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Front Page » June 17, 2010 » Focus » I am Tri-ing: The chronicles and adventures of a triathle...
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I am Tri-ing: The chronicles and adventures of a triathlete wannabe


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By TERRY WILLIS
Sun Advocate reporter

With more than half a century and four knee scopes behind me, it was beginning to be way too common to find myself looking at life from the sidelines instead of being part of the action. I was not enjoying that feeling at all.

My mother says I began running before I could walk and never slowed down. I looked forward to getting a new pair of "Keds" every summer because the commercial on TV said you could run faster and jump higher with them. I would spend a week testing that out.

In high school I was on our school's very first girl's track, basketball, swimming and softball teams. Title nine was just being implemented. I swam and ran the distance races and rode my bicycle everywhere. I didn't get a drivers license until after I graduated high school. But that is another story.

I joined the Navy after graduation and joined all the sports and intramural teams I could. When I got married and had my children, I slacked off for a while. But by the time I moved to Price in the early 80's I was playing softball, racquetball, biking, volleyball and cross country skiing. I took up jogging again as well.

I heard about a triathlon being held at Scofield and I thought it sounded fun, but I didn't think I could do the swimming part. I had quit swimming after high school and other than bobbing around in the pool with my kids occasionally, didn't do I at all.

Years passed and I gave up the softball and racquetball to save what was left of my knees. I did a few half marathons and other shorter races, but life began encroaching into things and I quit running too. Now instead of playing sports, I was mostly covering them for the paper.

In the past several years the weight has crept on and even though I still rode my mountain bike and went for long walks I was getting fat. I hated that, but the more out of shape I was, the harder it was to get motivated to make changes. I was in a rut and didn't see a way out.

Four years ago I was assigned to cover the Scofield Triathlon for the paper. I went up with my trusty camera and trudged around, surrounded by fit athletes and weekend warriors. They were having fun.

I said, "I want to do this."

But other that take a few longer rides on my mountain bike and attempt to jog a bit on the bike trails for a few weeks, I did nothing about it.

And then I went back the next year. Again I got caught up in the energy that surrounded the event. People from every stage of fitness were there to take this on. This out of shape woman who was probably close to my age completed the whole thing with a big smile on her face and not one ounce of manic competitiveness She just had fun.

I said, "Next year I want to do this."

And I did nothing. This time I was going to start training as soon as my case of poison ivy I had gotten on the river disappeared. But it went away and so did my ambition. I got another year older and a few pounds heavier.

I bought new running shoes and wearing them made my knee hurt so I quit walking even. Now I was feeling despair I set a goal to ride 400 miles in the summer on my mountain bike and I made 372. Not bad, but not great. I bought a new swim suit in case I started to do laps and wore it twice on vacation.

Last summer I was sure it would be the one I got back into shape. But my knee was truly causing a lot of trouble. I was riding a bit more. I quit driving my truck up to the top of the hill to begin the trail and got back to riding it up the hill. But still I was the heaviest I had ever been. My new pants I bought for a river trip fit too tight and I stuck them in the drawer hoping, maybe, I would drop the pounds to wear them.

I went and covered the triathlon one more year. As I stood snapping pictures of those who dared try, I talked to the race organizers about my desire to do the race. They didn't look at me and laugh, but encouraged me just to do it next year.

I said, "I will do Scofield next year."

But just like in the past several years, I really didn't do anything after I went home. Oh, I ran the next day and made it several hundred yards before I had to walk. Then I rode my bike two days later and that was as serious as I got. I began to doubt I would ever make the effort.

But in late October our pool passes were ready to expire. He and the grandkids had gone in the summer, but I hadn't even went with them just to play. My husband said he would wait until spring to renew them. I told him we needed to renew them because I wanted to train for Scofield. He rolled his eyes, but renewed the passes because he thought maybe he'd start lap swimming.

The next day we both headed to the pool at 11 a.m for a lap swim. I made four laps (100 yards) and we called it good for the day. I thought I would drown. But two days later I went back and completed 300 yards. I needed to be able to do 825 for the race. He stopped going, but I was now determined.

I actually stuck with the swimming and in November decided I needed a new road bike. My current one was 32 years old and never really fit me. My ex-husband bought it because he had a friend who was a road bike race. He rode it once and gave it to me. I had hardly rode it since I took up mountain biking.

I bought a very nice bike from one of the local shops and put it on my trainer. I found a beginner triathlon site on the web and subscribed to it. I got a training plan from them and began my training in earnest. I spent the winter in my basement and at the pool on a regular basis.

Soon I was easily swimming 1000 yards or more at a time. Some mornings as I was swimming I fantasized that maybe I would be ready to enter the Scofield race in the Olympic distance rather that the shorter sprint one I was training for. The sprint distance consists of a 1/2 mile swim, 15 mile bike ride and 3.1 mile run. The Olympic distance is twice that. I quickly came to my senses when I thought about it.

Biking on the trainer was a bit tougher that I thought it would be. It was boring and there were no downhill stretches to coast, just pedaling until you had the miles in. The treadmill was agony for many of the same reasons. I longed for spring and to get outside doing real biking and running. The hard part was that this was not a typical spring pattern and those nice days were few and far between. The first day I took my new bike out for a ride it was 35 degrees and I still had to avoid ice. It was very different riding that bike than my mountain bike and I was nervous to go very fast.

I still was not running much. I easily could walk the distance and my knee was feeling stronger and more pain free than in a long time. The swimming and riding were the best "medicine" for it. The weight was not really coming off, but I was feeling better.

Then we hit that stretch of cold, windy weather and I struggled for motivation. I had also signed up for the Carbon Rec Lunatic Tri but that race and Scofield seemed so far off. I could not bear to put the bike back on the trainer. Even my swimming time was down.

I bought a wet suit and paid my money for Scofield. I thought that would help, but it didn't. What did help was looking at my training calender and seeing too many blank days on it. I began to get back into things. Having a place to track my training hours was key to finding a way to reach this lofty goal. I have also learned the Tri jargon. A marathon is a mary and the treadmill is a treddy. HIM stands for half iron man and a brick is a run right after a ride. I have a little on line support group that answer my questions and give me a lift when I'm struggling.

The weather finally began to break and it lifted my spirits. In April I was just short of my goal to ride 100 miles in the month by 1.8 miles. I finished a 20 mile bike ride and was going to ride the next day to get to 100 and a storm rolled in. But I could see it was within reach to do that.

The realization hit in May that maybe the races weren't that far off. I began riding more. I was running a bit more, but still hadn't been able to run for three miles without walking some. My swimming was still consistent, but I was not putting in the long swims as often because of time pressures. I was now getting up at 5 a.m. a couple days a week to hit the pool by 5:30 a.m..

One day I was supposed to go riding with a friend at 9 a.m. I got up to hit the pool before the ride and decided to try and do all the segments of the race that day. So I swam 850 yards and went home. I read the paper for a little bit and then grabbed the dog and headed out for a three mile walk/ run. When I got home I finished the paper and then headed out for the ride. My friend forgot about it and so I went alone. I did the 15 mile ride and was done with every thing by 10. I felt great.

Suddenly the goal of doing Scofield didn't seem out of reach. I had essentially completed a triathlon in one morning. I also hit a few other goals. I rode 102 miles in May. Running was still not a priority but I was getting more distance than before.

A week later I volunteered to do a trial run of the Lunatic Tri. Even though the distances were shorter and the race events were reversed it was going to be a challenge. It was also at night, which is not my best time to work out anyway.

We started with the run. There were just a small handful of us and quickly I was left behind. I walked up every hill on the course and I worried that the guy who had to drive the support vehicle was getting bored. I was ready to take a short cut since this race really didn't count. I even toyed with the idea of flagging down the sag wagon and taking a ride, but I stuck with it and turned on my i-Pod and got going.

It was turning dark when I got on my bike. I knew I could make up some ground, but would I remain last?

I was exhilarated when I passed my first competitor. I found a great pace and kept going. Halfway through the ride I had over taken three and was closing in on another. In the end I passed five of the nine people ahead of me. Most of them did not do the swim. I completed the swim and finished the race.

When it was all over I was thrilled. I also knew I had to really get more serious about the running. Over the next few weeks I have really ramped up the running and have begun to see results. I actually ran over three miles the other day. I easily ride 20 miles up airport road and back and I have gotten back to longer swims. I can wear that pair of river pants it stuffed in the drawer last year.

I am still a week away from a rerun of the Lunatic Tri. This time it will be for real.

Scofield remains a month away, but this year when it is over I will be able to say, "I did it, I am a Triathlete!"

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