Triathlete---one simple word that means so many things to so many different people. For me, it meant combining two sports that I loved with one that I HATED.
Ok...I'm no gazelle. I'm 6'4" and around 230 pounds. I'd like to say it's all muscle (insert Tim Taylor grunts here)....but I'd just be lying to you and myself. I've never, ever, liked running. Growing up, I played baseball, basketball, and swam. I'd run all day as long as it was part of a sport, but don't even think about asking me to go for a jog. I've felt that way about running for as long as I can remember.
I'm sitting here writing this trying to remember if I ever went jogging--and could only come up with one brief period in college. Guys, you'll understand....It involved long treks across campus during winter to run in a super-heated gym with a super-heated co-ed. Amazing what a sports bra and a nice pair of legs can do for the old manly motivation, huh?
That's probably the way my life would have stayed if not for one incredibly powerful word--CANCER. During the late spring of 2004, I had a cold that wouldn't go away. It got worse and I finally went to the doctor. Nobody could figure out what was wrong with me. Between mid-June and early August, I lost nearly 40 pounds.
After blood tests and more CT Scans than you can imagine, I finally ended up in the office of a hematologist. Six weeks, two minor surgeries, and one major surgery later, I was finally diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. To finally diagnose me, they cut me from my ribs just below my armpit around to the back of my shoulder blade and had to deflate my right lung. Between the surgery itself and the 8 months (16 treatments) of chemo that followed, my lungs were pretty much shot.
This past January, I decided that it was time to do something about the horrible state my lungs were in. I started going twice a week to spin classes and took up swimming again. Over the next two months, I saw huge gains in my fitness and my lung capacity. Sometime during March I had the inspiration to take on a triathlon. I'm still not sure where that came from. I had always liked biking and swimming, but I really didn't see myself ever being a runner.I wasn't really sure how to start, so I just followed Bill Murray's advice in "What About Bob?" I took baby steps. I started with the always popular run/walk workout on the treadmill. Then, I found a local 3k race. I wasn't sure I was ready for it, but I gave it a shot anyway. I ended up doing better than I expected. Over the next few months, I increased my mileage, but still kept avoiding running whenever possible. My first sprint was in July. Towards the end of June, I finally realized that I couldn't put it off any longer and got serious. Of course, I hated every minute of it...I never stretched, and generally had a crappy attitude about the whole thing.
I LOVED my first sprint, learned a ton of lessons, and immediately signed up for another event. My second sprint was in September in Hilton Head, SC. I came in just under my time goal for the event, but realized that my right hip was really bothering me. I had been considering another event eight days later, but I decided that might not be the best idea. So I took a month off from running.
About a month ago, I got back on the treadmill and started again--this time, with slower increases in mileage and adding lots of stretching. I really hadn't noticed a change in my attitude about running, although I did vaguely feel like I had been missing something during my time off. Then, two weeks ago, I was working (I'm a paramedic) on a beautiful, sunny 75 degree day. Yes, we have those in late November here! I was standing outside of the station and suddenly found myself wishing I had my Asics with me. I was totally wasting time that I could have been out running. It suddenly hit me how much had changed in my life over not just the past two years, but particularly over the past eight months.
I still don't consider myself a runner--and don't know that I ever will. But suddenly, I'm the annoying guy in the office who tries to get everyone else to sign up for a 5k. I'm sending out a weekly email updating my coworkers on upcoming events and harassing people about going for a run. I've even recruited about six people to start training for a sprint here in March. I'm counting the days till the ‘07 Race Schedule goes up here in North Carolina. I never thought I would have the interest or the ability to do races beyond a sprint, but suddenly I'm planning on two Olympics, and possibly even a HIM this year. I'm not sure if it's the oxygen deprivation from the swimming or the endorphins from the running, but I suddenly enjoy my time running.
See you out there at an event soon...
Staying ahead of at least SOME of the QCTC Crowd.