Just a year ago, I was coming off a high from completing my first marathon and was already preparing for my second. The idea to train in 6 months for my first marathon had stemmed, like so many other people, from a huge shift in my personal life – yep, a breakup. I had been through a year of pain and confusion over where to go from here, and had even struggled through depression, to somehow make it out on the other side with a strong desire to move forward with my life and a craving for a fresh start. The sting from feeling alone began to dissolve as I put my energy into running, and my transformation from a non-runner to a marathoner mirrored the personal transformation that came with overcoming the toughest point in my life so far.
When I completed my first marathon in Louisville and immediately began training for San Francisco, I decided on a whim to swim in a lap pool for the first time to loosen up a little. Some people were doing a workout together, laughing and acting crazy between sets. One of them introduced himself and started asking about whether I swam often, what else I did to work out, what my story was, etc. He said that he could teach me some swim technique (I obviously needed help), and he encouraged me to come to the pool and swim with them regularly.
That first meeting quickly turned into my induction into this small, welcoming group of talented triathletes and downright awesome people. Before I knew it, I had agreed to tag along to the Kansas 70.3, where a few of them would race. I planned to just support and take pictures, and I ended up falling in love with triathlon right there – before I had even ridden a bike or swam in open water – because of the overwhelming sense of positivity. It was larger-than-life and bubbling with excitement, determination, encouragement, support, struggle, perseverance and triumph. I had to be part of this.
After buying a road bike, and with some swim lessons under my belt, I was fully integrated into this group’s world of training, hanging out and, most importantly, supporting each other. They cheered me on when I ran 2 more marathons, and they challenged me in my training to get me ready for triathlon. Several of us went on a trip to Ironman Florida to root on a couple of our friends who were racing. We all decided to volunteer at the event so we could register to compete ourselves in 2011. Watching and helping those athletes was one of the most moving experiences of my life, and even though I had still not done my first triathlon, I had no doubts or reservations about signing up to do a full Ironman the very next year.
I’m now less than 16 weeks out from Ironman Florida. It’s scary and exciting at the same time, but that same group (which has grown tremendously since) has grown me leaps and bounds as an athlete and as a human being. The fact that I’ve now done a few tri’s helps with my readiness, but the biggest contributor to any success I’ll have is those people. It’s funny that I came into all of “this stuff” in large part because I needed to find something that I could do with my newly-found alone time – something I could do for me. But as it turns out, triathlon is anything but an individual sport. Triathlon connects you on a deep level to those you support, and those who support you. I don’t know what the future holds for my racing – maybe I’ll do shorter distances, maybe I’ll focus on marathons, maybe I’ll return to Ironman – but I know I’m hooked on this sport and the people that come along with it.
If someone were to ask for my two cents on if/how they should get into triathlon, my advice would be simple – jump in with both feet! You’ll likely experience some challenges and pain along the way, but the reward that comes with the growth, accomplishments and relationships you’ll build will be well worth your time and effort. In this sport, you’re never in it alone.
Have a story to share about how triathlon has changed your life?