The speakers shake as the bass and the lyrics swell over a crowd of swim caps. The air horn sounds as wave after wave of triathletes run full steam into the now choppy lake waters. My heart is pounding, nervous with anticipation.
But I was not in a wetsuit or a pair of goggles. I was wearing jeans, a v-neck t-shirt, and had a Dunkin Donuts coffee in my left hand.
Last May I went out to Clemson to support my friend as he ran his first triathlon. I was pretty proud of him when he crossed that finish line. What certainly did not cross my mind at the time was “huh, I wonder if I could do this too?”
I’ve never really been Mr. Athletic. Sure, I love sports as much as the next guy. I grew up playing hockey and basketball. I can throw a Frisbee pretty well. But my best mile time in PE Class was like 11 minutes, and even though my Dad is a cycling enthusiast, it never really caught on with me.
So I started running in the fall. I’d always been an elliptical guy; low impact, low pain. But once I ran a couple miles and realized it wasn’t as bas as my 14 year old gym class memories, it wasn’t that bad. I’d been doing a fair amount of swimming as it was; swimming had always been something I was pretty good at.
Nothing makes you train for a race like making the commitment to sign up for it. In December, my friend and I both signed up for this race again. This meant there was no backing out. To be fair, this was a “sprint triathlon” – the shortest official length of a tri: half mile swim / eleven mile bike / five kilometer run. Doesn’t sound terribly difficult to some, but if you haven’t trained at all, it’s nothing to scoff at.
Once things warmed up, I finally started riding the bike. I think my Dad was trying to hide how overjoyed he was when that day finally came. He took me on some back roads out by Lake Robinson, nothing over the top. It was enjoyable, and good training for the race. I was also introduced, after ignoring it for far too long, to the Swamp Rabbit Trail as well as Leopard Forest Coffee.
Before the race I had done all my homework: bought a tri-suit, secured too many bottles of Gatorade, and eaten a wonderful, carb-filled meal two nights before.
For some reason I wasn’t all that nervous on race day. The night before I had been conducting activities as if it were the eve of my execution.
I stood in my wave of athletes, Eminem’s rhymes echoing across the open field on the lake front. As soon as the gun sounded, I was fine.
This wasn’t all that painful. It was actually kind of . . .fun. At each transition all these people cheer for you. It doesn’t matter if they know you or not, they just yell “good job” and “keep going, you’ve got this!”
I had a pretty manageable goal for my finishing time, and I hit it handily; nothing impressive, just a personal accomplishment. But that’s the point. This was one of the rare times where I actually sucked it up and did something totally foreign to me – something altogether outside of my comfort zone. And guess what? It was a blast. My friends and I are already aimed to do another sprint triathlon later this year.
Who knows what’s next? Glad I gave it a chance, though.