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Why try a tri?

Posted May 31 2011 3:29pm

I have switched gears (literally and figuratively). No more unilateral focus on running.  It is triathlon season, hooray!

My first triathlon was just last year, but it was love at first swim, bike, run.  I was hooked.  Even a flat tire and my total lack of aquatic ability couldn't ruin the experience for me.  There was something so fun and so thrilling about this crazy three in one race.  If you are even slightly thinking about trying a race or even slightly thinking about trying to get more physically fit, might I suggest trying a triathlon.  Here is my attempt to dispel some fears/excuses and encourage you to go for it!
       
  • Don't be afraid, it is not as hard as you think!  I know when I heard the word "triathlon" I immediately associated it with an Ironman.  When one third of a race is a marathon, well that's just intimidating.  But not all triathlons have such extreme distances.  A sprint tri usually has a 500-750 meter swim (some open water and some in a pool), a 10-15 mile bike ride, and a 5K (3.1 miles).  There are even mini sprint triathlons with mini distances.
 Tri for the Cure 2010
  • You don't have to be elite to compete.  Sure, there are some super elite athletes in every triathlon.  They have sponsors, $10,000 bikes, 2% body fat.  They are going to kick your butt!  But who cares?  There are also going to be people who won't finish, that will barely finish, that will struggle with every leg of the race.  You will see such a wide range of sizes and athletic abilities and I think it is awesome!  I never race to win, which is fortunate because I will never win.  I race because it gets me off the couch, it's fun, it's a way to have an activity away from my mom responsibilities.  You don't have to qualify for most triathlons, you just have to go out and give it your all (whatever your all might be!). 
  • You can't swim.  Guess what, I couldn't swim until a month before my first triathlon (open water triathlon!). I could doggy paddle and float, but swim 1/2 a mile?!  Forget about it!  I took swimming lessons at my local rec center, practiced everyday, read books, looked up videos online, and completed (without drowning) an open water swim in a triathlon.  Was I fast?  No!  Ladies two heats behind me passed me.  Did I care?  No!  I did it and that is what mattered.  I did the breast stroke and didn't even put my head in the water.  I saw ladies backstroke, side stroke, use swim buddies.  Nobody pointed and laughed at me, they encouraged me and told me I could finish! 
  • You don't have a road bike.  I didn't either for my first triathlon.  I would say a large percentage of people didn't have road bikes.  The girl parked next to me had that crazy bike (pictured below).  Now, people in Colorado can be super snobby about bicycles.  It is equivalent to how people in Malibu are about shoes and handbags.  Instead of asking "who are you wearing," people here ask "who are you riding?"  Ok. maybe they don't but it wouldn't surprise me.  Despite Colorado's bike snobbery, nobody was kicked out (or looked down upon) for riding a mountain bike from Walmart.  Does the type of bike really make that much of a difference?  Ummmm, well I am going to be honest and say yes.  Yes, you will be a hundred times faster on a road bike.  If you are at all concerned about time, then a road bike is the only way to go.  If you don't care about time, then it really doesn't matter what type of bike you ride.  And, you can always rent a road bike for the actual race if you want.
 The bike parked next to me.
  • You can't run.  I'm going to let you in on a secret.  You don't actually have to run.  When I did Tri for the Cure a lot of the women were not running the 5K.  They walked it.  They still finished and they still got a medal.  You don't get a DQ for walking.  You can run, run/walk, or walk.  If running is too hard on your joints, then take up speed walking and do that.  Don't let your inability to run keep you from this great sport!
  • So no more excuses!!!  Here are a few more things I love about triathlons
    •  Cross training isn't just encouraged, it's necessary. Our bodies are amazing machines.  They adapt so quickly to the physical demands we place on them.  While this is awesome, it also stinks when you are trying to get in shape or lose weight.  We plateau if we aren't constantly changing our routines.  Tri training is great because you are doing just that!
    • Switching it up saves your joints and your mind.  Always running, or swimming, or cycling can get old.  It can also cause a lot of wear and tear on your body.  Tri training helps to banish boredom and over-training.  
    • Just when you are sick of one thing you get to switch to another thing.  I liked doing a half marathon, but after about 6 miles I was kinda bored.  I love triathlons because right when you feel like, "Ok, I am done with this whole swimming thing," you get to move on to cycling, and then running.  It is perfect for the ADD athlete (like me!). 
      The Tri for the Cure is a great first triathlon.  It is all women, well organized, supportive, and for a great cause.  If you are in the Denver area I highly recommend it!  But no matter your location there are sure to be plenty of races to sign up for.  Get out of your comfort zone, take on a new challenge, and start calling yourself a triathlete!!
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