When Kathy asked me to write something for the newsletter on “Why I Tri”, my first thought was “Kelli (my wife) asks me that all the time – it’s about time I figure it out!” I’m still working on it…
The easier question is “Why did I start doing triathlon?” That decision was inspired by a trip to the Overlake Hospital emergency room in December 2013. I was brought in with chest pains. The doctors quickly determined it wasn’t a heart attack – it was probably a bad case of acid reflux – but discovered I had a bunch of risk factors for coronary artery disease. I had all the classic indications of metabolic syndrome – over weight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol (the LDL/HDL ratio was also bad), and marginal blood sugars. I also had an unfortunate family history. My father had a heart attack at age 56. I was 54. The cardiologist said bluntly “if nothing changes you will have a heart attack within a decade”. I needed to lose weight and start exercising!
My go-to exercise was always running. I’d never really been a competitive runner, but I’d run most of my life for fun. In college, my friends and I would run 3 or 4 times a week and then run 10K races on the weekends. Our pre-race preparation consisted of “carbo-loading” – pizza and beer (mostly beer). Those that did the most “carbo-loading” were in for a rough race! At work I always ran with my co-workers at lunch. We’d run 6 or 8 miles while discussing a difficult problem we were having with our analysis software. That continued up until my early 40s when I hurt my knee. The knee healed but I was unsuccessful at restarting the running.
It’s not that I didn’t try to run; I just kept getting hurt a couple weeks after I started. It wasn’t major injuries but, by the time I was healed, I’d lost what little fitness I’d gained during the couple weeks of running. Eventually I stopped trying.
Now that I had to exercise again, I started searching the web for ways to run without getting hurt. The search led me to cross-training and eventually to triathlon. One post on Beginner Triathlete sticks in my mind: “If I can’t run I can bike. If I can’t bike I can swim.” Being goal oriented, I also liked the idea of training for specific events. So, Triathlon it was. I knew I could run (when I was healthy), I knew I could ride a bike (slowly), and I thought I could swim. I signed up for the Cottage Lake mini-spring triathlon in June 2014, and the Lake Meridian Sprint Triathlon in August. Now I just needed to start training!
As expected I hurt my leg running after about two weeks. A ruptured plantaris tendon limited me to run/walking the triathlons for most of my first two seasons. As advertised, the ruptured tendon didn’t keep me from biking or swimming so I was able to keep training. My bike fitness was poor, but I knew that would improve with practice. What was surprising was just how poor I was at swimming. On my first attempt I couldn’t swim the length of the pool and it took four months before I could swim the 400 yards needed for the mini-sprint triathlon in June. The open-water swim really worried me and, to a lesser extent, it still does. I’m not sure the swim is my weakest leg in terms of the overall placing in the triathlon, but it is still what causes me the most concern. I’ve always tried to attack my fears head-on, and that’s the approach I’ve taken with the open-water swim. In fact, the reason I joined Raise The Bar in 2014 was to do the Wednesday night swim practices and I’ve found the Friday Night swim races to be a great confidence builder as I’ve stepped up to long-course triathlon.
After the first season I was hooked! I did three sprints in 2014, three Oly’s and the Black Diamond half in 2015, and I’m training for the Coeur d’Alene Ironman this August. I’ve lost 40 lbs, from 185 to 145, and my metabolic tests all look great!
So, why do I continue tri-ing? Staying healthy is part of it. I feel better than I have in 20 years! It is also great stress relief.
Another part is the friends I’ve made in Raise the Bar. The team is full of great group of people and amazing athletes! Just being around people that are striving to achieve such difficult goals makes me want to do better myself.
I also thrive on chasing big goals. If I had to choose a motto it would probably be “Anything worth doing is worth doing to the extreme!” Kelli says I “don’t do anything just a little.” When I learned to fly gliders in high school, I wasn’t satisfied until I won the national championship. When I went to college, I kept going until I earned a Ph.D. I wasn’t a natural pilot, or one of the more intelligent people in my class, I was just persistent. I keep working on things, often for years, until I achieve my goals. I’m far from a gifted athlete but, for those working toward completing their first Ironman, I suspect persistence is just as important as natural talent.
Ultimately, though, I think I stick with triathlon because I love the training. Training with a group like RTB is great, but it is even great when training alone. The three sports in triathlon all have that magic that I’ve always loved about running. The rhythmic breathing and motion of your limbs, and even the discomfort, help quite the mind into an almost meditative state. The stresses of the day just fade away. I hope I can keep doing this for many years to come!
Raise the Bar
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