Monday, September 3, 2012

“Swim, Bike, Walk-Run. I can do that.” Or so I thought in August 2002. AARP was planning to hold a sprint triathlon to encourage persons over 50 to become more physically active, and they were sponsoring 8 weeks of group training for the event. I wasn’t a natural athlete, but recognizing the benefits of regular exercise, I swam laps at a local pool, rode my daughter’s old bike (3-speeds, coaster brakes) around my suburban neighborhood, and walked most days during my lunch hour with a friend. I thought it would be fun to do a triathlon, so I signed up.

I soon discovered “fun” was also very hard work, and I was dismayed to find I was not nearly as fit as I’d believed I was. Most of the other people in the training group were skilled athletes who easily out-swam, out-biked, and out-ran me. I didn’t miss a training session, though, and I was pretty sure I’d meet my goal of finishing the race. AARP canceled the triathlon because there was a serial sniper in the area, randomly shooting at passers-by, but our training group held our own unofficial event (a self-timed swim at our individual pools, a group bike and run at WC). I was probably about the last person to finish, but I was thrilled to have done it at all, and I liked the training regime, so I kept at it.

I did my first official triathlon in October 2003, and I’ve done a dozen since, plus some 5K, 8K and 10K runs, two half-marathons, and a few Masters swim meets. I still not a skilled athlete – whatever improvement I’ve gained in technique is counterbalanced by the natural decline of increasing age, so my primary goal remains to finish without injury and to have fun participating. I’ve met some wonderful people in the sport of triathlon, and I cherish the new friends I’ve made. Plus, I’ve owned four different bikes, each one a little fancier, and acquired a collection of athletic clothing, shoes, and other related paraphernalia.

Are there ten more years of tri-ing in my future? Probably not, but I think there are at least a few more sprints, maybe an Olympic, and some other events, too. A few weeks ago, I did a swim-run duathlon. My swim time wasn’t as good as the best practice swim I’d had the week before, but it was within a second of my most realistic projected time, and the run went surprisingly well. I finished the whole event 30 seconds faster than the time I’d hoped for, and I’m looking forward to next year’s race.

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