September 26, 2010 is circled prominently on my calendar. That's the day this reformed couch potato will become a triathlete. Well, once I swim .93 miles around a wharf, bike 24.8 miles, run 6.2 miles and cross the finish line at the Santa Cruz Triathlon. A triathlete? Me? Really?
Four years ago, my lifestyle was far from active or healthy. The only competition I was ready for was the couch potato Olympics. Never very athletic, I didn't play high school or college sports, and as the years went by I became more and more sedentary. My life revolved around sitting: in the car, at work, in front of the TV, at the computer, the movies, and happy hour with friends. The pounds were adding up and I was beginning to feel OLD.
Then one day, I ran across something I had bookmarked years earlier. It was a plan called "Couch Potato to 5K." I had my doubts about ever being able to run 3.1 miles (5K), but decided to give it a try. I laced up my shoes and headed to the track. The first workout said to alternate 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. It didn't sound too hard, but those 60 seconds of running felt like an eternity. Still, I completed that first workout, and the next one, and the next. Before I knew it, I had run my first mile, and by the end of 10 weeks I could run three miles! It wasn't fast or easy, but I could do it. While I didn't love the runs, I loved the way I felt after a workout: energized, strong and confident. Once I finished the plan, I kept on running, a little more each week.
Other things started happening too. No master plan, I just started making little changes. Like being sure to eat a healthy breakfast and lunch so I had energy for workouts (I'm an evening runner). I wasn't dieting, but I started to learn about nutrition and became more aware of what I was eating. Meals became fuel for workouts, not a mindless leisure activity. A candy bar looks much less tempting when you know it will take three miles to burn it off. Little by little I found myself enjoying healthier options. I still treat myself and indulge now and then, but I'm much more aware of my food choices. A year later, at 40 years old and 70 pounds lighter, I ran my first half marathon (13.1 miles). Since then I've run dozens of races from 5Ks to half marathons, and have embraced a much healthier active lifestyle.
That was four years ago. While I love running, I found myself looking for a new challenge. I can run; I've been cycling for about a year; and I grew up at the beach and around the pool. Why not attempt a triathlon?
I'm quickly learning that swimming for fitness is very different from splashing around in the pool. The first time in the pool I could barely swim 25 yards without stopping. But, just like back when I started running, with each swim I go a little further. Every time I master a new distance I get excited. Then, I remember the huge Santa Cruz wharf and the cold Pacific Ocean that await me on Sept 26th and I get butterflies in my stomach. Can I really swim that far in the ocean? And then ride and run for almost three hours?
I remind myself of how far I've come since that first day at the track, how far all those small steps have brought me. At 43, I'm strong, healthy and in the best shape of my life. I'm both nervous and excited about the next 12 weeks of training and can't wait to start this new adventure...Santa Cruz Triathlon here I come!