In the middle of the timed two-mile test I was running for the Triathlon clinic, a girl next to me asks, “So are you a mountain biker or a road biker?” Taken aback by the fact that she was able to think of anything other than the burning in her legs AND could muster up enough oxygen to utter a complete sentence, I shook myself out of my running trance and answered, “Not really either.” Then I thought to myself, ”Actually, I don’t bike, I never learned how to swim and I’ve never been a distance runner…what am I doing here!”
One week later, as the “Adaptation Phase” of our training comes to a close and we’re finally getting the hang of things, I feel much less out of my element.
You see, the beautiful thing about a multi-event sport like a triathlon is that everyone has a component they are confident with and everyone has a component they struggle with. For example, someone can be holding their own in the pool workouts, fall behind and hate the run days, but then when you see them in the spin room…they are in their element, in the zone. Personally, I come out of swim class like a drowned rat, am so-so in a bike workout, and am (to my own surprise) loving the run workouts.
For our training clinic, the group meets three times each week with the coaches. Tuesday and Friday we are in the pool and Wednesday we’re on the track for a run. The rest of the week, we bike, lift and usually do another run workout on our own. Originally I thought it odd that we never meet for our bike workouts, and instead have two swim workouts as a group.
But I soon realized that I was not the only one in the group who felt least comfortable with the swimming component of the race. In fact, the majority of our group had signed up specifically to improve their swimming comfort and ability. I may get a little old for this and it’s indeed something totally different than going on a history-targeted road trip that we recently did with the entire family, but something inside of me just tells me to go on…
So the question could be raised, “Why don’t you just stick with what you like and/or are good at?” Fair question. Personally, being pushed out of my element is helping me grow, both mentally and physically as an athlete. Every day works a different set of muscles and for the first time in my athletic journey,
I am genuinely excited to master a weak skill, that’s the harsh reality of adventure sports. Seriously, I’ve spent hours watching YouTube video after video on swimming techniques. And practicing the motions in my living room! From mastering the stroke to figuring out how to breath. And, when I start getting frustrated about not catching on as quickly as I’d like, I get a confidence boost at the run workout the next day.
And The Beat Goes On…
Week two of Triathlon training is now behind us! Our first actual training event was a swim trial, to help sort the group into “like” swimmers. Our instructors split the group of 20 into 3 tracks, Fast, Faster, and Super Fast. Although I didn’t feel like I was any of these, I chose the “faster” group since I knew how to swim, and once upon a time (nearly 20 years ago) I was on a swim team so I knew the basics. This has meaning, just like I want all of my adventures, sports activities, and travels to have some sort of meaning.
Our instructors yelled at us to do a quick down and back however we wanted… 7 people in a lane designed for 1 must have been comical to watch us bumping into each other, swimming into walls, and overall getting in each other’s way (much like a triathlon I imagine). Our instructors then told us to keep to the right, give each other a few seconds lead time and swim down one side of the lane and back the other… and do it again…
On the second lap I looked up and realized I wasn’t catching the person in front of me, and quickly realized the person behind me was about to catch me, I kicked it into high gear and by the time I got back, I was ready to be done for the day, out of breath and satisfied with my workout for the day. On no… it continued for another hour, back and forth, back and forth… I didn’t think I had it in me, but by the end I smiled, realizing I had been pushed further than I was comfortable, and I lived.
Day 2 was the running trial. We were to run a timed one or two-mile route (our choice) to establish our baseline speed (which assumedly it would get faster throughout the training). The course was a bit snowy and icy, and the air was pretty brisk (30 degrees), not exactly conditions we’d expect to be setting speed records. “GO!” was shouted and we all took off. Initially, I sped up from the pack a bit just to get away from the pack. I am NOT a runner. I told Veronica the other day, if God would have wanted me to run, he’d have given me longer legs.
But there I was, legs a kickin… I was fully intending on running the one-mile course, however, when I got to the turnaround point, no one was there. Not knowing where the turnaround point was I kept running, only to be told I was doing the full two-mile course! My goal quickly shifted from “turn in a decent one-mile time” to “try and simply run the two miles without passing out.” At about a mile I nearly fell over dead but managed to struggle on, and miraculously by 1.5 miles, I was catching a second wind and actually increasing my pace. I ended up at 16 minutes 10 seconds for the 2 miles, by far my personal best (although, I haven’t run a timed distance in probably ten years). Proud of my achievement, I walked home… while Veronica ran.