Just in time for my pre-first triathlon freak out (and a busy week!) — a guest post about triathlons! Meet Katie:
I didn’t really understand what it meant for a sport to require more mental toughness than physical prowess until I did my first triathlon. At the time, I had only run 5Ks and cycled as a means of low-mileage transportation or recreation. I started a training plan which included swimming twice a week and several of the dreaded brick workouts (a brick workout is a workout in which you bike and then immediately run– it’s a quad killer). On an unseasonably cold June morning back in 2009, I was as physically prepared as I could be for the challenge set before me. This did not prevent me from being scared out of my mind.
I have now completed five triathlons, four of those being the Buffalo Triathlon as it was the host to my first race in 2009 so it has sort of a ‘soft spot’ in my heart. I am maybe less scared than I was in 2009, but the triathlon still challenges my mental toughness more than most other events. For me, part of that comes from this strange love-hate relationship I have with the triathlon.
If you asked me on any of the 364 and 1/2 days of the year that I am not running a triathlon how much I like them I would answer emphatically, “I love triathlons! I love them more than puppies or ice cream cones! They are so fun and I feel like I am in the best shape of my life when I am training for them! I should quit my job and become a professional middle-of-the-pack triathlete!”
If you were to ask me DURING the triathlon how much I like them, between a handful of colorful language I might reply with, “I hate this. This is dumb. There is an abnormal and unhealthy amount of Spandex in my environment. I am wet and cold from a choppy swim in which I was man-handled by a faster swimmer and kicked in the face by a struggling swimmer who zigged and zagged all over the lake. In transition I nearly fell over myself trying to get the dumb wetsuit off and my socks are wet. I have gone uphill on this bike course approximately 100 times, but there appear to only be 2 downhills. By the time I start running (my favorite part) I am too tired and too angry to enjoy it. I had to eat some sort of Gu or gel and I hate those, too. Just like I hate this dumb race.”
And then I cross the finish line, get a medal placed around my neck, a water put in one hand and a banana in the other and I am already thinking, “That. Was. AWESOME. I cannot wait to do the next one!”
I do not know what it is about that hour and a half of triathlon that makes me so angry and bitter. Perhaps that is the flavor of my ‘competitive edge’? I hope not. I think the triathlon is an experience that is greater than the sum of its parts. And it is so very easy to get caught up in the time– what was I doing for 10 minutes on a 0.25mi swim, knitting a sweater? Once I was able to let go of the timing and comparisons, I realized I enjoyed the event much more. Of course the run might be slower than a normal run at that distance, I had to swim and bike to the start line! Sure, I didn’t need to spend 4 minutes in transition, but a girl gets hungry and wanted a Clif Bar, not something sticky and goopy eaten out of a foil bag.
I never became a ‘triathlete.’ I still consider myself a runner, just with multisport tendencies, but I also know that each year I mark the Buffalo Triathlon on my calendar, I register within hours of opening, and I schedule and reschedule other events around that day. I am effectively, hoping to always be busy the morning of the first Sunday in June. That’s how I know, somewhere woven between the choppy swim, the uphill bike, and the seemingly grueling run, there is a shred of perfection or magic or… I don’t know what it is, but it has a tight hold on me. But I do still think there is too much Spandex.
Thanks, Katie! You can follow Katie’s blog here.