I started doing triathlons two years ago this summer. And I find it really interesting to note the reactions of people whenever it comes up in conversation.
Usually I hear, Wow, that’s crazy. I could never do one of those!
I hear it from runner friends, too – people who have run marathons! – so it’s not just the idea of doing exercise for a number of hours at a time.
I think it’s the swim – the idea that you have to swim with a lot of people in a place where you can’t stand up… and if you have to stop and rest, you might actually drown.
Or maybe it’s the bike; riding a bike that fast for so long, along cars with drivers who are texting or maybe just angry they have to share the road with cyclists, and if you get hit by a car, you might die.
Or maybe the idea of running after risking your life on the swim and bike is just too much.
I don’t know exactly what makes it – and me, by extension – crazy, but I can tell you this.
To me, it’s not crazy. It’s amazing and completely soul-filling.
I don’t love swimming with that many people at the start of a triathlon, but always, after a minute or two, I find my own space to swim. And then it’s just me and my breath and the (usually, anyway) cool water, and every time I roll to the side to breathe, I see trees and sky and space around me. Fish underneath me. The sun. It’s like walking a gorgeous trail, except you are buoyant and lightweight and cool.
And then, I’m out of the water and onto the bike.
When I was young, I spent most of my summer days in our backyard pool. Sometimes we’d get bored with swimming and decide to get out and ride our bikes, and I have vivid memories of jumping onto my bike, still dripping from the pool, the sun warm on my back and a cooling breeze helping dry me off – even on the hottest days.
So those first minutes on my bike are absolute joy. And then it’s the racing part; settling in and finding my cadence, bombing down the hills (hills on a triathlon bike? THE MOST FUN!), feeling the sun on my back and the wind in my face, my legs strong and powerful.
Then it’s over, and I’m off on the run.
Interestingly – since I started doing triathlon after being a runner – running is not my favorite part of the triathlon. But after a mile or so, it’s relatively easy to find a comfortable pace, and because USAT rules prohibit headphones and/or music devices, you get to chat with other runners, which passes the time. Often I end up running the same pace with someone, and we chat about upcoming races and plans and whatever else we can think of to distract ourselves from the fatigue which is inevitably there at that point.
And I am counting down the miles to the finish. 5k away, 2 miles left, one mile, let’s go. And in every triathlon, there’s a finish chute, where people are waiting and cheering, and I get a huge boost from them, and finish, and it’s over and I find my family and friends and holy shit THAT WAS THE BEST RACE EVER!!!!
Racing a triathlon is not crazy. It’s awesome and amazing and empowering and joyful and hard and so much fun.
The hardest part of triathlon, for me, is fitting in the training in my days playing Life Tetris. It’s biking on a trainer and swimming in gross pools in the winter and dealing with cold days and water in the early spring, when it’s raining and damp and muddy and PLEASE LET THE SUN COME OUT ALREADY. It’s the knowledge that the season is over in September and knowing I have 6-8 months of training inside ahead of me.
But totally worth it.
And if that makes me crazy, so be it.