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msnbc.com
updated 6/15/2005 3:40:49 PM ET 2005-06-15T19:40:49

After a few days in Mexico — and a few days to recover from Mexico (Montezuma's Revenge is not an urban myth) — I have jumped into full-on triathlon training. From here until August, the intensity will continue to grow. Because the length and difficulty of my workouts are building, I now get two days a week off for recovery. Trust me, it isn't hard to convince myself to take a day off. And while training is often lonely and difficult, I can feel myself getting stronger each day. Here's a sampling of my training week:

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Tuesday
After resting on Monday, it's time for trainer work. Lots and lots of trainer work (For those of you who don't know, a trainer is a device that you place your bike on that basically turns it into a stationary cycle). This is the bicycle equivalent of Wednesday-night track workouts — it's all about speed. During this workout, I focus on speeding up my cadence. When I started doing this trainer workout, I would pedal as fast as I could for 2 minutes, then slow down for a minute, then repeat for 10 minutes. Now I try to pedal as fast as I can for 4 minutes, the slow down for a minute, then repeat. I say try because this is much harder than it sounds. Using the tension knob on the trainer and the gears on my bike, I increase the resistance. This is supposed to be difficult — and it is. I have towels strategically placed beneath the bike to collect the buckets of sweat that pour off me.

In between these 10-minute bike sets, I run. Nothing too strenuous, but enough to shake out my legs and get them used to running off the bike. Four sets on the bike. Four 15-minute runs. And this is just the beginning of the week ...

Wednesday
I try to get to the pool early in the afternoon to do laps. I would prefer to swim in the morning, but since I start work at 6 a.m., it's hard to find a pool that's open at 4 o'clock. I swim for about an hour, doing laps. Back and forth, back and forth. My usual Wednesday routine is to do 25 sets of 100 meters. I try to go a little faster on each set. I enjoy this afternoon swim — it helps me unwind and decompress during the work day.

In the evenings, I attend the regular group track workout. Now that I am putting in longer hours on the weekend, I no longer attend the group triathlon workouts on Saturdays, so this is my only chance during the week to work out with my training friends. I really miss them. Ironman training is lonely business and as the long weekend workouts get longer, so does the time in my head. Without the chipper sounds of Laura or Catrena or Ali chatting away, there is only my voice to console — or chastise — me. Frankly, I'm getting bored with the voice's tired old chestnuts.

But on group track nights, we catch up and make tracks. This is still my best opportunity to work on running speed. I couldn't do without it.

Thursday
Back on the trainer for an early pre-work ride. I set up my trainer and my bike in the living room, in front of the TV and load up the DVD player. The latest offerings? Season two of "Chappelle's Show." I set the tension pretty high, to increase the resistance, and ride at a moderate cadence for 60 minutes.

Now that the sun is rising earlier (I live in the Seattle area, so sunrise is around 4:30 a.m. in the summer), I also ride to work some mornings, depending on how early I get out of bed and whether or not I'll need a car at work that day. It's a beautiful ride, about 17 miles each direction.

In the evening, it's back in the pool for more laps. Once the water temperature gets a bit warmer, I'll begin swimming in Lake Washington.

Friday
Rest day. Ah, sweet rest. This is a day to give my body a chance to recover and to go out with friends — unless I fall asleep on the couch by 7 p.m.

Saturday
Rest is over, time to pump up the volume. My Saturday workout is the longest of the week. While I'm still early in my long weekend workout schedule, the average time for these workouts is 4 to 6 hours. These are designed to build my endurance and stamina.

Let's look at this week's workout as an example. I started with a 60-minute bike ride (being sure to ride on a course that featured rolling hills), followed that up with a 30-minute run, then another 60-minute ride, another 30-minute run, another 60-minute ride and a 30-minute run. And just to make it a little more fun, I concluded the last bike leg with six hill repeats. Yippee!

But the hill repeats are important. I will have a significant hill climb in my half Ironman in Sunriver, Ore., on June 25 and at Ironman Canada. Building my climbing muscles is essential.

This coming weekend, I will do a 60-minute swim then do a 4-hour bike ride. The long swims are actually quite enjoyable. It gives me a chance to work my entire body in a low-impact way. I generally feel rejuvenated and strong when I get out of the water.

I cannot say the same thing about the bike rides. At the end of these I am tired and sore. Sore in my legs, sore in my neck and more importantly, sore in the saddle. I generally wear padded bike shorts, but that only does so much. And it does nothing to battle the rash that inevitably develops in my saddle section. I'm learning all about Chamoix cream and other lubricating devices designed to keep chafing and soreness to a minimum. What can I tell you? It's a learning experience ...

Sunday
I usually do a long run or swim on Sundays. On the weeks when I do the lengthy bike-run bricks on Saturday, I swim. When I do a straight long ride, I hit the pavement on Sundays. I got my weeks confused and instead of swimming this past Sunday, I did a two-hour run. That probably accounts for the soreness I'm feeling in my legs, knees, feet, hips, etc., today.

As with the marathon training, the distances for the runs and swims will get longer as I get closer to the Ironman. But with each week, I get a little stronger and the distances are a bit less daunting. But they do remain long — and tiring. But that's life on the road to the Ironman.

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