I have ridden some form of bike consistently since I graduated college in 2005. First was a Mt. Bike, and next came an old 10 speed Peugeot. I purchased it to see if riding on the road was fun before I invested in an expensive bike that never got used. It caught on and stuck. I eventually converted the old Peugeot into a single speed, and purchased my first road bike; a Motobecane Grand Sprint for 1100 dollars with Ultegra components. I would take this bike out on Saturday mornings and ride as far up a canyon as I could or wanted, and then fly back down to my home. This type of exercise was exhilarating. I then participated in a 25 mile fun ride through the “closed for event” streets of Salt Lake City and experienced pace lines for the first time. That was a blast, and I was really hooked. At that point I had been commuting to work via bike for a solid 2 years, but cycling for sport and exercise was becoming more and more of a time-consuming hobby for me. I would look for time to go for a ride after work, or extend my rides on Saturdays.
Concurrently, I had always enjoyed participating in annual 5K’s or fun runs around the area, and especially the one in my home town. I did this for bonding and bragging within my immediate family. I had never done any training leading up to these events because why would I? I would just show up the day of and start running at the beginning and stop running at the end. My competitive nature always put me under the 25 minute mark on 5K’s, but if pace data were available for those races, I would have been all over the map. Heart rate plots would have been fun to see as well.
Not long after cycling was taking up my Saturday mornings did someone mention to me that since I run and bike I should try doing a triathlon. “No way, I hate swimming!” My answer stayed that for a year or so, but the seed was planted. Then MSRH did a late season sprint distance triathlon in my hometown, and I saw how “easy”/fun it looked and decided I would train over the winter to do a triathlon in June of the following year. I swam during the winter, ran on treadmills, and I biked when I could. I still commuted by bike putting in roughly 40 miles a week. I didn’t follow any particular training plan, but I knew the distances and knew the limiting factor would be the swim. Eight hundred meters of open water swimming was terrifying to me. I trained hard for the swimming leg. I continually increased my distances and watched videos on YouTube for proper form and endurance swimming techniques. I was still horrible and very slow (I still am actually). I finally got to the point after 6 months of swimming that I felt comfortable swimming 800 meters at a stretch.
Then came June 6th, 2010: it was my first swim with a wetsuit, and the longest 18 minutes of my life. I nearly vomited coming out of the water. This was not fun. The bike leg went well, but within the first mile of the run, my legs were cramping up so fiercely that I could hardly move forward. This was new to me. I had never cramped during any sporting event in my life. I finished with a 29 minute 5K and an extremely lousy (in my eyes) overall time. I had done all the calculations beforehand with my average speeds and figured to be crossing the finish line 5 minutes prior even giving a 2 minute cushion, but this was not the case, and I was disappointed. So much so, that I vowed to come back the next year and shave minutes off my time. I participated in one more triathlon that season and had a much better experience. I have been hooked since. Now I attempt to do at least one event each month of the season. I might be fanatical about it, but it sure is a lot of fun. I get a kick out of being able to go back to races the next year and better times by 4 minutes. That doesn’t happen all the time and the time improvements are decreasing, but regardless, I am addicted.
I consider it a progressive addiction too, and one that has me eat crow every few years. During the first year I always said that I would never do any triathlon longer than a sprint. Then I did an Olympic. Then I said I would never do anything longer, but now I have a half planned, but that is for sure the longest I’ll ever do:) Also, when I started out I said that I would never buy all the gear that is used, because it wouldn’t save me a lot of time or make me that much faster. Then I bought a Tri-bike and shaved nearly 10 minutes off the bike leg of a 25 mile course the subsequent year. When I started I also didn’t incorporate any GPS tools or computers or heart rate monitors and went solely off feel. I thought all that stuff was silly and unnecessary. Now I am fully plugged in. I know my zones and threshold values and triathlon specific acronyms. I am constantly monitoring myself during races, and know from feel and numbers how much harder I can push and when I need to hold back. All this stuff is silly, but I have adopted it fully. It is silly because what started out as a hobby and something to talk about with others to pass the time has now become a monster. Now I try not to bring up the subject because once I get started no one really wants to drink from the firehose of information that I can regurgitate. This is also all somewhat sad because I am not fast, I am not even within the top-tier of my age group. That fact alone might be the reason why it has become such a monster for me. Athletically, I am normally within the top-tier. Just not in this sport. Just not in this annoying, addicting, time-consuming, money siphoning, pain inducing, overwhelming juggernaut of a sport.