When I was on the track and cross country teams in high school, my best 1-mile personal record was 6:06 and my 5k PR was 21:21. Not fast enough to win races, but fast enough to compete in the early heats. I was eating a diet loaded with sugars and simple carbs at the time, and I wish I’d known then what I know about my body's strong preference for vegetables and high fat meats over grains, dairy and fruits. I can only imagine I would have been competing at a higher level.
Exercise routines in my twenties were irregular, but I probably ran on average 1-2 times per week in the 3-5k distance region. And I competed in an annual 5k race with my family in Great Falls, with a time of 27:05 at age 26, and 25:38 at age 27. When I lived in South Africa from 2014 - 2016, I couldn’t legally work (a long story, yet to be written), so I had a lot of time on my hands to train and cook really healthy AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) meals. I also had a very affordable gym membership, with access to a pool. In October 2015, I ran a 5k time trial on my own in our neighborhood for a time of 23:58 - so excited to just break 24:00. By the time we left South Africa, I was fit enough to compete in a Sprint Distance triathlon, which Wiehan and I simulated in February 2016 by swimming laps at our gym for a distance of 750m; and then biking a 20k loop from the gym and running a 5k loop. My times were 17:58 (swim), 46:49 (bike), 27:12 (run). Not exactly competitive, but still pretty descent for my first time exercising competitively for just under 90 minutes. The only reason I didn’t compete in a triathlon before moving to the U.S.? I’m terrified of swimming in open water - especially in murky waters like those in Johannesburg's Germiston Lake! hah! But despite that fear, I was in the best shape of my life and felt great.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2017 - I’d been living in the U.S. for a year, working like crazy through substitute teaching and wedding & portrait photography, to bring in income after being unemployed for 3 years. I was eating mostly gluten free, but otherwise not following the AIP diet at all and regularly giving in to sugary temptations. I gained roughly 20 pounds and my running paces on a given training day fell to the 10-minute mile range. I was tired and felt terrible. All throughout 2017, I wanted to eat better, but couldn't muster up the discipline. I ran a 5k race on July 4th with my family - my dad and I huffed and puffed our way through it together and came in around 32:00. Oi. I walked during a race for the first time in my life. It was a fun experience with him, but I wasn’t happy with my shape. I started following my diet better toward the end of 2017 and my times began to improve. In November, I came in first place for the ladies at a small neighborhood 5k, at 25:43.
Since then, Wiehan and I have been implementing weekly track workouts, when the weather allows. This, along with a better diet, has been helping my speeds tremendously. I participated in an indoor 1-mile race in February, with a time of 7:12. And now, over the weekend, Wiehan and I participated in the Potomac River Running Lucky Leprechaun 5k. I was really happy with my race performance, with a completion time of 24:31. It was tough and painful, especially with an uphill finish. But it was fun! And if I keep up with AIP and the training, who knows? Maybe I could shave another minute off my 5k time to get back to my shape in 2015. But what I’d really love to do? Break 7-minutes in the mile and inch closer to my high school PR. And maybe one day I’ll conquer my fear of open waters. Let’s see!
What are your dietary and race goals this year? And anyone else staying away from triathlons for fear of open water??