A Triathlon Confession

Excuse my horrible running hair -- this is me going for breakfast after a morning run with my running buddies.

When I was a kid, I was the farthest thing from athletic.

I went to a private school where physical education was a requirement. I remember hating phys. ed., and training for the mandatory 5K that all students needed to run in order to graduate. I remember trying — and almost failing — to run my 5K in the allotted time; and feeling as if no one was available to help teach me to fall in love with physical activity.

Fast forward to last year. I was 27 years old, and my obesity had started to cause my health to deteriorate. I decided to make a lifestyle change — focusing on cardiovascular exercise rather than crash dieting, and educating myself on fitness and training.

It has been nearly two years since I started working out, and I love the new me. I remember when I started working out, when I couldn’t run more than ten minutes (or less than a mile) without needing to stop for breath. I wrote in November of last year how my blood pressure was too low and my heart rate too high, and how exercise has helped improve those metrics.

Now, my blood pressure is well within a normal range, and my resting heart rate is low enough to qualify as that of an athlete’s (~50 bpm). And just this past few months, I hit another fitness milestone: I decided (crazily, perhaps?) that I would register to run my very first triathlon.

Deciding to run a triathlon is a weird decision — training for the event consumes your life, but at the same time you are a little reticent to tell others about it. Triathlons seem intimidating to the newly initiated, and there’s so much obscure stuff that needs to be learned and practiced just to complete it. (For example, I now know more than I ever wanted to know about chamois creme).

And right around now, the insecurities also threaten to take over: What if I haven’t trained hard enough? What if I post a bad time? What if I can’t finish? What if all this is prolonged, self-induced public embarassment — am I just opening myself up to letting people laugh at how much I still can’t do?

A friend and co-worker of mine commented in response to my insecurities, “it doesn’t matter how you do in the triathlon. Three years ago, no one would have guessed you would be running a race. It doesn’t matter what happens in your race, it only matters that you tried. That‘s an accomplishment.”

I really can’t argue with that logic. Three years ago today, I was more than fifty pounds heavier, several dress sizes larger, and I could barely walk (let alone run) for more than a few minutes. The fact that I’ve even changed my life enough to voluntarily run a race should be enough to make me — and others — proud.

So, with that in mind, I’m outing myself: as of today, it is seven days until I will run my very first, sprint-distance triathlon. The race involves three events: an 800 yard swim, a 12 mile bike, and a 3 mile run. 

And my friend is right — in seeing how far I’ve come in deciding to get more fit, in retrospect, I’m amazed that I’m even giving this a shot. I’m amazed that I’ve discovered a love for the cross-training associated with triathlons, and perhaps I will even discover an ongoing love for running tris. I’m amazed that in just two short years, I’ve taken so much control over my health and my life. And, I’m amazed I didn’t decide to do this sooner.

I wrote something last year that remains true today: deciding to get in shape was the best choice I ever made for myself. I promise I’ll keep you posted about my tri!

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