I participated in a mini triathlon in spring of 2011. It was at the Y and the entrance fee went for a program so disadvantaged people could go to the Y. I’m not really sure about entrance fees for exercise events. You have to pay to work really hard. This seems backwards.
But there were a lot of perks. Not only was there a t-shirt, they had snacks and drinks and giveaways. There was a huge travel bag filled with stuff from companies they had gotten to sponsor the event. I gave some of it away as gifts. We more than got our money back.
The event was not as long as a regular triathlon, but it was plenty long enough for me. I had just started to work out maybe 6 months previously, so it was daunting to even think about it. The event consisted of 50 minutes of water aerobics, 50 minutes of spin class, and then a three mile walk afterwards. There was only 15 minutes in between each event.
My goal was to at least do all three things in the day. I didn’t know if I’d be able to complete the event in the allotted time. I wasn’t sure about my energy level. I wasn’t sure about much of anything, but I knew that I wanted to try.
I’m one of those people that will create a goal so that I will get there. I’ve signed myself up to teach classes on stuff that I wanted to learn about. I didn’t have a class ready. I used the fact that I was going to have to teach the class as a reason to learn.
I knew I could do the water aerobics part – The class I was already taking was 75 minutes long. I knew I could walk. Three miles seemed like a lot at the time but I thought I could do it. Spin class was another thing entirely. I had never taken a spin class and I hadn’t ridden a bicycle much in twenty years. I figured my legs could handle it if I went slowly, but I knew deep down that my butt wasn’t going to be happy.
I trained for spin class on a trainer in the basement. My husband got me a device where I could turn my own bike into a stationary bike. He’d gotten me a bike a few months earlier hoping that I’d go riding with him. This wasn’t the best idea. Gravity and I are such good friends that we have to get really close to each other. A lot. My fear of falling off the bike keeps me from riding the bike. Yeah, I know, it is all in my head. If I stop worrying about it, it will all be fine. That is easy to say, but hard to do, especially when you are hurtling down a hill and you forget where the brakes are. But I digress.
So I trained on the bike in the basement. I sat on it, pedaling with different resistances. I pedaled, reading a book because I was bored, for 50 minutes at a time. I built up my legs. My butt got used to the idea.
I didn’t really train for the walking part. I walked as usual at lunch, and a little around the neighborhood, but I didn’t go for three miles. I’m not sure where I thought that extra bit of energy was going to come from on the day of the triathlon after doing two other events. Again, my idea was that I’d pace myself. It wasn’t about winning anything. It wasn’t about getting a good time. It was about trying, and hopefully finishing.
When the day came I was a little nervous. Strangely, I wasn’t nervous about doing the event. I was nervous about the fact that I hadn’t pooped yet. There is something about staying regular that really helps the day go well. I didn’t want any surprises. I certainly didn’t want to have to stop what I was doing and go to the bathroom at the Y. I don’t like sitting on public toilets, and the ones at the Y are the very definition of public. They aren’t that awesome. They aren’t anywhere near as bad as the toilet in “Trainspotting”, but they aren’t pristine either. And pooping is something that shouldn’t be rushed. Strangely, it just didn’t matter as the day went on.
When I got there I saw that they had a spread of food for us. Bananas, apples, bagels, cream cheese, nuts – good things to help us refuel. There was lots of water too – and no sports drinks. I’m glad for that. It is better to eat real food. They also had all of our “swag.” Lots of stuff, just for participating. We also got our t-shirts then. I took all of this too my car, and briefly thought that I could leave right now – I’ve got the proof that I did it. Nobody would be any the wiser.
But I would be. I would know that I hadn’t earned it. I could never wear that shirt, not really.
They gave us a choice of water aerobics or spin class first. We all were going to go on the walk together. I chose water aerobics based on the suggestion of the staff member who signed me up. It seems best now – I didn’t have to go from dry to wet to dry.
I paced myself in water aerobics. I didn’t do anything at full speed. I did all the moves, but I didn’t do them very hard. I wasn’t sure how much energy I needed. I still had the idea that I was going to have to just take the day to do the event. When that part was over I had just enough time to shower the chorine off of me, change quickly, and get a bite to eat from the spread set out for us. I think they had a guard set up to keep the regular Y members from our table. I was really grateful they had that for us. I’d brought some “gorp” but this was much better. I left my “gorp” in my bag.
Spin class wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great either. I don’t think I’ll ever do it for real. The teacher was very enthusiastic and encouraging. She was the only fun part of it. The bikes were stiff – much harder to use than my 21 speed at home. The seat was too high. There was a very nice seat cushion they provided me. Early on I figured out that I should just pedal along. I wasn’t standing up on the pedals to “go up the hill”. I wasn’t “racing past the person just ahead of me.” I was there for a simple country backroads ride.
Once that was over I had a little more time than before because I didn’t have to change. I took the time to rest a little, but I found I still had energy. I guess those bagels and bananas were doing the trick. So I went on the walk along with everybody else.
It was there I realized that I needed to be wearing some other shoes. They were kind of like Keds. They weren’t broken in. I didn’t have any inserts in them. My feet started to hurt. Then they started to blister. By then I’m already through half of the walk and the only way back was to walk. By then I wanted to pee. I was looking at the trees and thinking quite a bit about holding back from the group and just taking care of business right there. I’d already peed while I was inside, waiting, but something about being on a walk, far away from a readily accessible bathroom, makes me want to go.
I decided I could hold it. I’ve held it before. I decided it was my body trying to get me to quit. It does that sometimes. I’ll commit to some healthy course of action – no fried foods, and then I’ll see some fried fish and then I can think of nothing else. Half the job of getting healthy is ignoring your body when it is trying to distract you.
Then I got bored. I didn’t have anybody to talk to. Talking to other people helps to pass the time and take your mind off of unpleasant things. I wasn’t a very fast walker at the time, and I certainly wasn’t very fast with those darn shoes. I was drifting more and more towards the end.
The group was walking on the greenway. There were several different paths on it, and I’d never walked on it before. I was starting to get a little worried. What if I got left behind? How would I know how to get back? What if I took the wrong turn? All his worrying made the path seem even longer.
There were some cheery people along the way. That helped a lot. A patron from the library was a regular walker of the greenway and she was with some other people that day. She wasn’t doing the triathlon, but she was cheering us on anyway. They had made signs to encourage us. That was very nice. She gave me an extra big smile because she recognized me. She didn’t know that I exercised. I certainly didn’t look like it at the time. I was glad to see her, and heartened by her enthusiasm.
By the end I was alone. Everybody else had gone ahead. To entertain myself I started reciting the Nicene Creed …”We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, creator of heaven and earth…” It is pretty long. I was meditating on each part, each word, each section. What do all these words mean? I’d memorized it years ago when I got confirmed, but by now I wanted to really study it. No better time than the present, and it kept me company, and kept me sane.
I was the last person off the course. But I made it. I made it through the whole thing, in the time allotted. I’m glad that mental experiment worked, because it has helped me with other things. Now I know it is better to try, even if I don’t think I can do it. Just try. Just get started. I might surprise myself.
That t-shirt is one of my prize possessions now.