Just like running marathons, triathlon is something that found me. After my first race, (formerly) Livestrong Austin Marathon, I knew only one other person who had completed a race of that distance and was still very alone in my new interest. At 22, that wasn’t something on my peer group’s radar.
Friends and family began to ask me, “What’s next?” and “Round 2?” right away. I was still feeling the pains from the first and couldn’t yet imagine another 26.2 or how much running would become a part of who I am, but I did get an advertisement in my packet for Austin’s largest triathlon in the fall. I was intrigued, and I soon found out that a college classmate of mine was a triathlete. I struck up a conversation with him and found out that he was training for his second Ironman (he DNF’ed his first) and that he was a personal trainer! I felt really lucky to have stumbled upon just who I needed to pursue my new goal, and we started working out together as friends.
He and I didn’t make for good friends, but the spark was already ignited. I read Total Immersion Swimming and The Complete Triathlon Book and highlighted my heart out. I re-learned how to swim with correct form. I lived at the gym and I bought a triathlon bike.
It was the summer between my acceptance to my alma mater, University of Houston, and my first semester there. I was still in the middle of the long, drawn out process that was my divorce, I didn’t have a whole house to look after, and I was single for the first time in my adult life. I had a solid network of friends and all the time in world to commit to myself and my growth. I was in the best shape of my life.
I signed up for a sprint triathlon and then suddenly life got really busy. I was sitting on a boat an hour and a half outside of Houston when I remembered that day was the only day I could pick up my packet. What a total fail! I missed the race. But I was also falling in love with someone new, and was a week away from starting at a new university. Life was good, but I didn’t have the same time that I once had and my priorities were realigning.
I was working my butt off at school, living between the house I was renting with a friend and my now-husband’s house, taking care of my son without the help of my ex husband, and going to school full time. I was a stressed out wreck and seeing a psychologist at my university. I was gaining a lot of weight, and I let go of most of my healthy habits. I still managed to pull off my second marathon, Galveston Mardi Gras Marathon, and get second place in my [VERY] small age group, but I trained poorly and was in terrible shape.
With both of those races, my strategy was the same: sign up and figure out the details later. So, I did that again. But this time, it was with a half iron distance triathlon. In Portland, Oregon.
Just a couple of mountains
My choice in race was simple: it was on my birthday and somewhere that I had always wanted to visit.
Things I didn’t consider: MOUNTAINS. Houston is flatland. Period. By the time I figured out that the bike course elevation of this (now defunct) race was known as “the most challenging,” I may have researched a different route. The only “hill” to bike in inner city Houston is an overpass. I went over it several times, but, well, it was dangerous, and it couldn’t prepare me for what was in store.
I didn’t consider the gut-wrenching horror I’d feel in the open water. I’d swam in open water before and swam like crazy in my at-home and gym pools. I thought my technique would be second nature. Apparently, terror was second nature. The water was clear and so was my mind, but I couldn’t get my breath under control. It may have been the rush from the gun, but I was inconsolable. I backstroked.
When I set out to do the race, I didn’t think about how after a few hours of self torture, I wouldn’t have the competitive edge that usually drives me through a running race. I was tired, and I was just a couple people short from dead last. It wasn’t fun.
I’m training my butt off and I’m not giving up. And I’m not signing up until I’m in great shape, either. The next half iron distance triathlon I’d like to pursue is Ironman 70.3 Texas in April. Here’s to hoping.