If you told me six months ago that I’d complete a triathlon I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, when Kelly asked me during my January fitness assessment if I’d ever done one, I almost fell off the treadmill. I thought she was joking. But it was no joke, so I thought what do I have to lose? The training would help build my strength and endurance, and I didn’t have to take part in the actual event. So, I signed up … and then wondered what I’d done!
Before long, questions started to pop into my head, and then more questions and even some doubts: Would I be allowed to swim, even if I couldn’t do the “front crawl”? Did I need a “racing” bike? I certainly couldn’t run, would I be allowed to walk the 2km? Where would my bike be while I was swimming and what would happen to it during the run? Could I really do this? I certainly wasn’t fit enough right there and then; how could I possibly finish a 100 meter swim, 12 km bike ride and a 2 km run - all in the same day? But soon my questions were answered, and my doubts were eased.
BMI kept all the Try a Tri trainees updated with periodic emails, and they organized a Try a Tri Information Night. Previous participants told us about their experience at last year’s event and Ottawa Triathlon Club’s president Geordie McConnell explained how the event would unfold, and gave us tips and pointers. He encouraged us to enjoy the event and to be thankful at the end that we had the health and ability to participate. It was a very upbeat evening and I learned several things such as: many people had doubts at first; training would help prepare us; will mattered just as much as skill. It was a very exciting evening with enthusiasm to spare and lots of team spirit. I left feeling pumped.
Next came swimming lessons, and spinning class, and learning to run. I was lucky to be able to take part in all three. They all helped build skill and endurance – and knowledge. Swim strokes, kicking techniques, hill climbs, cycling cadence, breathing, running posture. Training was hard work, but even more, training was fun. There was lots of laughter, support and encouragement at each session. And it felt wonderful to witness fellow BMI’ers improve their speed, run a little further, and survive another hill climb on the spinning bikes. There is a certain kind of joy being able to applaud your fellow trainees as they break their own records, and reach their personal goals. I have to confess, it was sad to see the training sessions end and I’ll miss seeing my fellow trainees every week.
So, on May 19th, equipped with the proper training, the support of BMIs terrific team, and the encouragement of my friends & family and fellow triathlon trainees, I made my way to Carleton University. At the tender age of 57, I began the first real athletic event of my life: the Colonel By Classic - Early Bird Triathlon Try a Tri.
I think all my nervousness kicked in as we gathered on the pool deck. I’d trained. I’d even practiced a few times in that very pool so I’d know what to expect. But now I was nervous. The 100m swim took more out of me than I’d expected. Knowing what lay ahead, I decided to follow the advice Geordie gave us back at the info night. I eased into a less taxing breast stroke for the last quarter of my swim. Then it was out of the pool and down the stairs to put on my socks, shoes & sunscreen and make my way to the “transition zone” to get my bike.
T-shirt and helmet on, I walked my bike towards the mounting line where volunteers encouraged me and pointed the way towards Pretoria Bridge. The bike ride was beautiful; sunny skies with just a few clouds. Trees, flowers, the Rideau Canal and singing birds surrounded the 12km route. But about half way from Pretoria Bridge back to Hogs Back, doubts set in, and my legs started to feel tired. I had serious misgivings about being able to finish. After all, the swim had been tougher than I’d expected, and the run was still ahead of me, plus I was a novice. But I told myself to put that thought out of my mind and just peddle; one foot, then the other, just peddle. It worked! I was quickly back on track and heading into the last leg of the ride. Soon I could hear the crowd at the dismount line, and then I could see BMI trainer Cheryl and heard her encouragement; I’d completed the bicycle segment! Then it was on to the run.
Running with rubbery legs is tricky. I’d experienced rubbery legs the previous week, when BMI Try a Tri trainees did a “dry run” of the bike and run portions. But we hadn’t done the swim portion and that seemed to be making a difference now. Already fatigued, with nerves tingling and adrenaline pumping, my legs were really rubbery. There’s something though, about knowing you are in the last segment. Feeling so close to the end and remembering some good advice about how to cope with rubbery legs, I began to jog. I was tired, but I kept telling myself that I’d run 2km before in training so I could do it again.
It’s hard to describe the feeling as the Finish line comes into view. It was very emotional … all I could think was “I did it. I actually did it!” Nine months ago I made a decision to focus on me for a while, to improve my health and fitness, and I joined BMI. Five months later I decided to give the Try a Tri a shot. I’d attended the training sessions and I’d taken in all the advice of our coaches and mentors and now it was paying off. I was about to cross the Finish line. It was hard to fight back the tears when I saw my daughter’s face smiling up at me from the Finish line and she called out “you did good Mom”.
I did do good. I felt proud, and I felt thankful – for the health and ability to participate in a triathlon, for the hard work and commitment of the coaches and trainers; for the support and encouragement of my friends & family, of the BMI team, and of my fellow triathlon trainees. Taking on the Try a Tri was hard work, but every single minute of it was worthwhile.
There will be another Try a Tri next year. If anyone out there has even the slightest inkling of curiosity, wondering if you could possibly do it, go for it! I highly recommend it.