Per Aspera ad Astra!

author : WIRachuba
comments : 1

On a rocky (concrete) path to the stars. A cautionary tale of how to get hooked on Triathlons

I think the triathlon that got this all started was the one I did NOT do. A few years ago my wife and our neighbor decided to attack their bucket list and do the Danskin Triathlon in Wisconsin. "Yah, triathlon...right!" (note the sarcasm prevalent in our family) While my wife rode her bike from Seattle to Boston a few years ago and was a high school swimmer, she hates running about as much as I do - meaning a LOT. No running = no triathlon...and "aquathon" or "duathlon" doesn't provide the same bragging rights! To make a long story short, they had a blast and I was envious! So, let's do this!

Per Aspera...

First of all: taking stock and planning the whole venture. I could ride my bike 80 miles a day no sweat (check), I don't drown immediately (check?), and if need be I can walk 3 miles (embarrassing but that was the status). Full steam ahead. Now no-one has ever accused us Germans of being under-prepared for any ventures so let's check the internet (especially BT - thanks all of you for your advice and failures) on what I need. Getting some good shoes in a real running store with fitting insoles was first priority given my history of four knee operations. What a revelation! I never looked back on my old shoes and will probably never go to a discounter again. The bike was not a problem, my good old steel Schwinn would be serviceable enough. As for the swim, another revelation: who knew that you can now buy goggles with prescription lenses for 20 dollar? Awesome!

I always thought I can swim (being an old sailor that comes with the territory) but after my first pool session I realized that my freestyle was borrowed from ‪Don Quixote‬ - fighting with windmills. More of controlled drowning than anything else. So, "Hello, coach internet/Youtube! Let's see how this swimming thingy really works." Three times a week in the pool and getting up at 5 am really shows that you are committed. I showed results over time and now I actually enjoy the swim portion of the training and race.

Bike - no worries there - I just kept on riding in the basement through the long Wisconsin winter. I have to say though that the scenery (basement walls) got a bit boring after a while.

Aaaah, the run! Well, thanks to good shoes I could actually train without pain in my knees and I sure did (do!) need the training. On the first run I was ready to hurl after half a mile but gritted it out (bragging rights!). I'll never enjoy running but want to at least not totally suck at it!

Nine months later I was ready for my first sprint triathlon (Pleasant Prairie). Any seasoned triathlete will probably think that my training was a bit of overkill for just a sprint but as I said before - we Germans believe in being prepared. Oh yes, and good riddance to the extra 30 pounds from a year ago.

...Ad Astra!

Taper week done, race weekend arrived. Checking in and getting my number etc., was a breeze - setting up my bike was eye opening. My wife suggested I take my cable lock with me - just in case - but after looking around the transition area I came to the conclusion that I could put up a huge neon sign over my bike reading "take me" and the next morning it would be gone. The sign - not the bike. Whoa, a lot of bling and carbon and whatnot...and then there's my trusty old steel Schwinn (at least I have Ultegra-grade components and since I am still at least 20 pounds overweight I don't really care for weight savings).

I get ready for the swim and put on my (rented) wetsuit. I check out the other guys around me. Wait a minute, why am I the only guy hiding a bowling ball in the belly section of the wetsuit? Kind of intimidating how fit everyone looks. Well, the horn blares, everyone cheers, and we're off. The course was an out-and-back affair and I decided to stay on the outside of the course and let the other guys fight it out closer to the middle. It looked like a full contact sport to me so I passed. As I noticed during the few training sessions in a lake, open water swimming is a different beast than swimming in a pool. Stroke and breathing weren't as smooth but that's the same for everyone. Less then 15 minutes later I was climbing out of the water (2nd in my age group - what?? - suck my bubbles!). Then off with the wetsuit and onto the bike. It was a nice flat course with few minor hills and very enjoyable all around and only the olympic super athletes on their million dollar machines were passing me. Good one, I was hoping for a 19 mph average and did 21. Very happy!

But...the dreaded run!

For me that's when the fun ends and the slog begins. And so it was...a lot of people passing me. This part definitely needs work. Oh well, if it were easy everyone would do it. My wife and kids were at the finish line cheering me on and it felt really good crossing it - 1:19:40 - 20 seconds under my goal. Not only did I do this (see above "Triathlon? Yah, right!") but I actually ENJOYED it. I'll be back next year to crack the 1:15 (hey, a guy does needs goals).


Thus emboldened by my success I got greedy in my first season and went to do the Olympic distance Oshkosh Triathlon. Awesome experience - very humbling ( I think there was someone slower on the run than I was but I am not certain about that) - but I finished that one, too.

So I'm hooked now and as for the next seasons: "Don't tell me the sky's the limit. There's footprints on the moon!"


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date: August 31, 2012