I ran my first Triathlon last September. I shattered my goal of finishing the same day I started and raced across the finish line minutes ahead of the closest octogenarian. But as much as a rush as it was to live through the event, it was the entire process that hooked me, and one that I can’t recommend highly enough. It changed my perception of what it means to be in shape, what to eat, how to use my time efficiently, the power of positive thinking, what self confidence can actually mean, the importance of extra padding on a bike seat, and how to signal a passerby for oxygen without using words while lying on your back.
And now, about six months out from my second shot at the Westchester Tri, season two has officially begun. And for those of you who are thinking you would never consider a commitment like this, for reasons that might include – not having enough time, not being in shape (that’s why there’s a 6 month training window), not having the gear, being too old – consider my fairly unlikely position in all of this. I have a wife, 2 kids and a dog, and all the joyful responsibilities that come with that. I am rapidly approaching my 52nd birthday (holy crap!). My bike, a hybrid, is 12 years old and resembles something more akin to a wheelbarrow full of wet concrete than it does a road bike. I have a job (praise the Lord), that requires a lot of hours and a lot of travel. I am not a seasoned athlete (sounds like someone is going to rub Paprika on me) and have no training. Outside of some advice from my niece (a triathlete with Paprika), my Godson (an awesome competitive swimmer), and what I could glean from a few books (all of which I read at least through the introduction), my general m.o. was to wing it.
Saying I had no clue what I was getting into last year would be a significant understatement. I was actually surprised after I entered the event, for example, that all three events happened the same day, with not so much as a Starbucks run in between each leg. That reads a little weird. Better to say, in between the swim, the ride, and the run. At any rate, I suspected it would be fun, but I never imagined that it would become a truly life altering event, in a tremendously positive way.
So while I start to track highlights from season two (the sequel), I would enthusiastically encourage you to get involved with one of these. Seriously. If you’re still shaking your head, “no way,” consider this extremely simple formula for getting going, simple even for a practiced procrastinator.
Step 1: Do this now. Go online, find a Sprint or Olympic Tri in your area, and sign up. Do this part without thinking. (Quick, fearlessly, like removing a four inch strip of duct tape from your head.)
Step 2: Once you’ve paid the fee (usually between $75 and $200 – but you’ll get a cool shirt), immediately tell at least 5 friends , 3 family members, and several people in your office. You can play it very casually, “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m running a triathlon. No big deal, you know…” Not thinking is still a really good idea at this point.
Step 3: This step happens without your needing to do anything. It’s all grass roots. After Step 2 and before you can say “brick” (a training technique perfected during the Spanish Inquisition), a lot of people will have started talking about the Tri you’re running and will be thinking that you are two equal parts of 1) pretty cool and 2) borderline mentally unstable. It’s at this point that you will not have a face-saving way of getting out of the race. If you do, without a good excuse such as sawing off one of your limbs, they will see you as spineless. You’re all in.
Step 4: Now start thinking, but not too hard, especially if the notion of sawing off a limb resonates even just a little. To make best use of your time, think on a swim, run or bike ride.
You won’t regret it.