goals where we have the money pledged to whichever lucky users call us out first in the blog comments, for our own fitness goals the money goes to Beeminder. And, yes, I own something approaching half of Beeminder (and am married to much of the other half). But given credit card processing fees plus other Beeminder stakeholders (like the Portland Seed Fund) an annoyingly large part of a $90 pledge is not ending up back in my pocket. (We wouldn’t mind having all our pledges go to users, if y’all would be into that…)

[5] But was it worth $90 for all the running I wouldn’t otherwise have done? Hells yes.

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