Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why Train for a Triathlon?

I am new at triathlon training (about to be in my first official community triathlon this Saturday on July 15th), so my journey is only just beginning, but I have already had so many wonderful experiences and had some amazing discoveries - just from training (...amazing to me, since I tend to not give myself enough credit :o). Contemplating my surprising small victories, I know I will one day come to wish I documented my progress if don't - so here I am! 
As I contemplate the reasons for why I train I find it interesting to note that one of the very reasons for training is the very same reason I have now and then contemplated NOT training. There have been so many struggles, moments of self doubt, and moments when I truly wondered if I could succeed at being ready for an event, or even if I could do any more than I had already done (especially that first event - the half marathon that I did in May of 2011, just two months after I first started running - I had such pain in one of my knees that it felt like a total miracle to me that I made it). I've been repeatedly surprised as I look back and realize how capable we human beings are. Because of this I found my self silently reminding myself "If I don't know what I can't do... than I don't know what I can do either."  I would then press on out of curiosity to find out if perhaps I could do more than I supposed I could. :) I will tell you more of why I train in a minute; first I want to tell you how I got started...
How did I get started???

I had the desire to participate in triathlons for many years. Somehow the desire was always in the far back of my mind, burning ever so dimly that I seldom remembered the desire, until I found myself speaking to triathletes and catching their contagious enthusiasm. At which point the desire would bubble up through me and come out exploding like a fountain - only to come down again for hibernation - never materializing into action...

Then one day it finally happened. I was incredibly blessed with an amazing new friend, Valerie, and she was is a triathlete... :) As soon as I told her of my desires she informed me, "I'm training for another half marathon; want to train with me?" I immediately jumped on board. :) 

When I first started running with Valerie my heart would sometimes ache. I have had heart pains when exercising or working extra hard it since I was a little girl, so I wasn't alarmed. I just used a heart rate monitor and when it would beep twice, I knew to slow down a bit but keep moving (OK. I did and still do let it beep a little off and on when running up hills :o). I had biked a ton in years past (in my 20's), but running was incredibly difficult for me (I began running after age 40) giving me new challenges I never imagined. And despite additional troubles with an inflamed knee and wondering many times if it was even possible for me to run 13 miles, I completed my first half marathon in May of 2011. Aloe Vera juice saved me from severe lactic acid buildup right after the run, but I did it! And it got WAY EASIER as I continued running! By the way, the knee troubles of those early days are a thing of the past! (Ask me about what made them end if you want to know)

It wasn't long before Valerie and I talked about triathlon training as well as running (she had done several already), but my bike had been disassembled for many years and I was a terrible swimmer! Even still, I really wanted to be in the first Hayden Triathlon in 2011. Race day came and went without me... I still hadn't taken swimming lessons OR had my bike assembled. Valerie was in the race. I wasn't. I was crushed... I recall vividly experiencing that horrible feeling of emptiness inside - that thought of "what could have been" was most agonizing

A couple months later - the day before Labor Day 2011, a flier was passed around at church. There was to be an informal sprint triathlon the next day. The moment I saw the flier I knew I had been given A SECOND CHANCE. Ready or not, I was going to take it! Valerie also participated, and loaned me both a bike and wet-suit so I could go too... And so the triathlon journey began! :) I swam on my back the entire time giving instruction to a teen boy on a kayak; "stay beside me and  do NOT let me drown!" A friend and I came in last place together, but I was there, and it was a great experience... :)

Despite the rough and crazy beginning, thanks to Valerie, I moved from "thinking" to "doing;"  I was on my way to becoming a triathlon, and my life will never be the same again! :D
The one and only Triathlon I have YET been in - a sprint with 9 people who were given one day notice of the event!

I knew I wanted to do another triathlon, a formal, community triathlon with many people, and be ready for it... So in March of this year I got a membership to a fitness club and began swimming three days a week. At first, if I resolved not to swim on my back, I could only swim the length of the pool one way... And, I couldn't put my face in the water. Valerie gave me tips and I asked other swimmers lots of questions as well (free mini lessons! :) After 3 months of just swimming and asking people questions, I finally got a little formal swim training by taking a triathlon swim class (June 2012) About the same time, my husband finally re-assembled my wonderful old hot pink bike that he bought for me when I was 18. This was the beginning of the romantic journey of riding with my husband again, like we did when I was in my 20's. :) It was also the beginning of training for all three sports at the same time; I finally began triathlon training!! :D

With my membership at the fitness club came two free visits with a personal trainer, Dale, and I finally met with him. One day in June, I saw Dale at the gym, and as he always did he greeted me with an big smile and a sincere and enthusiastic, "How are you?"

His mouth dropped a little as I responded back with less than happy news. I had been in a lot of chest pain all weekend and had begun to wonder if I could do this. I told him of some health problems, and he encouraged me to take a short break from training, see a Dr if I needed to to figure out what was going on with my body, and also suggested I “get to know myself” through meditation and introspection and to ask myself "WHY" I want to do Triathlons. 

Dale's advice couldn't have been better. I took a WEEK OFF of training (this was so challenging!) and was blessed to realize what was was going on with my body and how to get through it. During that week of rest I also did some thinking, praying, and meditating. I wasn't sure I ever even consciously knew WHY I wanted to do triathlons so badly (except to see if I could do them). So with Dale's suggestion, I found a quiet spot in my bedroom next to a computer, and and with little bullets in front of each idea as it came into my mind, I wrote in my journal the reasons WHY I wanted to do triathlons... 

It hasn't been long since I wrote this list, but already it has been a source of strength for me when ever doubts begin to surface. I'd like to share that journal entry with you now...

Why Train for Triathlons?
  • I desire to let others know that ordinary people can accomplish things they may not have supposed they could do. When I started training this March I didn't know how to breathe while swimming or swim with my head in the water and probably could not tread water for even 3 minutes; I was a TERRIBLE swimmer, and am still trying to train myself to swim with my head in the proper position. I only knew one stroke (though I couldn't have told you the name of it) and was terrified of drowning! If I can work hard and get to where I can swim a full mile, with strength and around a mass of competitive swimmers – anyone can! :) LOL - I pray to be successful in proving this to be the case!)
  • I desire to show gratitude to Heavenly Father for blessing me with a healthy body by making my body healthier. I have had health issues all my life but the Lord has blessed me that my health has not been a burden. As I do my part to take care of myself with proper eating and exercise He has blessed me beyond imagination. I feel very fortunate and do not take this blessing for granted. I once heard a body builder express why he stays so fit and immediately adopted the philosophy and way of living myself; it went something like this… “My body is a gift to me from God. What I do with my body is my gift of gratitude back to Him.” I live this way not only with how I eat and exercise, but also with conducting myself in a chaste and virtuous way. I also apply this not only to my body but also to my mind...
  • I desire to push myself and do things which are truly challenging, reminding myself that I can do hard things and to reach for the best that is in me. I desire to live an exceptional life – not a mediocre life – and doing so requires that I take care of both my spirit and my body in an exceptional way. It also means that I don't give up when the going gets tough...
Here is another note from one of my journal entries (written during the week in which I was resting and trying to figure out what my body needed)...

"I talked to a couple of friends who are training for the same triathlons I am training for at church today... One of them told me of the local Olympic course and of how of the 27 or so miles of biking, about 10 of it is a continual and very intense up hill climb (more intense than the Hayden Lake course that I ride). In contemplating the PAIN I might have to endure over the course of 10 miles of all uphill biking - and anticipating that I may really struggle to keep riding, I immediately became so overwhelmed that the thought came to my mind that perhaps I would not do the Olympic Triathlon after all; perhaps I would not be ready on time."  
But as I reflect upon these reasons for training, I am renewed in my determination TO TRYTO NOT GIVE UP – AND TO DO MY BEST, AND FIND OUT JUST WHAT THAT BEST CONSISTS OF…

And so, as of tomorrow, this week of rest is over! I will be wise. I will listen to my body and not train harder than I have strength. But I will not give up... I am thankful that the pain in my chest has subsided, and know that my heart will continue to be made stronger. I pray that I will have wisdom as I train and strengthen my heart, veins, and all of my body, that I might perform the coming triathlon(s) safely and well, and once again show myself that I CAN ENDURE HARD THINGS – AND ENDURE THEM WELL!
I decided to go public with this goal to keep training - thus this blog - as reminders to myself, and also to be an encouraging support to others who are going through some of the same challenges that anyone who trains for a triathlon may go through. If you need a cheerleader or would like to be one, please comment here and count me in!

I hope you enjoy following along my journey with me and that we can be inspired together to keep moving forward.

And together...
Let the training resume! 
Corine :D

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