Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm Not Even Sure I AM a Triathlete.

What makes someone a triathlete? Is it the training, or the competing?

If it's the competing part, I have to say that I am not a triathlete. I first started triathlon training in January 2009, on the recommendation of the book Run Less, Run Faster, in an attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon. At that time, I was already a semi-experienced runner but could barely make it through one length of the pool without stopping to catch my breath. Also, my bike was a Specialized hybrid that was nice enough for cruising around town, but definitely not something you would want to "train" on. I followed that training schedule for one marathon training cycle, and was so pleased with the results that I have been following it or variations of it ever since. But now, almost two years from the time I started tri training, I still haven't entered a competition of any kind.

I always have an excuse. For a long time, it was that I didn't have a good bike. Yes, I know that people compete on all kinds of bikes, including mountain bikes and hybrids, but I wanted a fast road bike. Finally I bought one this past March. So there went that excuse.

My other perennial excuse was that I was a lousy swimmer and couldn't bear the thought of putting my lousy swimming skills on display. I said that I would enter a triathlon at some point in the future when my swimming skills improved to the point where they were respectable. (I know better than to shoot for fantastic, at least where the pool is concerned.) I am still a lousy swimmer, but this summer I got talked into doing the aquathlon series, a group of races held weekly throughout the summer that involve an 800-meter swim followed by a 5-K run. I learned two things from the aquathlon series: 1) even though my swimming is not good, there are still many people slower than me in the pool, and 2) I am a strong enough runner that I was able to make up huge chunks of time on the run, and the satisfaction of whipping past those people who had beat me out of the pool by three or four minutes was extremely rewarding. Therefore, I can't really use my swimming as an excuse not to compete in tris.

So then I was ready to pick a triathlon. I decided I would do the Mountain Man half-Ironman in Flagstaff in August. I really am not interested in the short-distance races; I want to go straight to half-Ironman. (And yes, everyone tells me I should start with a shorter distance, but they also told me I should not do a marathon for my first race, and I did. So there.) I was all set to do Mountain Man, even though I was afraid of the elevation and the open-water swim. Then, unfortunately, I was waylaid by tendinitis and spent 2 months pretty much unable to bike or run, and unwilling to swim. So there went Mountain Man.
I was also planning to do the Soma half-Ironman in Tempe in October. But then I forgot that I had promised my friend Craig that I would do the inaugural Mt. Lemmon Marathon, which was the same day as Soma. I felt bad, but a promise was a promise, so there went Soma. (And a good thing, too, because what ended up happening was that a dam broke at Tempe Town Lake, where the swim portion was going to be held, and now the triathlon has been cancelled due to the absence of any other place to swim.)

So here it is now, October, almost two years into my 
triathlon training, and I have not yet competed in a triathlon. I belong to Tucson TriGirls; I subscribe to Triathlete magazine; I attend all the local triathlons; and I don't even have a triathlon on my radar right now. And yet I bike at least 5 days a week, I run 3 days a week, and I swim 2 or 3 days a week. So am I a triathlete, or not? I still think I am, but it would be nice to just pick a triathlon and sign up for it so I know for sure.

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