I’m sure you’d never know it just by looking, but since I’ve started training for this triathlon, I’ve noticed some subtle differences between me and my friends who are actually VFT’s (Veterans of a Finished Triathlon). While I am fully aware that we share the same spirit of perseverance, there are some differences that I just can’t help but notice, such as:
What to Wear. Am I the only one who is in awe of people who run in their bathing suits? I’m not talking about the Baywatch type; I’m talking about the pros who wear a two-piece suit while running… fast! And here’s the crazy part…they’re smiling! (I suppose I would be smiling too if I could run free from the fear of my thighs flibbity-flabbiting along with me.)
For me, covering up has always been the way to go, but I’m trying to let go of some of the severe-coverage issues of my past (baggy T-shirts, swishy pants, and sweatshirts that are three sizes too big). Still, tankini running seems a bit far-fetched for me—unless of course, UnderArmour comes out with a full-body, control-top, sheer-to-feet slimsuit.
The Runner’s High. It is entirely possible that the swimsuit-runners are actually smiling because they’re legitimately happy…or they are experiencing a delightful dose of the elusive runner’s high.
Ahhhh…the runner’s high. It’s like…it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced before…it’s like…so great…it’s like…wait a second…what is it like?
What to Eat. When I’m in a hurry and pressed for time, I like to eat chocolate. When I kick back and relax, I like to eat chocolate. When I’m not sure what to do with myself, I like to eat chocolate. Now, I’m not about to judge you if your way is different…I’m just saying that this is my preferred method.
On the flip side, my triathletic friends throw a chicken breast on the grill or whip up a peanut butter and banana sandwich while saying something like, “good protein,” or “need the potassium.”
One day, I was at the health food store trying to figure out which protein bars were the best, when this lady walked over and said, “Try these…they’re the best. I’ve spent hours studying these things. They’ve got the most protein, the most vitamins, and the least amount of sugar, carbs, and fats.” I stared at her in awe while thinking, “but what does it taste like?” From her description, I was convinced that it would taste like a densely compressed cake made of hay, dandelion leaves, and flax seed oil. But she reassured me that they “taste great, too!”
I decided to take her word for it and started collecting all the chocolate flavors that spoke to me. As she walked away she added, “Try the carrot…it’s my favorite!”
Carrot? Carrot is not a flavor. Carrot is something that you do because you have to. It was then that I realized that this woman didn’t have taste buds.
On the Road…Off the Road. Allow me to start by saying that I am a lifelong lover of the great outdoors. Growing up, my summer vacations were spent sleeping in a tent, paddling a canoe, or daydreaming in the car. (Well…it was actually a full-sized, stic- shift van…the kind that truckers use.) But while I have no problem with the outdoors, there is a big difference between being outside and running outside.
So, I’d like to clear something up here, once and for all. I have seen some less- than-complimentary references made toward the “dreadmill.” I can tell that some people don’t like to “tread,” but I feel the need to stand up for the minority and proclaim to the hills, “I like the treading!”
The treadmill keeps my feet moving, whereas the road stays still. The treadmill fans me, as opposed to the winter wind creating a great wall of frigid resistance. And with the push of a button, treading gives me the power to turn mountains into plains. Where else can you get that kind of control?!
Okay, okay…I’d rather be outside than in my stinky-old-basement any day, but the baby needs to take a nap, which is when I exercise, and leaving children at home alone while I go out for a run isn’t looked well upon in our society.
The Bike (Sleek or Banana Seat?). My bike isn’t banana-seat desperate, but it’s definitely a far cry from a racing bike. I decided that I was going to do this triathlon with what I’ve got, and if I still like the idea after successfully completing the first one, then I can start sinking more money into equipment.
Soooo, I got this awesome new mountain bike when I graduated college – ten years ago. But it works great for all the mountainous riding that I do here in the foothills of Chicago. It also looks great on the bike rack attached to my ten-year-old SUV…neither one has ever been off-road.
Biking vs. Cycling. I feel like you have to earn the right to call it cycling. Veterans of the tri have earned this right. And I think, unfortunately, it does have something to do with the bike. Castelli shirt, plus sleek bike, plus matching helmet, plus carrot bars taped to your bike frame, plus shoes with the little clippy things, equals cycling. Swishy pants with one leg rolled, plus mountain bike pulling a baby in a Burley, plus ponytail, plus picnic basket, equals biking.
So far, I bike.
Sense of Accomplishment vs. Sense of Wonder. Veterans are so encouraging…they say, “You can do it!” with such a sense of accomplishment and so much assurance that you decide to sign yourself up. They’ve done it before, so who’s to say that everyone can’t do it?!
I, being a person of a light athletic past, have more of a sense of wonder about the whole thing. I wonder if I can do this? I wonder if my lungs will fall out when I’m running? I wonder if someone will swim over me instead of around me? I wonder…if I fall off my bike wearing shoes with those little clippy things…how am I going to get up?
Buns of Steel vs. Buns of… Well, Buns. Enough said.
Published in beginnertriathlete.com (March 2007)