In 2001 to a class full of cycling students at Montecito Heights Health & Racquet Club in Santa Rosa California, I remember stating:
“Triathletes are crazy! I would never do that!”
If you are unfamiliar with the sport of Triathlon, it is three parts: 1. Swimming 2. Cycling and 3. Running in one event with no breaks in between!
You may have heard of the term Ironman; an “Ironman” has completed an “Ironman” distance triathlon that is owned by the (WTC) World Triathlon Corporation. The Ironman distance triathlon is 2.4 mile open water swim followed by a 112 mile bike ride and then finished up with a full 26.2 mile marathon. All of this has to be done in under 17 hours. The World Championships for this sport are held in Kona Hawaii annually in October where the sport was born in 1974. Since its inception numerous types of Triathlons were born, including shortening the distances to make the sport more popular for the average weekend warrior, and removing the bike and run portion “off-road” with Xterra branded races.
I was fitness instructor and personal trainer since 1989, teaching group exercise was not only my job, but my sport. Swimming only consisted of jumping into the pool when I needed to cool down from sun bathing; there wasn’t a single swim cap to be found in my bag of tricks. Cycling for many years only consisted of teaching spin class. Yes, I was one of those instructors that taught cycling and didn’t even own a bike. I would occasionally go out and try to run a few miles, but never with any consistency or urgency. Never falling in love with running, it was just a quick workout. I never considered myself athletic or competitive….I had no idea how fast that was about to change…
In 2001 my father gave me his purple Hybrid bike because he had just bought some fancy Trek road bike. I thought this purple Hybrid bike was pretty cool and started to cruise around the neighborhood. Then a cycling student/friend of mine suggested I do an organized ride through the wine country. Never doing anything like this, I thought it sounded like fun. The 50 mile bike ride took the better of 4 hours and every ounce of sheer willpower to finish that damn ride! How did I know that fat tires and wide handles bars on a 30 lb. bike would be a hard ride for anyone, let alone a 50 mile ride? I have no memory of ever riding the purple Hybrid bike again.
In 2002, while pregnant with my son I decided to join a gym that had a pool to help offset the enormous amount of new weight I was carrying. Not really knowing how to swim (laps) or what proper form was, I purchased a Speedo swimsuit, goggles and swim cap and jumped in. The water felt great for the first month, but I could hardly get from one end to the other without taking a break. As the weeks went on and I got bigger, my swimming got better and could easily swim the length of the pool without resting. Soon I was being able to swim laps consistently. I remember the morning I began my 36 hours of labor, I swam a mile. I was so excited to have been able to swim such a distance while I was quite pregnant.
After the birth of JD, I wanted to get back into shape fast. So many new moms do, we take it to the streets. First, just walking with the stroller or carriage, then as soon as he was big enough to sit up in the Baby Jogger, we had our daily jog around the neighborhood or local walking path around the lake. Soon the jogging got longer and longer, faster and faster. Only to be halted by flying baby bottles and cries for more food. Jogging and actual running became a new love. A way to workout, clear my mind and feel free!
At about this point, my gym closed down it’s cycling room for remodeling. I had no idea what to do with myself…. So I returned to the pool and tried to swim some laps again. It was like starting over…. I could hardly make it to the end without feeling like I was going to drown. I promised myself to take it just one lap at a time.
When JD was a tad older and I trusted his father not to kill him when I left them alone, I went out bought a new fancy Trek bike and started to ride. First for just 20 or 30 minutes (I didn’t want to get too far from the house in case I was needed), then as I got more confident I started to ride for 45 to an hour. I remember it was fun to get up early in the morning and head out on the quiet foggy streets for a quick 60 minute ride. The funny thing is that once I started to ride a real bike my spin classes got much better & harder! I actually understood what it meant to ride a bike and what it was supposed to feel like. I was able to translate my experience into my cycling class.
Still, at this point I would never have considered doing a Triathlon… those people were crazy!
While spending time with my friend Kim Zucco, she told me about her husband Kevin training for an Ironman. (again… you gotta be crazy!) She said, “Hey! You should totally do a triathlon!” I said, “Me? No way! I can’t do that!” She went on about how the triathlons have different distances and women’s only races and how I could start off with a Duathlon (Run, Bike, Run) just to see if I liked it. I said, “I don’t think so, but thanks.”
However…. the seed was planted.
Shortly after our conversation I caved and agreed to join them for their triathlon club (North Coast Triathlon Club) Duathlon. Needless to say… I was nervous. I remember showing up with the new fancy Trek bike that I had ridden just a few times and my girlfriend’s husband the Ironman was so nice- he promptly went up to my bike, peeled off the sales price sticker and removed the reflectors, and said, “Now that is better.” and he smiled and walked away.
Everyone at that race was really nice and encouraging. I remember lining up for the run with my cycling gloves on because I wanted to save time during the “Transition” (the switch between running and riding than back again to running). My girlfriend smiled, and asked me to hand over the gloves. I wouldn’t need those today.
In my memory I am running as fast as I could and watching all of the other racers just pull away from me. I remember hearing other riders behind me (on their second lap) telling me to “hold my line”! My legs felt like bricks as I tried to run for the second time, and finally crossing that finish line thinking that was the most fun thing I had ever done!
Then I wanted to know how well I had done…. Suddenly I wasn’t happy with just finishing, I wanted to know how I compared to the other participants…. And that’s when it happened.
I had become a competitive athlete.