I have been thinking about writing this post for a long time. My racing days are over thanks to new interests, a too-busy family and work life, and multiple joint/running issues. But I wanted to do some sort of "farewell" to this beloved sport, in which I participated for 6 years.
Why did I race triathlons? In short, it was to save me from myself. :) That may sound odd, since triathlon is inherently self-absorbed, but the many hours spent swimming, cycling and running used up extraordinary amounts of time that I feared might have been spent on "problem" pursuits. But by the bitter end of my racing career, triathlon strengthened my best and closest relationships and vastly strengthened my faith. By the time I was over saving myself, I started using triathlon to help others. All in all, it really served me well. *sniff*
Overall, I raced 24 Triathlons, four of which were serious endurance events, including 2 Half-Ironman races and two Ironman races (IMFL and IMAZ). I also raced 15 Half-Marathons and one sad "little" stand alone Marathon. I believe several 5K and 10K races were thrown in as well. :)
The Ironman distance includes a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a full marathon (26.2 miles). I trained for nearly a year for my first one, and for 6 months for the second. At my absolute peak, I was training 20 hours per week, including 6 *hour* bike rides each Saturday.
How did I do? Well, in the Triathlon world we call it FOP, MOP and BOP. That translates to Front of the Pack (FOP), Middle of the Pack (MOP), and Back of the Pack (BOP). I went into triathlon at age 40 having a childhood recreational swim background and NO running background whatsoever. I had been spin cycling in the gym, but that was it. Once I got on a real bike, though, I thought I was in heaven and it turned out to be a unique area of strength for me (who'd of thought it?).
Given my limited sports background, overall I did quite well as time marched on. In general, my swim would typically end up in the front of the MOP. If the race was short, the swim would be towards the FOP; if the race was long, the swim would be in the MOP. My bike was always FOP, except for in endurance events when it would be MOP. My run split was AWFUL. Shudder. I just suffer so running. However, I would say that I went from the BOP to the MOP over the course of the years I spent racing. I was constantly plagued with running injuries and generally quite a miserable runner. But I worked on it over and over. My fastest half-marathon split was a 2:03, laughable by any real runner's standards, yet I nearly cried when I got it. :)
I did manage to PLACE in a few short-distance races for my age group. All of this was solely due to a stellar bike split, usually first for the age group for those few races. I actually qualified for Nationals in one race thanks to a smokin bike split. In general, for such races I would swim as fast as I could, transition to the bike faster than other swimmers, jump on the bike and ride like an insane woman, and then pray I could hang on for the run, knowing what a huge weakness it was. Typically, I would get rundown by the fast gals I had passed on the bike. In one race, I missed first place by 3 seconds, having been caught by one of said gals. Ah well. I managed with a few second places and a few thirds over the course of racing and I was very happy with that.
All that said, I do SO miss being a super fit person and some of the awesome friends that I made through the sport. My fitness has dramatically declined since my last race two years ago. I still ride occasionally, though, and hope to pick up more cycling again in the near future. :) When I ride now, however, I have noticed that it is difficult to simply ride at a happy, leisurely pace, having pushed myself on the time trial bike for so very long. Sigh. Surely that will improve, though.
Many, many people helped and supported me along this triathlon journey....in big ways as well as small. I will never forget this amazing time in my life and always look back on it fondly. It is my greatest hope that my children were affected by it in a positive way...in a way that says "YOU can do what you set your mind to, YES, YOU CAN!"
"...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..." (Hebrews 12:1)