This weekend is a pretty big deal for me. I’m not taking an exam, flying to a far-flung destination or giving birth, but I am competing in my first triathlon. That may not sound like anything particularly noteworthy, but I’ve been intrigued or, yep, you guessed it, tri-curious about giving one a go for years now.
Ever since taking part in a couple of half marathons and 10ks a few years ago, when my feet protested to training runs by blistering on a regular basis, I’ve thought about ways to challenge myself without injury. Fitness plays a big part in my life; it keeps me sane, challenges my body and relieves stress like nothing else. No matter how much I may not want to go to that spin class or hold that plank, I always feel better afterwards. I work out three or four times a week but training for a triathlon always sounded like too much to take on, particularly as I wasn’t a strong swimmer.
I debated the idea of triathlon for several years but it always felt too momentous, too hard to get my head around. I have a friend in San Francisco who takes part in triathlons fairly regularly and through her encouragement and a new amount of time to train, I made the decision at the end of 2017 to go for it.
I picked a local triathlon several months away (I feel sweaty just thinking about how it’s now just days away) and opted for the sprint distance – a 750 meter swim, 12.4 mile bike ride and 3.1 mile run. I began running again, monitoring weekend bike rides and swimming laps.
The swimming part of this trifecta has been harder than I ever thought it would. I got all my badges as I child, love the sea and learned to dive a few years ago, so I wasn’t expecting that, when push came to shove, I’d be freaked out as much as I was. I essentially had to relearn how to swim, taking a few classes at my local pool, then facing my fears and swimming in open water.
Swimming in open water in Northern California is a far cry from diving in the temperate, clear waters of Thailand or the Indian Ocean. When I first entered the lake the triathlon will begin in a few weeks ago, I was shocked by the cold, the vastness and the darkness. And yes, even though we were in a lake, the possibility that Jaws could appear at any moment. Along with practice swims in the Bay, these last few weeks I’ve even turned to positive visualization and affirmations to help calm my nerves.
As far as the biking and running portions of the event go, I’m feeling pretty good. I knew the challenge of training would feel satisfying, but I never thought brick workouts (one activity straight after another, in this case cycling followed immediately by running) would actually be enjoyable. I think it’s partly because I’m amazed that after cycling for 15 miles my body can still function. Several years ago I would have immediately sought solace in napping on the sofa after a ride that long; now I have more energy and even look forward to running afterwards.
So now it’s crunch time. All that remains is to see if I sink or swim…