This picture (below) tells the tale of why you should train. This was my first triathlon back in 1983, when I was 16 years old. As you can see, I was in fashion at the time with touring bike shorts and calf high socks. I also had a 27-pound Soma Sport bike to go with it.
So, how did I end up looking this way? The challenge to compete in a triathlon came about through my brother, Steve, who is seven years older than me. He was a competitive swimmer and I always strived to break his swimming records growing up. He had done a couple of triathlons over the previous two years and I watched him compete at the Topeka (Kansas) Tinman Triathlon in June (this race is still going on).
I was impressed with the mystic of triathlon and my brother challenged me to a triathlon later that summer. I had grown up swimming since the age of seven and I had been running cross-country and track the past three years in junior high school. I thought I would give it a try. Besides, I can’t bow down to a competitive challenge from my brother. The race we selected was the Baptist Medical Center Triathlon (which also is still running) the same summer in August.
Race day was hot and humid. The eventual high for the day was 95 degrees with almost the equivalent in humidity. Over 800 competitors toed the line in this 1,000-meter swim, 20-mile bike and 7 mile run. Steve and I ended the swim together and in the top four places. I got on my 27-pound steed and rode TWENTY miles! This was the longest ride of my life! I dropped my brother somewhere during that time and then I headed out on the death march, I mean run. I would say this was closest to one of the longest runs I had ever done at the time.
The run was devastatingly hot and humid. I wanted to walk so badly. I didn’t know where my brother was and I was running scared thinking he was on my tail since I was dragging my toenails along the ground. The picture you see is myself about 50 meters from the finish line. When my mom saw me cross the finish line she said I looked as white as a ghost and she never wanted me to do one again…I listened to her! I crossed the line and I went straight in the lake water to cool off in its 85-degree temperature.
To make a long story a little bit shorter, I finished seventh overall and I beat my brother by 28 minutes. He hasn’t done a triathlon since. I keep this picture in my office and I look at it often. The main reason is that it reminds me why I train. I was so sore after that race and my skeletal system felt so messed up. I couldn’t walk for a week and I had to go down stairs on my butt because my legs would otherwise lock up. I am sure many of you have had that Frankenstein walking syndrome.
If you don’t train, then your body will rebel this way. I try to remember this, yet several times I don’t heed my own advice. I forget what the pain after the race feels like. Two other occasions where I had amnesia was the 1991 Tucson Marathon where, after taking two months off and then only training two weeks before the marathon, I decided on doing the race two days before it. I borrowed racing flats the day before. Another instance that is embedded in my brain, and body, was competing in the 1994 Ironman New Zealand after taking three months off from training when a friend said “Let’s go do it, I’ll pay your way” just six weeks before the race. Well, these are other stories to hash out over a cold beverage.
If you train, racing is more enjoyable. If you train properly, then you race to achieve elevated goals. Go take a picture.