How I Became A Triathlete

author : lakelife
comments : 16

Getting to my first triathlon

Published from the archives of member-submitted articles that were never previously published.

When I saw my first triathlon competition on television in the winter of 2008, I was lounging on the couch in my oversized sweats, eating pepperoni pizza.  Out of shape, clearly not a nutritional role model, and with no athletic history to speak of – still, I found the sport strangely compelling.  For some reason, I thought I might be able to do it.

I'd been swimming since childhood.  I’d known how to ride a bike too.   All I needed to do was learn how to run.  So I started running.

Along the way, I lost a bunch of weight and then gained most of it back.  I learned better eating habits, but frequently ignored them in favor of M&Ms and flaming hot potato chips.  But when I put my body in motion I discovered joy.

At my first 5K race I came in last.  At my second, I wasn’t completely last, but the only person behind me was someone walking a basset hound.  At my fifth, I was last again, but I blame that on running with my five-year-old granddaughter and having to run an extra half mile or so because she dropped her mitten along the way and absolutely needed me to GET IT BACK.  I ran the prestigious Beach to Beacon 10K wearing a shirt that said, “In my dreams, I am a Kenyan.”  The actual Kenyans in the race finished while I was still in my 2nd mile.  Every time I crossed a finish line, I was smiling.

My husband bought me a hybrid bike.  I didn’t think I should get a road bike because I knew I’d just fall over.  Don’t even ask about the possibility of clip-in pedals.

I signed up for the Pirate Triathlon because I thought that name was cool, and there was going to be a pirate ship on the lake.  I bragged to family and friends that I was going to do it.  I printed out training schedules. I found a bike guru who taught me how to fix flats.  This was going to be my year.

Then I started to panic.  I couldn’t find triathlon clothes to fit my larger-than-normal triathlete size.  I couldn’t swim for months because the lake was frozen.  I seemed to be running slower every week.  And I hated the bike.  HATED IT.  I would start every Monday determined to follow the training schedule, and by Tuesday, I was off the rails again.  Every other day, I changed my mind about the whole thing.

I really don’t know how I even ended up at registration, but there I was.  I don’t know how I walked into the transition area alone with my bike early the next morning, but I did.  I was terrified.  I was excited.  I was standing at the starting line.  And then, the horn went off.

With my family to cheer me on, I dove into the lake with the rest of my orange-capped age group and suddenly forgot how to swim and breathe.  I got kicked in the face.  I swallowed a big mouthful of water.  Then I found my rhythm, and passed one person, and then a few more.  Just when I was feeling better, I reached the shore.

On the bike ride, nearly everyone passed me.  But my brother and sister-in-law surprised me at a few points along the route with a sign that said, “GO SHARON GO!” and I kept pedaling.

When it came time for the run, I was exhausted.  Almost everyone else had finished and it was lonely.  When I thought I couldn’t go another step, my daughter and my friend found me out on the course and ran with me to the finish line.  I crossed smiling, and I got a medal.

I am 50 years old.  I am not the before/after success story you see in the magazines.  I carry far too much weight on this body.  I hate fruit and love pizza.  I probably did a million things wrong in training.  But in spite of all of that, on June 13, 2010, I became a triathlete.  And it was amazing.


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date: October 31, 2019