I’m starting to worry about the triathlon a bit. I had a good conversation with a guy at the running store Sunday. Two years ago he was 402 pounds. Got winded going up one flight of stairs to pee, had to sit down and wait. Decided on the spot to make a change. Now, just a bit more than two years later, he’s run something like 12 half-marathons and a bunch of triathlons. He looked to me like he was down to about 260. He had an irrepressible attitude, and was eager to share what he’d learned. When I told him it was my first triathlon I was training for, he was gregarious, excited, encouraging, and descriptive in his advice about how to approach it.
I’m excited for my race. but I’m nervous too. I’ve read the rules over and over. I’ll probably screw them up. I don’t think I’ll be brushing up against the time limit. But I might. Especially if it’s so hot I have to walk part of the run. I never did learn to change a bike tire. If I get a flat, I’m just fucked. Could be a long walk in with a broken bike. I haven’t practiced any transitions really, but I don’t know how much I need to. I’m not aiming for speed or complexity there.
I’m wearing the same shoes for the ride and the run. Everyone, everyone, tells me I need to clip in to my pedals to go faster. I’m sure they’re right. But clipping in is a safety hazard for me. I’ve done it before. I don’t like it. I fall. I don’t want to fall and hurt myself. I’d rather be slower and less efficient. I’m not aiming for a time. I’m aiming for a finish line. I’d like to reach it without fracturing an ulna.
I’m not really thinking of this triathlon as a race. It’s an obstacle course with three obstacles. A lake, a road, and a path. I swim the first, I ride the second, I run the third. There’s no difference to me in doing the slowly or quickly. The only thing that matters is that I complete each one and reach the end. Focus on the task at hand and finish the mission I’ve set for myself. I can do that, I think, if the heat doesn’t take me down.
Two and a half years ago I wrote about just hoping I could someday finish a half-marathon without walking. Well, I did that my first try. It wasn’t fast, and it hurt. But I learned a lot about myself and what I can give when I decide to give it. But I’ve also learned where my limits are. On my trail half-marathon in May, I couldn’t run the hills in the heat and humidity. I just didn’t have the fitness or the ability to shed heat.
In a week and a half, I’ll find out if I have what it takes to be a triathlete. I’ll find out if I enjoy the event. I’ll find out if I enjoy racing alone for – probably – about four hours. I’ll see if it was worth jacking up my knee, and probably needing to take two weeks off from serious exercise when I’m done. I’ll see.
Why shouldn’t I be a triathlete? I am a soft, doughy, overweight, slow, and unathletic person. And yet I wrangled a marathon from this sad, weak body. An Olympic triathlon should be no harder. It is going to take me a long time, and it is going to be painful and exhausting. And I am going to do it. One stroke. One pedal. One step. After another. If I cannot finish, it won’t be because I didn’t give what I had to give. My training hasn’t been perfect but I think it’s been sufficient.
Tomorrow I do my last big brick: 23 miles on the bike, 10 km run. It’s going to be hot, and my only goal is to finish it in a time that will work for the race. Hopefully about 95 minutes on the bike, and 70 on the run. We’ll see what I can do.