Recently my husband peer pressured me into doing a triathlon at our local YMCA. I have never done a triathlon before and normally would have balked at the suggestion, but this one was a little different. It was an indoor event, so instead of having a fixed biking and running distance, we were assigned to stationary machines and given a fixed amount of time. This seemed much more manageable, because I would be able to go at my own pace and still finiaj when everyone else did. More importantly, the swim would be indoors in a chemically-treated, weed- and wildlife-free, heated pool. Few things make me squirm quite like the prospect of swimming in a giant, frigid, weedy fish toilet, even if it is only for a few minutes.
When the day arrived I found I was very nervous. What if I was the slowest person there, and everyone laughed at me? What if I was the list one out of the pool? What if I took so long on the swim that I still wasn’t done when it was time for the next group to get in the water?
Many of you may not be aware that my brother and I were on our local YMCA’s Swim Team** for a while when we were much younger. I have distinct memories of getting up at the butt-crack of dawn (when only parents of young children, farmers, and insomniacs should be expected to be awake) questioning my sanity for volunteering to plunge into a pool full of cold water for practice or drive halfway across the state for swim meets, where we would have to dive into various pools (usually also full of icy water) for competitions with other assorted children of equally questionable sanities. I can’t recall how long I lasted on the team, but it couldn’t have been more than a year or two. My brother continued to swim all through high school and even managed to set a state record or two.***
With all that in my background you might think I had this swim in the bag. I knew better. The swim for this event was 400 yards – 16 lengths of the pool. Even when I was swimming competitively, I was a sprinter; I don’t think I ever swam more than 100 yards in any event. Maybe 200 at the most.
I can hear some of you thinking “So what? It’s only a few lengths more, how hard could it be?” Right? Well, you go try it out and see what you think after you’ve done it. At first I was really pleased with my progress. Frankly, I was booking it down the lane. Halfway through my first length I was thinking I might actually finish in less than 10 minutes. Then, halfway through the 3rd lap, I remembered that I’m no ensurance athlete as all my muscles started to curse at me. Especially my arms. Those whiny bitches were still complaining even as I was doing my biking and running. In fact, four days later they are still kind of mumbling to themselves about it. Still, I am pleased to say I finished the entire 400 yards in about 12-1/2 minutes, and I was not even the last in my group to finish. Next year maybe I can do the whole thing without stopping for a few seconds every time I reached the opposite end of the pool.
After the swim we had 5 minutes to get to the bikes for the next leg. I contemplated briefly whether to pop into the locker room and change out of my suit, our just to put my running clothes on over the suit and go. Ultimately I decided that it was worth risking a late start for the comfort of having dry clothes. I actually made good time, but was late for the bike anyway because I couldn’t find them. If had been able to go to the informational meeting the previous week, I probably would have been fine because I would have known they were hiding all the bikes in the gym. If I had gone to the informational meeting, I also might have thought to buy some padded shorts beforehand, because OH MY LORD that seat was uncomfortable. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was constructed out of the finest granite in the world. I think getting spanked by a cricket bat for 25 minutes would not have hurt my ass as much as sitting on that seat, even if my late start did spare me an extra 3 minutes of torture.
There isn’t much to be said about the “run” leg. If I had trained more leading up to the event, I might have been able to keep up my usual 1 minute run/walk intervals, but I am pleased to say I didn’t walk the whole thing. My only disappointment is that when running indoors on a treadmill, you don’t get that last minute burst of energy and the moment of exhilaration when you cross the finish line. It’s just not the same to increase your speed on the treadmill and then suddenly stop. Plus there are no high-fiving kids on the sidelines to keep you running. Maybe next year I should recruit my kids to come stand im feont of the treadmills and give out high fives to the runners. Still, even though I dreaded being the slowest person there, I was glad to observe that did manage to run farther than at least one person in the event.***
When the points were all calculated, I found that I had actually placed dead last out of all the people who participated. However, as the awesome ladies in my badass Facebook exercise group pointed out, that is still nothing to sniff at. After all, I only placed last out of the people who competed; I did way better than the thousands of people who didn’t even show up that day.
I fully expected to be sore as hell the next day, but was surprised at what was affected. My butt, obviously, was top of the list; sitting down was awkward for a couple of days after the event. Two days after the triathlon I started to feel the muscles that I had used for the swim. That’s mostly faded now, but I am already thinking of ways to strengthen those muscles for next year. I may not be any kind of traditional athlete, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be prepared.
*I’m not just being self-deprecating here. There is actually a book with this title (written by a woman named Jayne Williams), which my husband read when he first started doing triathlons. I felt the title was pretty appropriate for my story, so I borrowed it.
**Golden Seals 4ever! Whoop whoop!
***Obviously we’re all proud of him. If I can’t have any of my own accomplishments to brag about, it seems only fair to brag about his. I owe him that much for never beating me up like all those big brothers on TV do to their siblings. Thanks bro!