Triathlons: A Love-Hate Affair

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.

4 thoughts on “Triathlons: A Love-Hate Affair

  1. cassielmt

    I LOVE this. I’ve only done two tri’s and a handful of road races, but have felt the same way…and I’m always like “Where’s my banana! Are you serious? Are there no bananas?” after the race. I’ll definitely check out Katie’s blog too. 🙂

  2. Amy

    Ok, I totally skipped over the part noting that this was a guest post, and I was confused. But I’m better now.

    I’ll have to check out Katie’s blog! I love a good Spandex rant.

  3. Emily Thompson

    Agreed with this completely, except for the “I love triathalons more than ice cream” part. i don’t love anything more than ice cream except my family and goats :).


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