January 29, 2007

My First Triathlon

Everyone remembers their first. Their first love, their first car, their first concert, their first baseball game, their first speeding ticket. Well, I don’t know about that last one but the list goes on and on. But how about your first triathlon? I’m sure everyone remembers that first experience. I clearly remember mine because it was a disaster.

I finally signed up after wanting to do one for years. With the courage in hand, I filled out the form and paid my $40 bucks. It was a half mile swim, 15 mile bike and a 5 mile run. A piece of cake. For the bike portion, I was going to use my Schwinn World Tour. It was a great bike. It probably weighed 40 pounds but I put a nice new gel seat on it and I was good to go. I trained hard on the bike. The run would be no problem. I had always been a good runner. And as far as the swim was concerned, I could swim. No sweat.

I joined my local Y and went to the pool to train, er, swim some laps. Looking back at my training journal, I believe I swam maybe 3 times before thinking I didn't really need to train in the swim. I remember thinking “How hard could it be to swim a ½ mile?” Well, fast forward to race day. The nerves were high but I was still full of confidence. Well, the gun sounded and we were off. The first few strokes were ok. But then suddenly fatigue set in. And it set in fast! We were less than 200 yards from shore and I was thinking “Oh, my God, I’m not going to be able to finish this race. All that training was going to go down the drain!” All that training? All that biking and running…maybe but training?

I started to swim on my side in a modified dog paddle. As I approached the first buoy, I saw out of the corner of my eye some guy standing on the shore in shallow water. His hands were on his hips, he was breathing heavy and he looked like he had just seen Jesus walk across the lake. I thought it looked like my friend Jim but I wasn’t positive. (Later, it turned out to be him after all. He was feeling the same way I was in the water and was taking a break. We still to this day have a good laugh about that!!) I swam slowly and painfully on my side for the rest of the race. As I approached the finish, both calves went into the most painful muscle cramps I have ever felt. I couldn't stand up so I sort of floated and pushed myself with my hands along the bottom of the lake until I could crawl, stand walk out of the water. Then I made the long trek to transition.

The rest of the race was uneventful. But I learned something invaluable that day: you get out what you put in. The next year, I trained a little harder in the swim and had a better race. But I still laugh at some of my training journal entries for that year:

May 6: Swim 10 Laps
May 10: Swim 14 Laps
May 12: Swim 10 Laps. Awful!
May 19: Swim 18 Laps. Best yet!

Can you imagine 18 laps being the best yet! The following year, I joined the Masters group at my Y and swam 40 laps my first time out. I couldn't believe it! At the next session, it was 46 laps, then 65, then 84. I was elated that I could swim that far! My swim time for that same triathlon that year was half of what it was just 2 years ago! I was hooked.

Anything is Possible!

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