This post is ten miles too long. But, sometimes you blog for the rest of the world, and sometimes you blog for yourself.
When I first began babbling to friends and family about doing a triathlon *mumblemumble* years ago, most of them ignored me (per usual, since I am known for having a new passion every week) and one or two gamely entertained the idea.
My long-suffering husband has both heartily supported me and rolled his eyes at me during past fits and starts. This has been on my life list for at least six years, probably longer but unspoken. The arrival of kids, changing of life paths and so many other road blocks – mainly, not buckling down and doing it – have kept me conveniently shoving it aside and occasionally rekindling my dedication after a changing of seasons or years. I picked up some training gear here and there, ran as many as seven miles during my peak training and consoled myself when we biked 125 miles on the Katy Trail over a week in 2008 and 2009 on family vacations that it would be helpful for my someday triathlon. But let’s be honest, my M.O. for most of my life has been in sync with Cookie Monster:
And so, when I customarily bothered yet another friend about training for one together in the spring of 2012, it didn’t even stand out that her reply was “Well, I’m pregnant – but I’ll check back with you in a year.”
She did not forget.
And so, earlier this year I found myself agreeing to a six week triathlon training program culminating in the Tri for MS in Bentonville on August 31. Despite this verbal commitment, I put off registering for the program until approximately two days before it started. Then I put off thinking about it right up until the final moment.
And then, hours before our first Friday night training, I found myself in an absolute cold panic, literally quaking in my boots and nearly breaking into hives and/or convulsions as the reporting hour neared. I was reminded that this is how other people feel about public speaking, and thoughts such as “paybacks are hell” ran through my mind but were quickly ousted by complete and total terror.
En route to the first training session, I called those near and dear to me to say my final goodbyes. My sister said “Why are you just now telling me this? I would have talked you out of it. You’re insane.” I (for once) meekly agreed as I gripped my steering wheel in white-knuckled fear.
Nonetheless, I showed up feeling ridiculous in my gear and my goodslashevil friend and I greeted each other with the enthusiasm of prisoners heading into solitary confinement.
That first night, we swam 250 meters (I nearly drowned and thrashed about like a semi-beached whale), biked six miles (thank goodness, something I could do with confidence) and then stared blankly at our hosts when they suggested we run a mile before leaving. Crazy talk.
As I dragged myself back to my car and called in a pizza and hoped that my kind husband had wine poured and waiting on me (he did – he’s really good), I realized I felt something besides agony. I was super proud of myself. Granted, it was day one hour two and the distances were hardly epic nor the speeds blazing, but I did it. My goal all along had nothing to do with time – I simply want to complete a triathlon of any distance.
The training has felt shockingly good as well. Not easy and not pleasant, but good.
In typical form, as the race approached I still neglected to commit. In the third week, we did a mock super sprint triathlon to help us learn about transitions, prepping gear and so forth. Frankly, I have no idea how I thought I was going to simply train on my own to do a triathlon. The training program has been invaluable. From what to wear to how to think, I feel like we’ve had access to the absolute top professional coaches.
The Rampy MS Research Foundation folks are, to put it mildly, exceptionally inspiring and wildly encouraging. On the first training day, they told us that triathletes were by and large an incredibly supportive lot, and they repeatedly referenced the things we would learn “throughout our triathlon career.”
With words like those, I feel pretty compelled to stay on track.
These people are moving mountains. There are so many truly amazing, valid, worthy philanthropic organizations in the world – and it’s only human to feel our heartstrings pulled at each story, each life affected and each cause advanced. I may be only one person sticking a toe in the water toward a personal goal, but it is awfully rewarding to know I’m doing it alongside such champions. And by alongside, I mean hours and hours behind them – and I’m totally ok with that!
The Rampy family has been raising money to support MS research since 2004, and in 2012 the debut triathlon raised $30,000 – and doctors from UAMS came out to support the event which funded their work. Most inspiring of all, Jo Rampy – diagnosed with MS a decade ago – participated in the 2012 event. Talk about some change agents.
Social change can be as simple as the inspiration that sits across from you at the dinner table. ~ Scott Rampy, Co-Founder and President
During the trainings, I also met Aly Rutledge from Triple Threat Racing, who ran alongside me during the last portion of the run during one of the training sessions. As I schlepped along, she ran along beside me. “How do you feel?” she asked. I was pleased to find myself grinning and telling the truth when I replied “I’m good!” And she replied: “You better be good – you’re doing a triathlon right now. You should feel amazing!” And I did. You better believe I’ll be cheering for her team in the future.
While I may not be the picture of health, I knew that I could do this – even three weeks out and uncommitted to the super sprint (swim 200 meters, bike 6.6 miles, run 1.1 miles) or sprint (swim 500 meters, bike 15 miles, run 3.2 miles) distance. Best of all, my Dad agreed to join me.
He’s always shared my zest (sorry, I should say: I get my zest from him) for taking on completely insane things, so when he showed the slightest interest in this triathlon thing, I pounced.
At the end of July in Texarkana, Arkansas with the sun beating on our backs, we tackled a three mile run together. We started out gasping for breath, and suddenly a comfortable pace set in – I was stunned. I was probably being a bit overly ambitious, but I thought “Is this a runner’s high?!” I bounced along, Tigger-like, babbling at my Dad in my complete delight that We. Were. Running. Together. “Isn’t this fun?!” I squealed repeatedly. He gave me a dubious sideways glance and replied “If you consider torture fun, yes.” But it was enough. I came to terms years ago with my over-the-top delight at the smallest things. And I loved running alongside my Dad. He’s 70. I’m 36. There could be no better time to do this crazy thing together.
In some of our training sessions, I sure found myself struggling. It’s interesting how much time you have to think and wrestle with yourself. Scott’s quote is right on the nose: your inspiration may sit right across from you at the dinner table. I thought about my amazingly athletic almost-ten year old, and how I had to keep going because I would tell her to hang in there, and because I’m proud for her to know that I challenged myself way outside my comfort zone. I thought about my fantastic husband who puts up with so much from me and still cheers me on. I thought about my ridiculously obstinate, headstrong almost-three year old and channeled her, and about my Dad plugging away at this with me. I even thought about Jo Rampy, who I’ve barely met but who showed up and cheered for us at every training as Chief Encouragement Officer, and Aly Rutledge, who used her Friday night to run alongside and encourage a complete stranger.
And so, race day approached, and I waited until the final hour to fully register and select a race (such an exaggeration of the term for me). I finally realized that while I was immensely comfortable with the 15 mile bike and the 3.2 mile run, I’m simply not ready for the 500 meter swim. At least, not if I want to achieve my goal of surviving. I actually felt some kind of elation when I decided, for once in my life, to not bite off more than I could chew. I registered for the super sprint (or as I call it, the super teensy tiny baby triathlon), and I realized I’m fine with that too.
On race day, I picked up my packet and alternated between feeling complete insane, complete petrified, and absolutely shocked that no one stopped me at registration to tell me the area was for triathletes only.
Dad’s race was incredibly exhilarating to watch. He clowned around at every transition and genuinely looked like he was having fun, despite threatening to kill me for getting him involved. And because he knows me, he told me after he finished to shoot him in the left foot if he ever even mentioned doing something like this again. But man, he looked good doing it!
During our final mock training – despite my frequent assertions that I don’t care about the time, only about finishing – I was pleasantly surprised to have shaved six minutes off my first mock time. Honestly, I didn’t even want to publicly commit that I was trying my hand at this. If this is on the interwebs, though, I did it… because I set it to publish as the proverbial gun goes off on Saturday, August 31 at 6:30 p.m. It may be a tiny little baby triathlon, it may be ugly, I still look like a drowning rat throughout the swim and I run at about the pace of a meandering elephant, but it’s really fun. And I’m proud.
I did it.