It’s about that time.
Most days, the weather is above 60 degrees in Chicago. My bikes are up from the storage unit, standing at attention in my hallway, and my bathing suit has already seen action this season. The wetsuit still sits on the shelf in my second bedroom, all stored from the last time I pulled it, kicking and screaming, over my fat calves.
It’s time to swim, and bike, and run, and generally act like a big kid with a daily homework assignment to work out and have fun outside. Really, what’s NOT to like about this idea?
People say to me ALL the time, “You’re a triathlete? Really? That’s INCREDIBLE!” Or: “How do you do it? It’s so hard!” And I “aw shucks” them, and secretly laugh. Because training for triathlons is SO much easier for me than running, it’s not even funny – roughly the equivalent of deciding between chocolate chip cookies and Fiber One. You can guess which one is Fiber One in this scenario.
Why? Well, it’s this little thing called gravity. Though I never actually took Physics class, I do know that Mass has a lot to do with how quickly things move – and as a High Mass Individual, when the wheels of gravity are not greased by water – or – well – wheels – well, it’s just not very easy.
Hence, triathlon season. It started for me a long time ago, and has always been the way in which I lose weight, or just get fit. But this summer is going to be different. This summer, I’m job free (at least, so far). So I should have LOTS of time to train. Conversely, I’m also at my heaviest weight ever, but that’s okay – just means I’ll have better results on the scale…or just get a chance to test the weight limits on my bike tires. Either way, I’m sure that it’s going to be a good summer because I’ve got reinforcements – and a plan!
Following my own rules, I’ve convinced two of my friends, Lisa and Val, to sign up for two races with me this summer. We’ve also joined a training group, which meets twice per week (those good coaches I love at Chicago Endurance Sports got me to the finish line of the Chicago Olympic Distance Triathlon in 2003, and we’re going to do it again this year!) And I’ve actually signed up for the two races (Lifetime Fitness Sprint in Minneapolis, July 11; and the Chicago Triathlon (Olympic) in late August.)
Am I scared? No, I’m not. I know that I can swim for .75 mile, bike for 26, and run a 10k. But I am intimidated by the amount of work required to do this. And yet, I know it’s something I absolutely love – so that makes it easier.
Am I excited? Yes. There is nothing more hopeful, more fulfilling, more joyful, than crossing the finish line of a race you never thought you were capable of. The last time I crossed the Chicago Olympic finish line, I cried like a baby. This time, I want to cross it slightly smaller than I am now, much stronger, and watch my friends do the same.
If you’ve ever considered doing something like this, but are worried about your size, your stamina, your fortitude, or your anything else, let me just tell you this: You Can Do This. Trust me. I completed my first triathlon weighing well over 200 pounds; and I’m still weighing in on the Big Bus this summer. If I can do it, so can you.
You’re wondering, now, aren’t you. What will it take? Allow me to explain:
A Sprint Triathlon is the typical “short distance” triathlon. It’s a 1/4 mile swim, a 12 mile bike, and a 5k (3.1 mile) run. At my heaviest weight, this has taken me just over 2 hours to accomplish.
An Olympic Triathlon is named so because it’s the “Olympic” distance – the one real Olympians run every 4 years. It’s a 3/4 mile swim, a 26 mile bike, and a 10k (6.2 mile) run.
If you’ve never done one before, there are a lot of Sprint races, all across the country. I’d start there. The USA Triathlon website has a list of the races held across the country, or you can search for a local triathlon club near you who can also help you find some…
So how does it work? Well, first you swim, then you bike, then you run. Worried about finishing? Don’t. There are great 12 to 16 week training schedules out there that you can use to get started (check Trinewbies.com (my first training program) for examples).
Other questions I’ve heard over time:
How long does it take to do the swim? Can I stop and get help? Are there lifeguards? What about swimmies? Can I wear swimmies?
Deep breaths here. Okay, I’m a slow swimmer, but steady, and my swim time is generally around 20 minutes. Yes, you can stop and get help, especially in the Danskin or Trek series starter races (where “swim angels” swim near you with noodles to hang onto when you get tired). Yes, there are always lifeguards. And no, swimmies aren’t allowed – but wetsuits are, and they’re the adult version of swimmies (they have a built in flotation shtuff in them, in addition to keeping you warm).
Can I ride my old/hybrid/mountain/craptastic bike?
I’m not kidding when I say I’ve seen everything from Huffy Bikes with everything but training wheels to road bikes which first took the road in 1988. So bring whatever bike you have and get out there.
How the heck do I run after all that? Can I walk? Will people mock me?
There is no shame in walking on the run. You can try to run, but running may not be possible after the swim, and bike, so just do what you can. I once started a 10k run at the end of a triathlon running a 4/2 interval (four minutes running, two minutes walking) and ended up running one minute and walking two, for 45 minutes. Hey, it was hot, and I was tired. And I finished! And no, I’ve never been mocked for walking – not once. It’s actually pretty common, regardless of your size.
More questions to come this season – for now, just pray I can find some shorts to swim, bike and run in. As soon as I do, I’ll drop a post on tri clothing for big girls…
For now, it’s off to the path…