Thursday, May 24, 2012

Training for a Marathon v. Training for Triathlon

Misconception #4590 of the triathlon was that my running experiences and marathon training would somehow help me.

A lot of people have asked if I would be able to do a triathlon.
My usual response is "Whatever, Mom. I did the marathon in November and I've run 11 half marathons. Yes I can do it! Gosh!" I mean, I knew how to follow a training plan, pushed my body to run 40 mile weeks, and eventually conquered the big 26.2. So how hard could learning to swim and ride a bike possibly be?"

It's not hard as in algebra hard. It's hard as in trying to write with your opposite hand. I'm going through the motions but the outcome is not what I expected. It looks and feels like a big giant mess that only a crazy person would understand. Training for a triathlon requires a new level of balance, confidence, and determination.

Balance: I was able to train for 11 half marathons while working full-time, going to graduate school part-time, and enjoying a healthy social life. I even picked up an additional fitness goal in karate and was able to have a relationship too.Trying to find the time, energy,and  resources to handle running, swimming, cycling, and ninja classes has been a significant challenge.  The struggle to balance everything has cost me relationships, sanity, and lots of PTO hours at work. I was once able to handle graduate school, GOTR, career, running, ninja, and a relationship on schedule built like a Jenga game and the triathlon toppled it all.

Confidence: Triathlon training is like following a new recipe from complete scratch. I'm dealing with new ingredients and being told to mix them together in an unfamiliar and weird way. Am I running too much? Should I be swimming more? Why do I still smell like chlorine? Do I really need to bake this for 40 minutes? Why is this dough so wet? There are times when I just want to throw it all away and order pizza. 

Determination: When I was training for the marathon, I never ever wanted to quit. The thought of not finishing a long run or not ultimately achieving a goal that I had set and worked towards for three years never once crossed my mind. I had two years and many road races under my belt to bolster my confidence and squash any self-doubt about running. I had the experience and confidence to know that I was going to finish the marathon.
I want to quit the triathlon at least once a week. I've never done this before. I've never swam in open water. I've never biked on a road with other cyclists. I've never done transitions and wetsuits. And I just never know if I'm doing it right. It's frustrating. It's exhausting. It's demanding. I want to quit with ever failed flip turn in the pool. I want to quit every time my foot hurts or my wrist aches.  I want to quit when I come home to an empty apartment because my now ex-boyfriend couldn't handle it. I want to quit every time I step onto the mat at ninja and still don't know the stupid kata because I had to miss three weeks because of injury or training.

But I don't quit. And I won't. I have no idea why. Maybe it's because so many of my coworkers and friends are excited for me and watch me succeed? Maybe it's because I've had to chant "Courage, Self-Control, Perseverance, Indomitable Spirit" at the end ninja classes twice a week for almost two years. Maybe I'm just stubborn. Maybe I've just sacrificed too much and worked too hard to stop now. Maybe I'm just a masochist and enjoy the pain. Maybe I need to know that I can do it.

“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

― Shel Silverstein.


  1. Linds, your experience is not unlike many people's experience. I don't want to sound like Tony Robins here, but the struggle and the journey to your triathlon destination is where the real value lies. That's not to say that you're not going to feel great crossing the finish, undoubtedly you will (in spirit, if not physically). And surely you'll commit on the spot to doing another one, and probably a longer one at that. But the best part, the real treasure, is what you learn about yourself in the process.

    I don't know if you're employing a coach at the present time, but I know you're local, I'd be happy to help you with swimming, or anything else for that matter if I can. I live and breathe this shit, and there's nothing more I love to talk about, so feel free to bounce ideas or questions off me if you want. I'm not a coach per se, but I'm pretty good in the water, and I think we swim at the same pool anyway.
    PS: No one cares about flip turns, you don't need them in the open water.

  2. I found your blog from Meals and Miles (I'm the cookie table girl! I grew up in Indiana, PA) and I relate a lot to this post. I just finished my first triathlon earlier this month after *never* being a cyclist. I trained with a group, which was terrifying at first but ultimately helped take away some of those "OMG, am I doing this right?" fears. I really respect anyone who tries (heh) a tri, especially solo! It sounds like you're doing great.