Now that Marathon training is over and my body is healed and rested, it’s time to start making my way down another physically challenging road.
I have been in love with bicycles for the whole of my life. The sounds they make, the feeling of flying, powering your movement with just a few gears and a chain, all cause heart palpitations and an excitement to bubble through me that no other piece of machinery does. In August of 2015, I began running regularly and competed in my very first half marathon race in March of 2016. I’m not fast, I’m not talented, but after I discovered running, it was clear to me that I had unearthed a part of my personality that I didn’t know existed. It seemed that among all of the touchy-feely artist bullshit that clutters up my insides, there was also an athlete in there somewhere. Shocked as anyone who knows me, I bumbled around with that for a bit, tossing it in the air, quite like a cat with a near dead mouse. I would often think to myself “I’m not this kind of human, but damn it, it’s fun!” So, I strapped on all the athletic wear I could find and decided on the “fake it till you make it” approach.
I had no idea where I was trying to make it to, but, it was exciting, so I didn’t care.
On June 11, 2016, I was running through the cemetery with a very good friend, when we heard another pair of feet coming around the corner. My partner looked up, greeted the new-comer, and we all exchanged pleasantries as we made our way around the loop. Her name was “Jen”, she told me about her love of running, the early mornings and most importantly, triathlon. This word wasn’t new to my vocabulary. I’d poured over photos of friends lined up on beach fronts in wetsuits and scrambling out of transitions, but it seemed so inaccessible and far beyond what I was capable of.
Jen changed all of that with one sentence.
“I do Ironmans”.
She smiled and seemed a bit shy about it, but I remember immediately thinking, “good god, I’m in the presence of a genuine badass.”
And then: “I would also like to be a badass. How do I sign up for that?”
Sadly our loop ended, but I frantically scrambled to ask if we could keep in touch. She gave me her details and I repeated them over and over in my head so I could get them down as soon as I returned to my laptop.
And that was that. I’d decided. My triathlon and Ironman dreams had come into being. I wasn’t at all sure how to get there, but, I had a new friend that was going to show me.
She patiently held my hand through all of the first steps of training, how to get comfortable and capable in the water, taught me what a “Brick workout” is, and answered every question and worry with the patience of a saint. A few weeks passed, and we came to the conclusion that I needed to sign up for my first race. As the day grew closer, and my constant anxiety began to eat holes in my gut, I lived for the five words Jen knew how to say so, so well. “You’re going to be fine”
I was fine.
I didn’t fail, and more than anything I’d ever done, completing that course felt like I’d won. I still laugh when I remember the fact that I had to be reminded the race had an actual winner!
I was hooked.
I signed up for more events.
By June, I’d be halfway there.
After the first course I completed, I worked hard the entire winter and spring, and exactly one year from the day I’d made the quiet decision about where I was trying to make it to, I completed my first Half Ironman.
I felt incredibly grateful to be able to celebrate with Jen at the finish line and even scooped up new “Tri-friends” throughout the course of the day.
After multiple Olympic distance races this autumn (1500 meter swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run) I am still wholly in love with the sport, the training demand, and all of the fun and excitement of the race events.
I’m going to keep on.
One thing I’ve learned the “hard way” via this life experiment, is that training, and improving any skill (especially athletics) doesn’t always proceed in a straight line. I fall apart regularly, pick myself up, and trudge forward, sometimes millimeters at a time. It’s a stressful and uphill battle, but I’ve come to depend on the ritual, structure of constant training.
When it came time to decide this year’s schedule, it felt natural to press the “go” button and keep reaching.
Here’s to a long, happy, injury free training cycle. (If I’m very lucky)
Ironman Chattanooga, here I come.