The Terrible, Horrible, Incredible Triathlon

16 Comments 21 August 2010

The Terrible, Horrible, Incredible Triathlon

It has been a long week, a week that started with accomplishing the most intense physical challenge of my life, followed by teaching my first week of school with a new class in a new team in a new grade, and then teaching my regular fitness classes.  There have been no gluten-free aha moments, no evenings of cooking delicious meals (unless you count a really good gluten-free pizza topped with string cheese).

(String cheese actually works pretty well in a pinch.)

There has been no time to tweet with my gluten-free friends, and definitely no time for blogging.  I’ve missed my blogalicious friends tremendously.  I’m physically and mentally exhausted, and now that it’s finally the weekend, I have a cold.

I’m done complaining.  It really hasn’t been as terrible as it sounds.  I have a fantastic class of cute, quirky, smart, thoughtful, squirmy little nine- and ten-year olds.  My new team is great, although I miss my old teammates.  And I just completed an Olympic length triathlon!!!  I still can’t believe it.

I knew I could bike the 25 miles.  I’ve taught spin classes for years, I’ve worked really hard on speed, and I rode 35 miles several times this summer.  I had no idea how fast I could bike though in a racing situation.

I knew I could run 6.2 miles.  It would be hard after swimming and biking, but I knew I could push through it, and I could even walk if I needed to.  I was not concerned with time.  I just wanted to finish this triathlon.

But the swim.  I wasn’t sure about the swim.  I knew I could swim over a mile in a pool.  Cardiovascularly, I was ready for this.  But swimming in a lake would bring a host of challenges.

And they were all terrible and horrible.

That swim was one of the most terrifying moments I can remember.  But I was glad to have the Husband and Andrea there to remind me that I was going to give it my all and that I could do it.

What was I so afraid of?  See here.  Out of that LONG list of fears, I experienced every single one of them, except for the snakes.  And each one was as terrifying as I imagined it being.

I got kicked in the head at the start.  I got smacked and grabbed by the flailing arms and legs of other competitors.  I couldn’t catch my breath, so I couldn’t put my face in the water without gasping.  I couldn’t swim in a straight line.  As people were passing me while I was doing the SIDE STROKE, I thought, “Who are you kidding?  You don’t belong out here!!!” But as I rounded the first buoy, I was able to get my face in the water.  I got into a rhythm, and the time swimming increased, and the time dog paddling decreased.  It was long, it was miserable, I did a lot of praying.  And I can’t remember being happier to leave anywhere than I was while running out of that lake.  And despite all of my floundering, I still can’t believe that I swam 1500 meters in 27:10.

Transitioning to the bike, I put the swim out of my mind and prepared for the best ride of my life.  The great thing about being a slow swimmer is that there are more people to pass on the road!  I biked hard and fast, finishing in 1:17:26.

The run was excruciating.  I hit a spot between miles two and three when those doubts started creeping in again.  “What are you doing out here?  These people know what they’re doing.  You’re an elementary school teacher, not an athlete.  You are so not in their league.”  But I pushed those voices aside and put one foot in front of the other.

I kept passing an older man on the bike and the run.  And then he’d creep up and pass me again.  We swapped positions several times until we were side-by-side for the last mile.  After a terrifying swim, a wonderful bike ride, and five miles of flipping back and forth between physical and mental numbness and physical and mental pain, this man encouraged me through the last mile.  When I wanted to slow down a little on the final hill, he told me to pick it up.  When I wondered if I could make it, he told me that I could.   We crossed the finish line together and ended our brief friendship with a high five.  A total stranger.  But I’ll never forget him.

I was pleased with a time of 56:09 for the 10k run.  Heck, I was pleased just to be done running.

It was terrible, horrible, and incredible all at the same time.  But the most wonderful moment was the moment when it was all over.  Not only had I accomplished my goal of finishing the triathlon, but I finished way sooner than I had hoped at 2:48:49.

And THAT is incredible!

Your Comments

16 Comments so far

  1. Courtney says:

    YOU DID IT!!! Yaaaaay! :)

  2. KarenP says:

    Yay!!!!! Jumping up and down and cheering for you!

  3. Brittney says:

    You have me in tears!!!! What a strong, courageous, awesome woman, you are! What if, what if, that old man who was such a source of encouragement for you was an angel! I’m sure he was!

    I am blessed to call you “friend”.

    <3 Brittney

  4. Pam says:


    I am proud of you!

    If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.
    – Dolly Parton

    ……. Heather, you got a rainbow!

  5. Mom says:

    Awesome, Heather! I’m proud of you.

  6. AnnMarie says:

    You are incredible!!! Congrats! So inspiring!!! :o)

    • Heather says:

      Funny, you inspired me! I was thinking of you and your encouragement this summer while swimming (or dog paddling).

  7. Ann Pinder says:

    Heather the promise of “I can do all things through Christ” was so apparent in your words and pictures. I so enjoyed seeing it while sitting in my chair!

  8. Wendy says:

    Congrats! I always love reading your posts. Your story is a huge inspiration!

  9. You were and are amazing, Heather! These photos are all great, too. :-)



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A Curious Girl in the Gluten-Free World

I'm a curious girl, wife, teacher, fitness fanatic, gluten-free foodie, high-raw vegan, and Mama Cat living in NYC. I've made the transition from baking and cooking gluten-free to creating raw vegan recipes that are naturally gluten free. My gluten intolerance opened up my diet to a whole new world of nutritious plant-based foods. While I'm not 100% vegan, it's my favorite way to eat, and making and sharing raw foods makes me giddy. Living in the City has its joys and challenges, and I enjoy sharing my experiences with you.

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