I guess when you are the easygoing middle child, you grow up being a pleaser, not being very competitive. I was never on any sports teams, did not compete in gymnastics, cheerleading, or any sports-related events as a kid. So here I was, a hard-working, respectable, just-turned-forty-six-year-old, who never considered herself athletic, lining up in my swim cap and goggles for my first triathlon. Not only that, but I had already signed up for my second one only two weeks after the first one! How did this happen?I blame my younger sister, Terri. She was the cheerleader, the marathon runner, the long distance biker, and now she was competing in a new sport: triathlon. I followed her new adventure with mild interest, not really thinking that any of her accomplishments would ever apply to me, the non-athletic, non-sports-playing, older (she never lets me forget that part!) sister. I had confined my recent exercise endeavors to the local 15K, which attracts quite a large field of all types of professional and amateur runners, and was proud of being able to run 9.3 miles without too much difficulty. But swim 1/4 mile? Bike for 10 miles? Then run? What did she think I was, crazy? Well, yes, she did. She persuaded me that I could, in fact, do all of those things, and even do them consecutively!My sister and I decided we would do my first tri together on the last weekend of July. July 28th was the date, and there was a catch to this one: The start time was 7:30 P.M. A Twilight Tri! So the bike and the run portion would take place in the fading hours of sunset rather than the scorching early Florida summer morning. Sounded great to me! And the start date gave me two extra weeks to train. Considering that I had only purchased my bike on June 20th (46th birthday present to myself), I needed all the time I could get. We did one Gulf of Mexico swim together and she pronounced me ready to become a triathlete! I promised her I would get in the pool and get on the bike, and do my bricks, and try to strength train a bit, and...well, you know, basically devote the next four weeks to training my buns off.The big day arrived all too soon, and every time someone asked if I was ready, I could only answer, "Ready or not, here I come!" I thought I would love the evening start, but it sure was hard waiting around all day for it to be time to go! We met at our mom's house where she fixed us a proper pre-race meal of roasted chicken and potatoes, then after hanging out for as long as I could stand, we finally drove to the park where the race was being held. The water looked nice and calm, which was reassuring, and we put on our caps to test it out. I suddenly had a surge of self-confidence, which I tried to hold on to as we lined up for the swim start. My heart was pounding as the air horn sounded, and we all rushed into the water.
My well crafted swim plan immediately went out the window as I simply tried not to be the last in my wave. I know, I'm not the competitive one, but I just did not want to be the last of the red caps! The water was extremely shallow at the start, and people were even standing up to run towards the first buoy! I just kept on trying to swim, breathe, and make some sort of progress. I did go fairly wide around the second buoy, and wondered if the kayakers were waiting for me to actually run into them before alerting me to get back on course! Not at moment too soon, the swim portion was over! I tried to look dignified coming out of the water, since I know how funny those pictures always are! No such luck, as it turned out.On to the bike! I went methodically through my transition so I wouldn't forget anything important, like my socks or helmet, then got onto the course. My sister was way ahead of me pretty quickly, but I pedaled my little hybrid as fast as my tired body would go. It took forever to get to the turnaround, and I was passed by pretty much the entire field, but I just kept pumping. The course was through a very pretty tidal marsh, and I actually found myself enjoying the scenery at one point!
Finally the bike portion was over, and I could get to my "specialty," the run! I jumped off of my bike, and started thinking that it would be really embarrassing if I actually threw up, which is what I feared I was about to do! I managed to not yak, and just focused on running continuously. I knew if I started to walk I may not ever start to run again, so I just ran, and ran and ran. The turnaround surely had been moved to the 2 mile mark rather than the 1.5! I waved to my sis as she passed on her way to the finish line, and that inspired me to run some more. The sun had pretty much set, and a nice, gentle rain began to fall. I put my face to the sky and soaked up all that lovely clean water, then with a smile on my face, ran to meet my sister, husband, and son, who were at the finish line cheering me on. I had done it. I wouldn't say I loved every minute of it, or even liked some of it. But I had made a plan, trained for three sports, shown up and done it! I felt like I could conquer the world after that! The icing on the cake? I placed second in my age group! I actually got a medal! My sister and I were jumping up and down like goobers, then we realized that she also was going to place in her age group (third! HA! the older sis wins!). We immediately started discussing our NEXT triathlon. Two weeks from that night! Should I rest? For how long? If I rested, then trained, would I have time to taper? Those questions could be contemplated later. That night was for celebrating. For chugging ice cold Gatorade. For hugging my pesky "little" sister who had convinced me that I could, in fact, be a triathlete!