Exercise for the point of exercise has never been my thing. I bore too easily and don’t have the self motivation if I don’t have a reason. Therefore I knew having a goal would give me a reason to get back in shape. Some people would set their sights on a 5K; perhaps some would choose a 10K- reasonable and normal goals. However, as we know, I am not reasonable or normal. And so I chose to participate in a triathlon. Without knowing quite how to ride a bike and running an embarrassing 14 minute mile, I set out last year to begin training for and be ready for my first race in August 2008. My goals were pretty modest; I wanted to finish somewhere between first and being carried out on a gurney which I can happily report, despite some difficulties, I did.
In honor of my first triathlon which I completed on August 17, 2008, and to honor my blog that lies dormant I decided a good first post would be to do a top ten list of what I have learned throughout this journey so far.
-Life has new meaning. That sounds so prophetic and serious and unlike me I know; but it’s true. And don’t fall out of your chair here, but I cried!! Sure part of it was out of frustration, a little because of the pain and some out of disbelief that I finished, but mostly they were tears of pride. I’m the girl who only ever took home the green participation ribbon on track and field day. While I was athletic, I was also very small, and therefore always picked towards the end in gym class. I’m the girl that barely knew how to ride a bike a mere 4 months before the race! And I am a TRIATHLETE! And I love the bragging rights!!
-The people are a family. People who do multi-sport are dysfunctional, but in all the right ways; you have to be in order to do this to yourself. But it’s because of that common dysfunction that we all bond so nicely. You see many of the same people at different races, whether they are racing, volunteering or just watching. And we get it. We understand it in ways people who don’t do triathlon could never understand.
-I am capable of so much more than I ever thought. Doing this meant doing something that was bigger than myself. There are few challenges the human spirit cannot overcome but I can honestly say that I wasn’t sure if I was going to finish this. When the idea of doing the triathlon was just an idea, I was fairly calm about the whole thing, but the closer it got the more nervous I became. I started wondering if I had lost my mind. But the day came, the race happened and I finished. The strength within me was there, I just had to be given an opportunity to show it. Now, six months later, I have an entire 2009 race calendar planned!
-Spectators are motivation! This doesn’t need a whole lot of elaboration- it means what it says. We need the spectators, or as we call them in my tri group “jockstraps” (get it: athletic supporters…). We need the bells, the whistles, the clapping and the cheering to keep us moving, help us through the walls, make us smile when we want to collapse and give us that last motivational push through the finish line.
-I had no idea how to gauge a mile. Seriously, none. In my first 5k, when I was sure the finish line was almost moments away, I would come to find out I had only run about a mile. Eventually I got pretty good with the running but I was even worse at guessing on the bike, especially during my tri. I was going down the road, thinking for sure I had at least five or six miles on the bike done when someone passed and I asked them. The response: almost three. WHAT!!!!!! THREE!!! This happened throughout the entire bike portion. I knew right then and there I needed a device to gauge my distance and A LOT more bike training!
-Volunteers mean everything and I mean EVERYTHING! They are the most important part of the race because without them there is no race. I knew it was important, as I had volunteered a few races, but now that I completed one without many volunteers it became (painstakingly) obvious how much they are needed. And trust me, we appreciate you!
-Transitions are a whole other event in the race! There is a reason they are called the fourth discipline in a triathlon. I didn’t think too much of it honestly, I set up my stuff and since I was a beginner that didn’t involve much. But the truth is, it was a time of profound confusion; everyone but me seemed to know what they were doing. Some of these things were out of my control and some are lessons learned. I know things will happen (signs where to go might not always be clear and its entirely possible I will try to run with my bike helmet on again) but I learned a lot about being more organized so I am better prepared in the future.
-Brick training is your friend. I needed to make it my friend. I am definitely making it my friend this year. Brick training is the part of training that I just passed by- and then paid for BIG time during the race. After 13 miles on the bike, my legs felt like jello and when I dismounted the bike they crumbled. If you brick train your legs become used to this and you can cleanly dismount the bike. Perhaps if brick training and I become friends I will cease the practice of flying into dismount knees and wrists first. Yes, I would say lesson learned.
-There is such thing as the race bug, and I caught it. Perhaps some people do one triathlon and decide it isn’t for them. I am not one of those people. Once the swim part of my tri was over I spent the majority of the rest of the race wondering what the hell had made me do this and declared many times I was never doing another race again. But then I crossed the finish line. In a matter of ten minutes I went from “I am never doing this again” to “maybe ill do a relay but never a full race” to “I bet ill be ready for an Olympic next summer”. And now here I am…with five races planned for 2009 and hopes to do a half-ironman in the summer of 2010. So yeah, I got the bug big time!
-What I knew all along and am even more clear on now is how highly motivated I am by the idea of competing against myself as well as all the other racers. The thing is…people like me don’t race to win, we race to finish. I am a firm believer that finishing IS winning (there’s that blog title redundancy). I race for the challenge. I race to stay healthy. And of course the free energy bars, free t-shirts and other free swag are nice added perks.