I completed a triathlon this week. Not for any other reason than to see if I could; nothing crazy, an Olympic distance. It was both a humbling experience and completely exhilarating.
Humbling? Perhaps an odd choice of words, but indeed, because though I am consistently and regularly exercising, I am not training all three of these specific exercises. The biking just about did me in. I imagine it would have been much more enjoyable and less taxing if I were able to do it outside, in the fresh air, enjoying breeze and/or downpour (as the weather goes here) to cool off. Instead, I was on a stationary bike that I did not know how to use, in a stuffy basement gym, and foolishly picked a session that would go through various parts of France thinking the scenery would help keep my mind off the distance I had yet to go. I enjoyed the part through Paris, with the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, and Eiffel Tower. Sacre Coeur, beautiful. But then it took me up into some hilly area and up and down the hills we went, the bike being smarter than me, constantly making the level more and more rigorous. I should have stuck with Ireland.
Exhilarating? Ohmigosh, I did it! I completed my third triathlon. That is SO awesome! It was a solo adventure; the race was virtual. I have to say, I missed the buzz of the transition area, and the chatter of the different participants. There’s a lot of equipment gawking, peacocking, bragging ... it‘s mostly in good fun, with a few let’s-avoid-that-person-shall-we thrown in. The last one I did, I met the most amazing woman, who spent her summers doing race after race, not because she wanted to but because her husband was a recent retiree and this was his post-retirement source of happy. She wanted to spend time with him, so ... race she did. She told me that the first summer he did them, she sat on the sidelines, but that was truly boring, so to save her sanity, she started entering too. I met a couple of father-son teams, doing the race together. I met a woman, running the race in memory of her sister, who had loved to race. She was most nervous about the swim, but figured she’d get through it somehow. If her sister could do it, she could get through it. There was a man who had his transition spot near mine who had every gadget under the sun, and he was determined to shave those extra seconds off his times. He ended up with the worst blisters ever from his shoes. All the tech in the world can’t save you from ill-fitting shoes.... or overcompensation.
I remember walking the race areas the day before with my brother-in-law, he being the veteran racer, telling me the things to watch out for, the best plan and what not to worry about. This was very different: my transition times didn’t really matter, so I laid things out in the living room as I knew I would need them, but had to take a break in the run to get the kids up, fed, and off to school.
You know, it’s the things that challenge us that teach us the most. It’s the things we aspire to do, rather than those that come easily that we will remember the most. It’s the examples we portray that set us apart from the rest. These races aren’t really about one physical test, but rather proof of our determination and will. I don’t need race marshals to tell me what I need to do; I will do it right because it would defeat the purpose of entering if I cheated myself.
Back in the spring, before everything fell apart, I had thought to do a race while on Home Leave. I had even googled a few of the locations we’d be for a longer period of time, to see what kinds of options there might be. Then COVID happened and then we did a Direct Trasnfer... fast forward to today, and a virtual race seemed like the best option. It was a completely different experience, dodging the school drop-offs and traffic during the run, swimming in the downpour, no tech attached to my body so having to rely on clocks and phones for times. All very interesting.
This time, I ran a bit more than half of the distance with my hubby. He kept trying to get to a pace that would have gotten us to the end of the run much faster, but I had to ask him to hold up. I needed to find a pace I was happy with, and one that I could keep up for the whole 10k ... and still be able to finish the swim and the bike (yes, I did things out of order). Pacing myself through the day kept me motivated because, though it was hard, it was doable. That’s part it, right? There’s no sense in challenging yourself with an impossible task; rather a task that will make you work, will make you have to dig deeper to finish, one that will teach you a lesson or two about what to try next time, that task is what I was aiming for.
You know, it can be intimidating to do any sort of race. I get that. I am not sure I would have appreciated either of my in-person triathlons had it not been for the fact that my brother-in-law was there, somewhere, doing the race with me (The first one, literally he did; the second one, he was doing it his own pace). These sorts of race atmospheres Can be really overwhelming, especially to the uninitiated. This is the perfect time, then, to try one. Why? Because there are any number of virtual options. You can do a running-only type, a triathlon of a myriad of lengths and styles. You can do one with a team, one with or without swimming, or space your race segments out over several days. If you were to search on the internet for ‘virtual triathlon’ or ‘virtual running race’, bet you’d find one to fit your preference. I think, probably, I’ll do it again. Hopefully, the next race I do, one of my kids will join me. Maybe you’ll join me? I would love the company.