The Beginner Triathlete

12/13/2016

I think this is about to be one of the periods of my life that I’ll always remember.  It’s probably going to be a lot like a short but intense relationship, except I think I’ll come out the other side feeling a lot better than I usually do at the end of a relationship.  Hopefully I will have made some new friends.  Maybe this will be the ‘tri-era’… or the ‘try-era’.
More importantly, the objective at which I must not fail is finding a new center for myself.  Even if I fail to complete the half.  Even if I do only an aquabike. Even if I don’t show up.  The most important part is pushing myself and making sure that I’m getting focused on myself.
It’s a hard time for me currently.  I’ve just relocated back to my hometown.  It’s more fun than it was when I was a kid, although the added weight of adult responsibility, a dying dog, and a disappointing social and romantic life makes things feel pretty crappy right now.  I’m not gonna lie.  I’m 30.  I’m depressed.  I drink too much.  I probably smoke too much.  I have a hard time with relationships.  It’s hard to identify with most people because I don’t like most of current pop culture.  I’m a little overweight in spite of having fantastic cardio fitness. I’m restless.  I’m unhappy with a lot of things.  I’m too practical to be bothered by some things that probably should bother me.  I think too much.
I first became interested in triathlon when I went to an olympic length event that an ex was doing.  It sounds really simplistic, and maybe it is, but I was inspired to see so many people, from ordinary to elite, just going out for the fun, for the challenge and for the satisfaction of pushing yourself to the limit.
I also love cycling, and the bikes were beautiful. It didn’t hurt that it seemed like the ratio of women-to-men was pretty darn good… much better than at the cycling events I’d been participating in.
It was also the same ex who taught me how to swim (for which I am infinitely grateful) and badgered me into joining the local US Masters Swim group.  It was there that I really learned how to swim somewhat proficiently, even though I had just 6 or 7 weeks with them.  I was never worried about the bike, and I figured I could suffer through the run.
Then I went to see another of my close friends do her Ironman in Chattanooga.  I’d already decided I wanted to do a tri by that point but I think that’s where I first really considered doing an iron distance.  As my relationship with the ex who got me swimming fell apart due to distance, another brief flame flashed with a woman who was also a first time triathlete.  I was spurred onward by her success and support, including a swim lesson that dramatically improved my speed.  But, with the influence of these three strong and powerful women bubbling inside me, I watched hundreds of people in Chattanooga achieving something that I couldn’t completely understand.  They were all doing something that each of them probably would have laughed at the IDEA of doing at one point.  I rode the bike course in Chattanooga and couldn’t help but imagine myself competing.  I watched the swim and was in awe.  I chased my friend back and forth across the marathon route yelling encouragement…  There were moments that weekend in Chattanooga where I went to be alone and have a cry because I was overwhelmed with the power of being present in all of that.
If you’re thinking about triathlon, go with a friend.  And go to the longest one you can stand.  It’s mind-blowing how inspiring it is to see someone you care about accomplish something like that.  You’ll buy in right away.  I did.
So without ever having done a triathlon, never having run more than 4 miles (and only a total of maybe 8 miles in the past year), and still not having swam more than 800 yards in one effort, I decided I was going to do a half ironman.
I figured, an ironman is truly seriously epic, and crazy.  I’m only half crazy though.  Half epic IS still epic…  And I want to be able to tell my kids their dad accomplished something badass.  No one ever because awesome without trying  Let’s do this.
As the previously mentioned flame flickers out, I settle into my new old different life here, and as my dog is in the process of being consumed by cancer, not only do I want to do something epic, and not only am I deeply inspired by these three beautiful, unique and strong women, but I NEED triathlon.  I’m about to become a loner, at 30 years old, in a city so familiar but so devoid of the kind of close friendships that I feel I need, I’m about to lose my best friend, after having moved away from most of my human friends, losing a woman I considered marrying, and subsequently being (enjoyably) torched in one of those way-too-fun-to-last late summer romances (no regrets).  I need triathlon to get me through.  I need it because I think the thing that each of those 3 women taught me, and that I learned seeing all of the participants at the events I attended, is that triathlon is inside you.  Needing triathlon, and getting through the hard parts of this transition in the pool, on the bike and pounding the pavement… it’s me needing me.  It’s me needing to find strength within me.  It’s me relying on myself.  Finding strength buried within.  Maybe triathlon will define who I am in the future.  Maybe I’ll become famous for it, or maybe I’ll someday run a triathlon shop… maybe I’ll be a coach.  Maybe I’ll just do this one and never come back… maybe I won’t even be able to start because of injury.  But for right now, triathlon means building physical, mental, and emotional strength.  It means building me. And right now, I need to build me.
This isn’t supposed to be an inspirational documentation of my work and I’m going to try to keep things anonymous if I can. I don’t want to incriminate anyone or embarrass anyone other than myself.  This is really just a place for me to put my feelings down.  Somewhere to document whatever I think needs to be written for my own mental and physical health.  If someone reads this and finds inspiration, awesome! Get out there and get after it!….. But that’s not what this is about.
This is about triathlon, for me.  So really, this is about me.
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