Friday, September 25, 2009

Thoughts on the Tri

I have been wanting to get into words on "paper" about what the triathlon was like.

I don't know if I can even come close in one sitting, let alone a few days of tyring to work it out. But I will give it a go and see what happens. (note: it took nearly two weeks)

It is actually a ten-year journey getting to the triathlon this past July.

In 1999 I watched an iron man event in Hawaii (on TV) and became mildly obsessed. I searched the web, found training plans, a "tri-a-tri" event nearby and went for it.

At the time I was already active, teaching 3 aerobics classes per week, and I thought that adding biking and running wouldn't really be that big of a deal. I recruited my sister-in-law to ride with me and I took on running on my own. I'm still not good at running, but I try. Running has been the most work. Finding a rhythm and sticking it out when the cramps start. I remember the first time I ran through a cramp and the feeling afterwards.

I didn't worry about the swimming, I don't have any water fears and I didn't think I was a sucky swimmer. Truthfully, I had no idea what kind of a swimmer I was. Fast, slow, no idea. I've never competed in anything before so I didn't even have any measure of what kind of an "athlete" I was. Or if I was an athlete at all. As I checked my stats for the individual disciplines I find that I don't suck as a swimmer, I placed 7th overall in my age group of 46 participants. (And that was in really crappy water conditions, too.)

About 6 weeks before the race I went mountain biking, crashed, and broke my collar bone in half, and cracked my shoulder blade. Needless to say, I didn't get to race. It also caused a halt in my teaching. I resumed teaching late that summer and then in November that year I got a new job. With the job came a screwy schedule, less access to working out (it wasn't part of my job anymore) and a desire, but disinterest in working out. I continued to think about a triathlon, even wanted to train again, but never got around to it.

Then I had a kid. Then the organization I worked for reorganized. Then I had another kid. Although I continued to think about it, I never got back into the groove of working out regularly or training.

Until this past year. I wouldn't say I was working out "regularly" but I did get back into working out. It's on-again, off-again, but I am doing it. So I figured I could do run/bikes/swim workouts and maybe do a triathlon.

In the past 5-7 years there have been triathlons in my area. I have watched some of them be very successful and others fail miserably. The past 2 or 3 years the Chelan Man Multi-sport event has taken off. I mentioned it to one of my work-girls that I run around with, JP, and she was all over it! "Lets do it, when do we register, what do we do, here's some books I got at the library." She caught the bug bad and it was contagious. So we signed up. She/we attempted to recruit several of our co-workers, but they didn't bite. There are a few on board for next year though!

We tried to workout together, but only managed a few swims and a run due to our totally opposite schedules, but we encouraged each other in our individual pursuits and agreed to run our own race in the end - meaning we'd look out for each other, but it wasn't about doing the race together, and it didn't matter who "won" it was about finishing. And we did finish!

I must say that finishing was kind of anti-climactic. I don't know if I can describe it. I swam, went through the transition to bike, met up with JP and started up the hill. We rode a bit together and then split off. I passed her on the way back we gave each other a "you go girl" and I continued back to the transition to the run. The transitions are interesting places. All the racers go to a central location to get their next set of gear. There are a few people around, mostly racers, just minding their own business getting ready for the next leg of the race. I changed my hat and headed out on my run. Again, I passed JP and we exchanged another "you go girl" and I headed for the finish line.

Once across the finish line I guess I felt kind of lost. Here I was at the end, a nice group of race people cheered me through, but then what? Nothing. That was the anti-climactic part. No one was there to congratulate me. I'm not whining. That's just the part, as I look back, that was the most disappointing. I changed my shoes, and went to wait for JP. Lucky for me, I knew the deputies at the road block so I just stood around chatting with them while waiting for her. We ran the last part of her race together, I cut around the finish line so she could have her own finish.

We wandered around the park afterward and then got our gear and headed home. My friend Pauly describes the day after really well, he says "it was just like a really hard workout." Exactly. Finishing was kind of like that too. I feel great about pushing myself and doing the race, fully intend to do another one or two next summer. But I don't know what to do about the finish line dilemma. I guess my ego needs a cheering section. Shame on her!

There's more. There's the part where I had to run and ride without music. They don't allow iPod's and the like during the race. (Sheesh, just because part of it is on the highway...) That meant I had to focus on something else, the scenery, the road, the person ahead of me - varoom, I mean behind me! The Lake, the lines in the road, the terrain, my breathing. Very different than my workouts.

There's the day we went to the Lake to swim for the first time in the open water. It was the most exhilarating thing ever. The feeling I had when I was done was, literally, something I could feel on my skin. It was tingly like I've never experienced before. Sort of like when you play outside in the snow and then come into the house where its warm and your fingers tingle, only it was all over. My arms, my legs, my face, back and feet. For hours.

Seeing the sand and rocks at the bottom of the lake instead of the lines on the bottom of a pool, seeing trees when I took a breath instead of concrete or a buoy line was a really wicked experience. Breathtaking. Being a part of someone's break through. Honoring.

For me, its a whole-life experience. I wonder if that makes sense to anyone else? 10 years is a long time to chase a dream. Even a little one - seriously, what's two hours of my life? But it continues to slowly change my world view and my self view. It's one of those things I can say I did. A dream I had, that I followed through and had success at. Finishing was my goal. I succeeded. I need a few (more) of those stories.

It challenges me to try other things that are scary or absurd-sounding - I had one person say to me "What? A triathlon, I never thought of you as the athletic type" neither did I. Just goes to show you :) I learned about another person's triathlon experience I never would have known about. I had others say "Wow, I have always wanted to do one of those." Those are the ones we are recruiting for next year! And I had a super supportive husband "Babe, you need to get up and ride today. ... What day are you running this week? ... You swimming tomorrow morning?" My Honey was very good to me.

All-in-all it was a great experience, but race day is only a small, almost the smallest part, of it. It's the getting there that is really the part that keeps popping up in my mind I guess. The process. The path. The struggle. That part.

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