Teacher Just Wants to Tri: Part I

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It’s a challenge to push yourself a little harder and a little further. Be proud of every workout that is accomplished and every step-even the baby ones-that you take on this course to the finishline.

Teacher Just Wants to Tri: Part I
by Ilene Ravich

Sometimes all you need is a little push. Perhaps a shove, or maybe just a good wallop upside the rear. New Year resolutions were enough for me this time around. For years I’ve been talking about, pontificating on, dreaming of doing a triathlon. I’ve always been an athlete and being active is nothing new. As a kid I was on a swim team, I did gymnastics for about six years, and then I eventually got involved with soccer. I played soccer all through high school and into college. After two years of Division I soccer at the University of Pittsburgh, I decided to retire my cleats. I stayed relatively mobile, playing a few pick-up games here and there, and I even tried my hand at lacrosse.


In my junior year, I decided, on a whim, to run the Pittsburgh marathon. Not something to be decided on a whim—but this is what you learn in hindsight. The marathon was to be in May, and I decided to start training just 8 months prior to the race. Even though I’d stayed active, I really wasn’t running on a regular basis. What I now know is that a marathon is almost as much mental as it is physical. Your mind is your biggest adversary, especially around mile 18. That inevitable wall hits and you better hope that you can convince your legs to keep moving. Fortunately, I was able to do this and I finished. After the marathon, I didn’t do a whole lot. The race was in May of 1999. It is now January of 2006. Since then, I’ve run one 10K. That’s it.

I’ve decided enough is enough. I started searching the WWW, looking for triathlons near me, and I found on in Palm Springs. I live in Southern California, and Palm Springs is only a couple of hours away. It is a sprint distance race, which I thought would be the most lenient on someone who has never taken such an event upon themselves. So, as of a few days ago, I am officially registered for a sprint triathlon in Palm Springs, CA that will take place on April 23. I have done the math and that has given me 16 weeks to do something about my training.


I will be using a modified schedule from the Beginner Triathlete website. I’ve decided on the Couch to Sprint, 16 Week Sprint – 2X Balanced. The modifications that I’ve imposed are just a matter of rearranging what disciplines I’ll be doing on what days. Folks, I’m a real person, not a professional athlete with days full of hours to dedicate to training. My life is busy and complicated and, at times, exhausting. Chances are you fall into this category as well. I’m an English teacher in the middle of moving positions. At the end of this month, I’ll be transferring from my current position at a middle school to an open position at a high school. Training might, on some days, have to take a back seat to real life. That’s just the way it is.

After having been at this for a month, I’ve learned a few things. There’s a definite acceptance of sacrifice. Time is the biggest thing. Time to sleep in is what I have given up. Because of my work schedule and the rigors of being a teacher, I do my weekday workout in the morning before going into work. When the alarm clock goes off at 5 a.m., it is nothing short of a jolt to the body and brain, but—once I am up, it’s all downhill from there. I have remained consistent for an entire month now and am seeing some definite improvements. I’ve knocked a minute off of my 500 Meter swim, and my running is more at ease. The spinning classes I’ve been taking at the gym are also increasing my cycling fitness. My legs aren’t as fatigued at the end of the class as they were in the beginning.

So here are few morsels of information you may want to chew on:

  • Make working out a requirement, NOT AN OPTION. If you treat your training like you do your job, and not as a “maybe,” you’ll be surprised how consistent you can be.

  • If you miss a day or can’t finish a workout, don’t sweat it.

  • Get your workouts done early in the day—then you can coast for the rest of the afternoon.

  • Keep a log of what you are doing so that you can take notice of weak areas, strong areas and improvements.

  • Reward yourself when you feel good! Buy some new goggles or a swim cap!

  • Don’t lose sight of why you signed up for the triathlon in the first place.

  • Make small goals that are attainable.

Let’s not forget the bigger picture. This is a race, yes, but not the end-all be-all of life. It’s a challenge and a chance to push yourself a little harder and a little further. Be proud of every workout that is accomplished and every step—even the baby ones—that you take on this course to the finish line. Remember, you are your only adversary. Mind over matter.


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date: January 29, 2006