Every year I get the same questions. It starts out with "what are you doing this summer?" and moves on quickly into "You are doing a triathlon? Have you lost your mind?"
I got serious about my weight issues back in '05 when my weight peaked at 315 and my cholesterol hit 230. I completed a weight management and lifestyle changing program called the 20/20 Lifestyles program at the Pro Club in Bellevue, WA. It had a profound effect on my life helping me to get back into an active lifestyle. Since then I am down 40 pounds and looking to shed another 40.
In 2006, while hiking in the North Cascades National Park, I got to talking with a friend about biking to work and my newfound interest in running. He went on and on about how biking to work had changed the way he exercises. The highlight of his year was his first Triathlon, a sprint distance. During that week of hiking I asked all sorts of questions and, by the time we came home, I was sold.
The first time I told my boss that I wanted to do a Triathlon his first words were, "Are you kidding? You aren't exactly the body type of a triathlete." ...and he was/is right. I am very squarely in the "Clydesdale" race division. While most triathletes look like Macca or Chrissie Wellington, I am built more like Dick Butkus. In high school I played offensive and defensive lineman on the football team. I was in track and field but as a thrower in the discus and shotput.
Side note: we had a "exhibition event" every so often called the "throwers mile relay". I'll have to write that one up one of these days.
My first tri was quite the experience. My only goals were to finish and not die. Seriously. OK, finishing under 2 hours was also on my list but that was more of a wish than a goal.
So why do I do it? What compells me to jump into frigid water, swim 1/4 to 1 mile, bike 15-24 miles, then run 5-10K? Then, a couple of months later, to do it again? And, I PAY to be able to do this? Race fees usually run $60-80 each so this is not always a trivial task.
It's a rush, that why. There is nothing better than the feeling you get at the end of a race. The endorphin high is amazing but it doesn't beat the feeling of accomplishment you get from finishing an ordeal like that. What makes it better? Seeing my family at the finish cheering me on!
My main reason for competing in triathlons is not actually the race itself, it is the journey. I have no illusions of winning the race or even placing in my age group. I do it as a goal to keep myself exercising.
One of the things I learned in my time with my personal trainer was that strength training wasn't keeping my weight off. I needed to train more like an endurance athlete which has ended up being much easier to maintain. In the last 4 years of training it has worked a little too well. My weight has been virtually flat for the past 2 years, although my body fat has fluctuated up and down (hopefully more toward the down side). My blood pressure and cholesterol are under control and my energy level and attitude have never been better.
Triathlons are a guage of my fitness level at the time and a goal to shoot for (very important in long-term fitness planning). In order to accomplish this goal, I also -
- Commute to work via bike (around 9 miles each way)
- Participate in several local bike rides like Bike MS and the Flying Wheels Summer Century
- Teach the Cycling Merit Badge to local Boy Scouts
- Ride in bike tours like Cycle Oregon
Should you do a triathlon? Only you can answer that question. I'll write later about my experience going from couch potato to triathlete.