Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Triathlon is for Dummies (The Glory of the Short Race)

While perusing our beloved Book People for my next enlightening read (yes, I finally finished "Atlas Shrugged") I stumbled upon a shocking sight. Squeezed beneath a running section dominated by 800 copies of "Born to Run," was a small - but hopeful - triathlon section. Yet even this paled in comparison to the Staff Selection. Nestled in between "Championship Triathlon Training" and "Slow, Fat Triathlete" was "Triathlon Training FOR DUMMIES."

I will be the first to admit: I have many a "FOR DUMMIES" book hidden behind other books on my shelf. However I prefer my guests' eyes fall upon Plato's "Dialogues," rather than "Existentialism FOR DUMMIES." Long ago, while flipping through "Scrapbooking FOR DUMMIES," I realized that the "FOR DUMMIES" books cater to a crowd who are so mildly interested in a particular topic they don't even care to take the time to research the best literature on the subject. But they are interested enough to possibly read about it. They are fast-food for how-to books. Basically, "FOR DUMMIES" should be read as "FOR EVERYONE."

So what does it mean to have "EVERYONE" interested in a sport that was once reserved for the overachieving, extremely athletic, hyper-active, over-stimulated, Ironmen/women of the world? I can tell you what it means for me: more hot pink swim caps in my already overcrowded age group crowding my shoreline at the start of my local triathlon. And the small chance of me ever winning my age group fading before my eyes as some 27-year-old-once-high-school-track-star laps me without breaking a sweat. But then again, EVERYONE must start somewhere. I was once a neophyte. Who am I to complain?

I began triathlons in Los Angeles because my friends and I were bored with overcrowded marathon training programs and running our millionth loop around Griffith Park. We saw it as a way to break up the monotony of training and participate in an activity with participants who did not gasp at skin-tight unitards (outfits formerly limited to West Hollywood). We were completely unprepared for our first triathlon but, after a shivering, terrified dive into the enormous waves of the Pacific off Santa Monica Beach we embarked upon the most incredible, epic race of our lives. It was the Los Angeles Triathlon. It was a sprint distance.

As I watch the masses encroach upon my beloved sport, I've contemplated participating at another level. Perhaps I will finally make that leap and train for the less-populated Half Ironman or even an Ironman. I was serious enough to discuss this ambition with my triathlon guru, mentor and co-worker, Zane Castro. I told him I'd like to do the Lonestar 70.3 in Galveston. He gave me a weary look and said he'd think about it.

The next day, I asked him if he'd come to any conclusions. In his typical way of delivering less-than-savory news in a complimentary manner, Zane said: "In two months you could do it, you just wouldn't be that sharp." If there's anything I like to be, it's sharp - so we started thinking of alternatives. However, due to certain temporal restrictions pertaining to my forthcoming nuptials to the mustchioed man of my dreams, we could find no race that would work with my training schedule. Then Zane said the unexpected, "Why don't you just race the Olympic distance - and race it fast."

The thought had never occurred to me. At even the shortest distances, I viewed triathlon as an endurance event, something to be "gotten through" rather than conscientiously raced with precise training and strategy. The thought of taking my training to the next level by adding an element of thought - which in this case translates into increased speed - never occurred to me. Suddenly, Sprint and Olympic distances didn't seem like "gateway races" anymore, a level athletes must pass through to ascend to the upper echelons of the 140.6 distance.

After the Austin Marathon I will embark upon my new training goal. Until then I'll stay pumped by thinking of reasons why my race is called an "Olympic" distance. Number one: the first time you race it, you need the bravery and the willpower of any olympian, whether you're a high school track star or a lush like me. Number two: giving it all you've got in any race will leave you with feeling godlike, no matter what distance. Number three: at the finish line of your first Sprint or Olympic race you will have completed the "Triathlon FOR DUMMIES" basic course, whether you know it or not, and begin to understand the nuances and the true beauty of our strange, beloved sport.

Bring it on you wave of hot pink swim caps. I'm ready to race the Olympic distance. And race it fast.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You go, GIRL!!!!