Five years ago, I inadvertently found a wonderful new way of life. It was called "Triathlon."
Some of you may be familiar with stories like this. There I was, a first-rate couch potato, mid-40’s, overweight, lazy, generally depressed, an avid sports watcher. One day a few well-meaning colleagues mentioned that they had enrolled in a “Novice Triathlon” training course and were seeking others to join in. I nearly fell off my chair in laughter – me? A triathlete? I hadn’t swam a lap of the pool since I was five. I hadn’t done a training run for twenty years. I didn’t own a bike. But I certainly wished them well!
On a typical workday evening that very week, there I was ensconced in front of the television, chilli cashew nut dip in one hand and red wine in the other. An article on a current affairs show here in Australia then appeared in front of me, discussing an epidemic of diabetes in middle-aged Australian men. A couple of dreadful examples filled the screen – double chins, beltlines somewhere beneath an overwhelming stomach flab - describing the shock of discovering that diabetes was the cause of their malaise. It was a serendipitous moment for me as one of them described the symptoms and I mentally starting ticking off the same list. By the end of the story, the dip had returned to the refrigerator and the wine glass was...empty!
Needless to say, I did join that group in the novice triathlon program (with Canberra Bilbys Triathlon Club). By the end of the seven week program I had never been fitter or felt better, although I was second last in the first race, I couldn’t care less. My outlook was more positive than since I was a teenager and I also had a raft of new friends, most of whom remain so.
Over the following year I progressed through a range of events although the Olympic distance remains my longest race. Unfortunately in 2009 I suffered a significant back injury that sidelined me for almost two years, and managed to tear a knee ligament while attempting a comeback in 2011. 2012 had many of life’s non-physical issues arise and so I look to 2013 as my ‘Lazarus’ year for triathlon training and competing.
So that’s the background. During those lost three years I took on other aspects of triathlon including technical official and then Race Director. This summer I have already found myself running events but fervently wishing I was racing instead, even though my attempt to check-measure the warm-up swim course of 450m at one event proved there is a need for training first!
On January 1st, I hit the pool for my first training session there in two years. The less said about that, the better. My next session was just as bad, but I’m happy to report that the third one only started badly. The first 300m of a planned 1k swim had me seriously questioning my resolve, but as had been my discovery a few years back, 300m is about the tipping point for where my technique and breathing start to come together. I lost count of laps between 800 and 1000m and so kept going just to make sure I reached my distance goal (sound familiar?) and simply because I felt so good. When I checked my watch at the end I had done 1600m and felt like yelling to everyone around me!
To be frank, although swimming is my worst discipline, the cycling and running are proving more difficult to get back into as we’ve experienced a heatwave in Canberra over the past few weeks. Running in 37 degrees isn’t fun no matter where it is, whether Celsius or Fahrenheit! (Ours is Celsius…equivalent to 98.6F) But once again, I love how I feel during and after training which is a good omen, I still have the old pre-training “Will I or won’t I?” conflicts which will hopefully go away soon. My goals are to do two half ironman/long distance events this year and a full ironman next year...the issue there being that I’ve never run a marathon. I also really want to do the the Alpe du Huez long distance race in 2014, it just looks so enticing to include that famous TDF stage in a triathlon and who wouldn't want to ride it if we could?
Does anyone have a similar tale to tell? We would love to hear them, particularly what issues you faced both physically and psychologically.