Monday, October 15, 2012

7 Years of Tri-ing

A few days ago was my 7 year anniversary of deciding to become a triathlete, it has given me some time to do some reflecting......

My path to triathlon began as I new challenge I wanted to set for myself.  I had already run 3 marathons, participated in 2 multi-day walks for Cancer and needed a goal.  Up until this point I didn't even know triathlons had multiple distances!  I thought triathlon = Ironman and that brought me back to this:

Surely no normal, sane person would ever put themselves through this "for fun"!  I searched online and found a few triathlon training websites like and some races in Northern California.  I set my sights on a sprint distance race, part of the Marmaid Series.

My first step was to buy a bike!   I went to my local bike shop and ask said the salesman "I need a bike, shoes, pedals, and helmet.  I'm not spending more than $1000 total as I'm no Lance Armstrong"  I had no idea EPO even existed ;)  The guy showed me 2 bikes that would "fit" me and I chose the blue one, he said "great, we will prep it and have it ready for you in 2 days".  I went to pick up the bike and said to the guy "umm, where is the kick-stand?"  NOTE that up until this point the time I had a bike it was a 10-speed.  The guy looks at me and takes the bike out of my hands and rolls it over the wall and leans it against the wall and says "instant kick-stand! This is a racing bike, you don't want the added weight of a kick-stand"  I wanted to crawl into a hole and said "so that was a pretty dumb question, huh?"  He said "One of the funniest I have ever gotten"  Oh yay, score one for me!

All winter long I swam, biked and ran.  I logged my workouts and started to meet other people in online tri community.  I remember reading a quote "You need to race at least 1 triathlon a year to be a triathlete, but if you race Ironman, you are a Triathlete for Life!"  I thought, "Ironman, that's insane!"

Finally the day came, I was more nervous to race this Sprint triathlon than any of my marathons!  Matt and I took the dogs and headed out to the race.  Below you can see even then I was super-early for races, not the lack of other bikes in transition!  I didn't have a wetsuit and the water was cool but not freezing. It was a 440 yard swim and I don't think I put my face in the water more than once. FROM my race report "First open water swim. There was a lot more bumping than I had planned on, got kicked 3x but it was ok. did not expect the swim to be so hard, OWS is much harder than the pool! Did the side stroke a lot!"

I managed to finish the race and LOVED it!  Race Report quote!  "Kissing Matt and the boys when I crossed the finish line....I am a triathlete!"  I was hooked like a junkie to a crack pipe!

I continued to race more sprints that season and finished with an Olympic.  The following season I raced my first Half-Ironman, I thought to myself "why would anyone race a full Ironman?  Twice this distance?  That's just fuckin stupid!"  Fore-shadow of fucking stupidity ahead!

As I spent more time learning about triathlon and reading race reports from "normal" people who completed an Ironman.  I watched Ironman Live and watched as total strangers crossed the Ironman finish line and it brought me to tears.  Hmmm, maybe I could be one of those people!?

I set my sights on Ironman Kentucky for 2008. To have the "privilege" of racing Ironman, you need to register a year in advance!  The day came and I sat in front of my computer and typed in my credit card info, I hit submit and I said myself "what the hell have Ijust done?"  I called my mom and I said "you know that race you see on tv in Kona, the Ironman?  Well, I just registered to race that same thing in Kentucky next year and I want you and dad to come."  She said "what?  Are you serious?!  That's ridiculous!" 

I trained and joined an online group full of people all over the country who would also toe the line with me in Kentucky.  We learned about ourselves as well as about each other.  We learned that a crappy training day was to be expected, that smelling like chlorine was completely acceptable, that saddle-sores...SUCK!  We would inspire eachother and cheer one another one from thousands of miles away and compare our mileage online.  We were all so focused on the training that I don't think many of us realized the amazing bond of friendship we had formed.

Finally the day came when we would all meet face-to-face in Kentucky.  We hugged and laughed and shared that nervous energy.  It was AWESOME!  Suddenly being surrounded by people who understood my version Ironman was not so bizarre!

In addition to my new "family", my real family was supportive of me.  After-all, they understood that giving myself a challenge is part of who I am.

It was a very hard day and extremely hot, but I finished!  Race Report quote "I wish things would have gone a little better for me in this race, but hell, I'm still an Ironman....Iron-Abbie!!"  For a month or 2 I felt like SuperWoman!  I was on a amazing high, just AWESOME!  I never expected Ironman to change my entire perspective!  Yes, Ironman is a race but it's not about the finish-line, it's a fantastic journey of self.

Fast forward to changes.  I'm divorced, have embarked on a new career, and I'm a 7x Ironman finisher.  My Ironman/triathlon family has grown exponentially here in California and around the nation with each race and training day.  We've celebrated life's wins and PR's.  We've shared broken hearts and broken bones. They are true friends and at this point our conversations typically are more about our lives rather than training days.  Seven years ago I never expected a sport to bring so many amazing friends into my life.  I can travel almost anywhere and know someone who will join me for a run, or take me to the local pool for a swim.

Seven years ago I only wanted to know how to ride a bike with clipless pedals, I never expected the massive windfall of amazing people I would find in this wonderful world of swim, bike, run. 

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