Anyway, as a rather unlikely candidate for multi-sport, how did I get here? Three events led me to my first venture in triathlon during the summer of 2007. First, I attended a brown bag presentation at work called “Triathlon 101”, led by a former RTB member. Honestly, I’m not sure why I went – at this point I had only dipped my toe into walk/run intervals, had only mastered the side stroke and the doggy paddle, and didn’t own a bike. The speaker was very enthusiastic but not intimidating, and made tri-sport sound like a fun challenge. That same summer I started treatment with a chiropractor for back spasms. He just happened to be a triathlon superstar and I heard all about his adventures…ok, this was sounding pretty cool! And finally, while laid up in a hotel room in Chicago with a truly miserable 24-hour flu bug, I saw a Bryant Gumbel special on triathlon’s Team Hoyt. If you haven’t heard of them, please check them out. Their story brought me to tears and inspired me beyond belief. One evening a few weeks later, my friend and I decided to sign up for a race. I can’t remember if wine was involved...maybe so. Our first step was to spend the next seven weeks trying to learn to swim – with our faces IN the water. Yea, minor details. Let’s just say I survived my first two races by flipping over and backstroking as hard as I could.
Here are just a few things that pulled me in and keep me coming back for more:
1. Fun! As a really wise team owner told me recently, “well it’s supposed to be fun so…” Sounds simple, right? If you are participating in triathlon, and not really having fun, then something needs to change. Peg the “fun meter”! If you still can’t find the fun, help someone else have fun. That’s fun too.
2. Fitness (physical and otherwise)! There are obvious physical benefits from training for three sports, which by themselves are a great incentive to stick with it. But for me, the mental benefits are just as valuable. I find training to be my best solution to managing stress. It also is one of the best antidotes for dealing with any type of bad mood, even depression. I always finish a workout with a better attitude than I started with, and I’ve experienced runners high, which is amazing (ok, runners, you’re not totally crazy). In addition, I love the mental challenges of learning the sport, setting goals and achieving them. Breaking mental barriers is enlightening. Most of our limitations are self-induced, these little boxes we put ourselves into. But we can decide to take ourselves out of those boxes too. I’m still learning this lesson and how to apply it. It’s never appropriate to say “I can’t” or “I’ll never”, unless you’ve made a decision to stay in that box. They say you have to believe it to achieve it, but sometimes you just have to say what the heck and fake it ‘til you make it. Try something new (or harder) knowing that it might not work, but that sometimes it will and you can surprise yourself.
I’m very grateful that triathlon found me. My life has been incredibly enriched, be it from the beauty of a good run outdoors, the meditation of a morning lake swim in glassy water, the exhilaration of race starts, or the satisfaction at the finish line celebrating with friends. It’s a gift I will continue to enjoy and share, hopefully for many years to come.