Let me give you a brief rundown on my plan:
1) constantly change my tactics to trick myself into being motivated. Honestly, it's a strategy that works. Lie to yourself, do whatever it takes to get moving. If something works for 2 weeks, then stops, then change your plan, change your tactic to get running and moving. It really works.
2) the first and foremost thing was to sign up for the race. This was the biggest motivator of all. It's actually a strange story, I signed up for the lottery for the 2008 Kona Ironman (completely unrealistic and ridiculous) but in order to qualify to be in that race, I had to complete a 70.3 race prior to august 31st of the same year, or something. So even though I found out in like February that I didn't make the lottery for Kona, I still had committed time and money to Steelhead. I then did a rough plan of my whole summer, which included Wildflower, and Chicago Triathlon.
3) Swimming 1.2 miles in a 25 yard pool is somewhat annoying, 2200 yards is all you need, although I really don't think I've ever completed that distance in the pool, and Chicago's lake doesn't get warm enough for practice swims till mid summer, so I basically had to split it up:
- I go to the Chicago Park District pools and bring my little lap counter finger watch thing, and the membership there costs $20 per quarter. I go during the adult-lap hours and I think I was there about 3 times a week at my peak. The schedules are all available on their website. I go to three pools (Sheridan, Gill Park, and Eckhart). I did like 50% distance for a while, then increased to 75% the final distance, and then started swapping out with the lake swims. (there are 50 yard pools in the city, UIC has one)
Lake swimming is a bit more involved... pack up the shit in the tri bag, ride down to Ohio Street beach, change into wetsuit, lock up bike and bag to rack (pray that nobody gets curious, but there are a bunch of triathletes there in late summer doing the same thing), and then swim out to the last buoy and back and then out half way and back (or something I can't quite remember right now). I measured a course out in Google Earth (not google maps, but google earth has a ruler tool) around the buoys. I did this maybe once or twice a week in the month before the race. I felt comfortable, and actually had fun doing this. It's lonesome but kind of introspective and fun past the last 1/4 of the buoys.
4) biking: chicago SUCKS in the winter for biking. I bought an indoor fluid trainer and I used that, a minor amount during the winter, but luckily Steelhead was late in the summer so riding over the summer was a blast. The first thing I did was sign up for the MS150 (a 150-mile fundraiser ride, and went into it totally underprepared, as a ass-kicker initiation ride for the summer). I went out to Barrington hills three times and rode on a known 56 mile triathlete hilly training ride with my friend Jason. The combination of these two things got me used to some long distances, and left me better prepared for Steelhead which is relatively flat. The butt pain will ease with time on the seat, and also I'm going to upgrade my seat this year although there's a lot of thought going into that purchase.
Riding on the lakefront is a humungous pain in the ass moronic adventure, north of soldier field. I laugh at the newbies trying to ride at top speed from belmont down to Adler during the daylight hours in Summer and getting all frustrated and angry at people, when they should be angry with themselves for trying to be a speed demon on a tourist rollerblade skate park. If you love yourself you will ride casually and safely down to McCormick Place, and then pick up speed down there as you are able to maintain very conservative safety. Please watch out for kids running across the path down by the beaches on the south side. I rode the lake path once or twice a week, doing like 15-20 miles or something short. Usually up to hollywood, then down to the museum of science and industry and back home, something in that range... but again serious training will happen in the far away lands. I never made it out to Benton Harbor to train in advance, but I wanted to, and
would do that next time.
another option for a casual ride with new scenery is out in the western suburbs, or in the city there is a north trail that goes up to skokie, but again its slower and casual riding but good for once in a while new scenery. My buddy Jason knows some better paths up in the north.. See this map
5) running: (Emily is a big runner so I didn't go into much detail here) this is your specialty... you tell ME! I do the Lakefront path. Just do it. I occasionally ventured into the city with much frustration. during the death-cold winter i use the treadmill. I haven't been too serious on the running side since a bad knee injury, but rarely go out on a 40 degree day with running tights.
6) Getting a coach is completely up to you. I got one to teach me how to swim properly. It depends on your level of fitness. I tried using an online plan from active.com.... followed it very spottily.. kind of a waste but again it was a trick to get me moving for a slow few weeks i had. I generally just look at what I have to accomplish, by when, and move towards meeting that goal slowly in a linear incremental way towards being at the distance i need a few weeks before the race. This is my casual approach to Triathlon, I don't want to win any races, I just want to complete with a decent time. Call me boring, I'm still competitive with myself. Always looking to beat my miles/min time on the run, beat my previous race times... I don't always make it but again I've only been doing this for like a year and half.
One thing I do that I freaking love to do is track EVERY workout on a spreadsheet. Everything. I dunno why I like to do that but it motivates me.