Here’s What Happens Before the Race Begins – Part 1

I’m not gonna lie.

I have always exercised.

Now, I’m not saying this to gloat, or brag, or preach, but to lay a foundation.

Growing up, I had two older brothers who were into sports, and my mom and dad encouraged and supported our physical activity from an early age.

So since childhood – and at different times and in different chapters of my life – I’ve been a runner, a swimmer, a tennis player, a bicyclist, a yogini, a gym regular, and a hiker.

As I’ve gotten older, I have gravitated towards activities that I perceive as easier and perhaps gentler on the body. Consequently, over the past couple of years, my primary forms of movement have been swimming and walking.

A far cry from my movement of yesteryear.

I gave up my gym membership a year and a half ago, and I do not miss it at all. My body does not want to do regimented lifting, pressing, or spinning – or anything, for that matter – amidst a crowd of other sweaty individuals.

Workout machine in gym
This wasn’t the workout I felt my body needed at this point in my life. Photo: Victor Freitas

And let me be clear.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

It’s just not for me, right now.

So I found myself in a kind of exercise “bardo.” In a rut, moving only because I had to, out of worn and familiar habit. I was tired of my swimming and walking regimen. I was bored.

Then, about four months ago, something clicked.

I made a decision.

I decided to train for and complete a sprint triathlon.

Suddenly, I wanted to challenge myself in a whole new way. Completing a triathlon was a long-held and deferred goal that I was now ready for.  And, for a variety of reasons, I needed.

And so the preparations began.

With a search on the Internet, I chose the race I would train for: a sprint triathlon at the Oakland Triathlon Festival in mid-August. A 0.6-mile swim, 13-mile bike ride, and a 3.1-mile run, all around the Jack London Square area of Oakland, CA.

A friend of mine who moonlights in triathlon coaching prepared a 10-week training schedule for me, which provided much-needed structure and guidance to my training workouts.

Triathlon Training Schedule
“Peak Phase” Triathlon Training Schedule

I bought a Fitbit.

I bought new running shoes. Truth be told, I hadn’t owned a pair of official running shoes in many years.

I purchased a triathlon suit on Amazon.

I tuned up my dusty bike with flat tires.

Bike tires lined up
My bike needed a bit of an overhaul before the Triathlon. Photo: Daniel Llorente

With every action of preparation I took, the more confident, focused, and committed I became.

Dropping $200 to enter the race and another $400 or so on equipment and accessories will do that to you.

My biggest challenge? The running.

I hate running. I find it boring and uncomfortable. It feels like a very unnatural way to move my body.

But, hey, that’s me.

After not having run in many years, I distinctly remember how I felt during and after my first training run around Lake Merritt.

Running next to water made triathlon training a bit easier.
Running next to water made triathlon training a bit easier. Photo: Filip Mroz

Horrible.

I was super sore for four days. So much so that for a brief moment, I thought I would bail on the race because of the running. I was so resistant to the idea of running.

How had I done it all those years ago?

And yet…

A voice inside me said, “Feel the pain, and keep going.”

So with my written training schedule in hand – like Dumbo’s feather – I adhered to the training rotation of swimming, biking, and running my friend had laid out.

And with repetition and perseverance, the running got easier.

Barely.

The truth is, the running never stopped hurting, never stopped being a challenge.

But I kept doing it. And as I kept doing it, I actually came to like it more and more. Because with every run I completed, I felt a great sense of accomplishment.

I trained six days of every week – sometimes seven – through May, June, and July.

As training progressed, I felt more confident, stronger, more determined, and empowered. Amazingly enough, I was consistently running 10-minute miles, and my swims and bike rides were solid.

Open water swimming
Open water swimming Photo: Jorge Romero

There is more to the story, which will be told in my next post. But don’t worry, you won’t have to wait too long.

Stay tuned…

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