What the hell made me think I could do a triathlon? (Part 1)

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I’m pretty sure I shocked and surprised many Facebook friends and family when I shared my friend’s picture of us from the Marshman sprint triathlon last weekend. (She’s the one who looks like a triathlete.)

When she asked me the day before why I wanted to do this*, I said, “It’s a new way to challenge myself. I don’t really want to compete against other people; I just want to see what I can do. I never fancied myself a triathlete before.” Perhaps, I thought, there was a triathlete inside me. Something inside me was really excited to do this, even though I didn’t think I had prepared or trained enough.

* (Note: This is a special preview to a full-length article that will be included in the Epic Careering Fall Newsletter next week.  I will include: people who created the desire by inspiring me, the event chronicle, and more about why you would have NEVER thought that I would be a triathlete if you knew me in my youth) To subscribe, please fill out the form in the right column.

I didn’t even commit to doing it until the day before. I had a lot of reasons to NOT do it.

  • My bike was not a road bike. It was a “Charlie Brown” mountain bike, put together by my husband just so I had something to ride. Only 3 of the 22 speeds worked and the tires were cracking.
  • While I had been pulling about 80 lbs of kids and toys in a trailer with this bike 10 miles, it was 10 FLAT miles. Rarely did I get out on my bike alone on the road to ride the bigger hills.
  • NOT ONCE had I done a lap all summer. I swam – with my kids in the shallow end, leisurely.
  • Though I did complete my first 5K in June, and had resolved to train all summer to drop time and do another one in the fall, I had not dropped any time and went a couple weeks without running at all.
  • We were warned that triathlons were somewhat of a “contact sport,” and while I played rugby in college, I did not like the idea of full contact going 20 MPH on my bike.
  • Our health insurance coverage has been much poorer with our newer plan, and sometimes claims would get rejected for obscure reasons; if something happened to me, it could mean financial disaster.
  • It was an expense that came at an inopportune time, at the end of my husband’s “dry” work season and when pre-school tuition was due for both girls.
  • It was REALLY early in the morning. I am a night owl, NOT a morning person. Not only did I have to be there by 7 AM, but so did my family.
  • I have never combined swimming, biking or running.

I had been thinking a lot about it, in spite of these reasons NOT to do it. I trained anyway and had my husband reserve off of work for that Saturday, so that I could go to the 1st-timer orientation and do the swim clinic, and for the event on Sunday.

Last week I asked my husband if he did, indeed, have off work. He shook his head no, and I said, “Oh, well.” Then, he asked why. He remembered that the triathlon was why I was asking. Suddenly, he who would usually put work as top priority during this financial “catch up” time and resist any extraneous expenses, especially after learning that he had to replace his work truck by the end of the month, was trying to help me make it happen.

“But, I’d have to take my bikes in and see if they can get them race-ready. I may even need a new bike.”

“You deserve a new bike,” he said. I almost cried. He wanted this for me.

Then, I started to think about reasons I should believe I can do it:

  • I can run a 5K, even if it takes me 36 minutes, and the last event was only a 2 mile run.
  • I can bike 10 miles pulling a trailer with about 80 lbs.
  • I used to play RUBGY!
  • I was the MIP of my varsity softball team.
  • I am not averse to swimming in cold water, and often swim in the ocean in May and October when everyone else stays cozy and bundled up.
  • The #1 reason I should believe I can do it – I birthed 2 babies naturally (and Daisy gave me back labor for 4.5 days before making her arrival!)

So, I got a new bike. I tested it, and it actually didn’t seem to perform as well as my old bike, but I was now pulling the trailer up hills. That night I called my friend, who I had not committed to, and told her that I was IN. She said, “Wait. Back up. Before you go any further, I had actually decided this week NOT do it.” She told me about all of these “signs.” In spite of a foot infection, she had gone with some other participants to test out the bike course (12.5 miles) and thought it was crazy hard. She was most afraid of the swim portion (.25 miles.) However, when I told her I was in, she was back in. Though, because we were both very uncertain about the swim, we decided that we would do the swim clinic, where we had the opportunity to swim in the very same COLD lake water. (It was 70 degrees on race day.)

After the clinic, with the encouragement of the staff who insisted that even the experienced triathletes will be less trained for the swim, and with the reassurance that lifeguards and buoys would be available if we needed rest, we committed. And, we agreed that no negative influences or thoughts were going to enter our heads from that point forward. We were totally focused on mentally practicing the optimal performance, the knowledge that we are very powerful, strong women with a lot of resolve, and the exhilaration of crossing the finish line able to proclaim, “We are triathletes!”  We also made the agreement to stick together, for better or worse.

From the picture above, you know that we got that moment. We did it, but it was a challenge, mentally and physically. I had issues shifting gears, and “we” did not perform well comparative to the other athletes. In a way, I feel like I never really did anticipate a strong performance, and I wonder, even in spite of bike issues, if I could have resolved earlier on to keep going, even if I had to stay in a higher gear, we both would have done so much better. I wonder in general – if I had higher expectations, would we have finished sooner? Perhaps I/we will find out next year.

In the meantime, my experience reinforced for me that I need look no further than deep down inside me to know if I can do something or not. More importantly, I feel like I can better reinforce for my daughters a few very important life lessons that I hope inspire them to challenge themselves to reach their greatest potential:

  • “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
  • “We’ve been taught that if we want something, we have to go out and get it; when, in truth, we have to go within and let it out.” – Derek Rydall
  • There is NO can’t; only “I don’t know how yet.” – ME


(P.S. – Bonus pic! Here’s me singing with the above singer/songwriter, Jeffrey Gaines – another highlight of my life.)

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