Since the temperatures are cooling off, now is the perfect time to fall into fitness. If only it were that easy. Fitness takes dedication and commitment. I’d say most people want to be fit, although they might not admit it. I want to be fit and I want to look fit. If I’m going to bust my butt (or arms or abs) in the gym, I want it to show. **Flexes bicep**
I recently got back on my mountain bike after a long absence, so I’ve been reflecting on some the fitness crazes I’ve tried over the years. In most cases, one sport lead to another and that is how I got to where I am today: at my desk, eating almonds, chasing them with water, and feeling my back muscles every time I move. Guess what I worked out yesterday?
I don’t know many people who got into triathlons without having first been into one of the three sports. For me, I was a runner first. I got into running because my friend who attended the Naval Academy ran the Marine Corps Marathon. He told me he ran so long he got hungry and ate a peanut butter sandwich while he ran. For some reason, that sounded like a fun adventure, so I set out to do it.
Crossing the Finish Line and Showing Off My Medal: Marine Corps Marathon 1999
While marathon training, I developed Achilles tendonitis and later Chondromalacia Patella (Runner’s knee). In order to cross train and maintain my fitness level while I healed, I started swimming and cycling. This naturally led to racing triathlons. I never attempted an Ironman, just didn’t have it in me, but I ran several sprint distance races: a half mile swim, a 12.4 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile (5k) run.
In one race, I made a friend on the run. I was twenty-five and she was fifty and fit. I told her I wanted to be fit when I was fifty, to which she responded, “I’ll race you to the finish line.”
It was a photo finish. I barely beat her and I had a bloody heel for my trouble.
The swim on that one was memorable because I thought I might asphyxiate on the exhaust fumes from the jet skis. They were on stand-by to pull out the unconscious victims who got kicked in the head during the melee of the swim start. (Only a slight exaggeration.)
At another race, the swim was in a lake and there had been a drought. Many people walked the swim course because it was so shallow. You don’t want to know the dirt and grass that landed in my suit by the time that was over.
Of the three disciplines, cycling became my favorite. (I’ll tell you more about that in the next few weeks.) Swimming became my least favorite, not only due to the aforementioned issues, but some critters in the water aren’t very friendly.
On a clear, hot morning in July, while swimming with a dozen or so triathlon trainees in the Gulf of Mexico, someone yelled, “Shark!”
My husband was on shore and when I looked up, he and the dozen or so people in his heat were pointing to where the shark was. Those of us in the water started hauling booty. You don’t have to be the fastest swimmer, you just don’t want to be the slowest.
The man in front of me stood when he could reach the bottom and started walking out of chest deep water. My instincts told me it’d be faster to swim out, so that’s what I did. By that time, a lifeguard was knee deep in the water with a red rescue tube. He kept slapping the water trying to get the shark to turn around and swim away from us.
I was later told that the four to five foot bull shark got trapped in the shallow water between our group and a guy playing with his metal detector further down the beach. I’m glad I didn’t come face to face (or teeth to limbs) with a trapped shark. Thankfully, no one did that day.
That was the end of my triathlon phase. My husband thought I was overreacting and tried to reassure me I was safe in the water. He grew up wind-surfing those waters and told me how many sharks were out there, so close to the swimmers, and the swimmers never knew they were there. His point was that they don’t typically attack humans, but I remain unconvinced. Nice try, babe!
It wasn’t just the shark that propelled me to move on to another sport. There were other contributing factors (life events) which will just sound like excuses, so I won’t go there. I’m glad for the experience. Not everyone can say they’ve run a triathlon. I never won a race, but that was never the goal for me. Crossing the finish line, not on a stretcher, was.
One of my favorite quotes is from a runner, John “ThePenguin” Bingham: “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”
Both were a miracle for me, but maybe not for some of the famous folks you might know who Tri (or have Tried): Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey, Teri Hatcher, Mario Lopez, and Ryan Kwanten.
Have you ever accomplished an athletic feat you’re proud of? Do you hope to some day?
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