The time until the triathlon starts is ticking away, less than three weeks. It had felt like it was so far away for months, but now it feels like the time is flying by and my nerves and excitement are running at full steam. I should feel pretty confident, I’ve been training hard. I don’t. I just can’t get the feeling of the last leg of the duathlon out of my mind. That was just so difficult and defeating. I’m definitely readying for the triathlon in a better and healthier manner. I’m taking nothing for granted. My swimming is getting stronger, my cycling is still my biggest strength, and my runs are getting better. Yet I still feel like I’m out of my league. Maybe that’s due to 39 years of self doubt and believing all the people who surrounded my life in negativity. The majority of people I have met in my local running community have been really amazing. However, for me, being a large person in the athletic community is very difficult. Most running stores don’t carry my size of clothing. If they do have something in a xxl, the fit is not what a person who regularly wears that size would expect. I constantly feel as if I don’t belong. I feel like people are always looking at me and questioning why I am there. If not for my amazing and supportive wife and the great people at my local running store (Big River Running Company) I don’t know if I’d still be out there, but I am. Every day I’m out there, swimming, biking, running, hiking, chasing around my three year old or our dog. I feel like I’m in a race with the person I want to be and that person is ahead of me but I’m closing the gap. I’m getting closer. Look at me all you want. Some may not think I belong, may not consider me an athlete, think what you’d like. I don’t really care. I’m not out here for you or your acceptance, I’m chasing that other me that’s running up ahead. I’m gonna catch that guy. I may not look like a runner, but I am. I may not look like a triathlete, but I’m about to be one!
I still remember how I felt in May of 2012, after the first workout of the couch to 5k program. I ran 60 second intervals and was completely spent. I thought I would never be a runner. I stuck to the program and as my time intervals increased each week so too did my confidence. Before I knew it I was hooked. I could run a 5k. What else could I do? 5 miler? Done. 10k? Done. Underground obstacle course race? Done. Half marathon? I began a new training program and gradually increased my mileage, and in April of 2013 I RAN my first half marathon. Not only had I enjoyed every mile of the race, I was also really proud of myself. At this point in my life, I was happier and healthier than I had ever been. I had lost nearly 100 lbs. since I started running and cycling. Unfortunately, the realization of this goal made me feel a little invincible. The workouts didn’t happen as often and the bad food decisions happened much more often. What felt like overnight, but was actually a slow gradual process. By October, I found myself no longer in shape. One of the biggest mistakes a runner can make is too much too fast. Not surprisingly, I injured myself and had to deal with plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, and a slipped disc. Running for me in 2013 was over. I was determined to get back at it the right way in 2014. I also wanted to continue to challenge myself this year. The first challenge was entering a duathlon. I signed up for the Eads Bridge duathlon. It was a 1.5 mile run, a ten mile ride, and a 1.5 mile run. I thought this would be relatively easy since those are distances I can do without a problem. I was wrong; those distances are much harder when doing them in succession. After the bike portion, my legs were dead and had to walk most of the final running leg. I was still overestimating my athletic ability. So now I’m hoping to learn from past mistakes and complete my first sprint triathlon in August of 2014. The Wood River Triathlon consists of a 450 meter swim, 12 mile bike, and 4 mile run. I’m confident in the bike portion, need to fine tune the running, and then there’s the swim. The swimming is a completely different situation. In the past, if someone asked me if I swam, I would always say “Yeah, I can swim.” I had no idea I was lying. Apparently, floating and flailing one’s arms and legs or occasionally diving for golf balls is not the same thing as being a swimmer. The other night I truly became a swimmer! I’m so mad I didn’t do this sooner, I loved it. In my latest trips to the pool I have swum 500 meters and 900 meters. I still really need to work on my technique and breathing but have eased a lot of the nervousness about the swim portion of the triathlon. My previous strength, running, is now my biggest hurdle. My running is so inconstant. In the past week I ran two 5k’s, the first one was a struggle from beginning to end. The second one was like old times, I felt stronger with every stride. They were still slow strides but still they felt good. I haven’t been able to say that for a while. It dawned on me that I’ve forgotten how to push myself and embrace and actually love the painful moments of a really nice run. I miss having that time to myself. I miss waking up before the sun and starting a run, feeling like I was alone in the world. Then occasionally catching a glimpse of another runner in the distance and eventually watching the rest of the world wake up around me. I can’t wait to experience that again. I have a little under a month until the triathlon, I feel ready and not ready at the same time.