I’ve been thinking about doing a triathlon, and the only reason I’m even considering such a bugfuck crazy endeavor is because I’ve been trying to stop selling myself short when it comes to physical activities. I’ve spent my entire adult life being convinced I’m too wimpy and uncoordinated to do anything athletic, and it’s only now at 35-damn-years-old that I’ve finally decided to start pushing the limits of what I think I’m capable of.

I credit the training gym I’ve been going to with helping me shift my way of thinking. Every week, they physically shove me out of my comfort zone, and ask me to do things I would never in a million years do on my own. Sprinting in intervals on a treadmill with the incline set at a level I can only describe as “vertical, only somehow more so”? Not really something I’d ever have the motivation to endure without a witness, you know? Ditto forty thousand triceps extensions in a row, or football drill running through a ladder, or trying to hit a target with a ball while furiously pedaling a stationary bike.

With each challenge, I realize that while I am in fact woefully clumsy and typically need about seventeen demonstrations before I can even attempt any new exercise that requires coordination or balance or the ability to remember my left from my right (just ask my workout partner Dawn, who every week politely refrains from doubling over and braying with laughter at my constant blundering), I can do this stuff. I may not do it with style or grace or even a modicum of personal dignity, but the realm of “impossible” is always much further away than I tend to think.

I’d like to mark a triathlon off my life list, not only because it sounds so badass (just the word triathlon is kind of hardcore, don’t you think? Triathlon. I practically need an energy bar just to type that shit), but because it seems like something that’s way too hard for me to do. And you know? I bet it’s not.

In order to meet this goal, not only do I need to work on my endurance (I’m thinking of how I felt during those two 5Ks I did earlier this summer, and trying to imagine what running after a swim/bike event will feel like. Probably like HOT SCREAMING DEATH, right?) and strategize the very best pose for showing off that sexy arm-marker number you wear during the race, but there’s also the small matter of, um, learning how to swim.

It’s not that I have no idea how to swim, really, it’s just that whatever technique I might have had when I was ten years old and learning how to flounder my way through the various strokes has long since exited my brain and muscle memory. I tried a brisk crawl while we were at the river last weekend, thinking that it would be one of those skills that comes back to you right away no matter how many years it’s been since you did anything other than a don’t-get-my-hair-wet! dog paddle, aaaaaand . . . not so much. I was spluttery and gaspy and my arms felt tired INSTANTLY and I was flailing and splashing and kicking these big loud blooshes of water without actually going anywhere and I couldn’t figure out what to do with my face and I got water up my nose and when I stopped I realized I’d propelled myself forward by maybe ten feet and I was exhausted. The only way I could complete the swimming section of a triathlon right now is if I did a leisurely back float across all 400 meters, perhaps while clinging to an innertube.

There’s a “Get Out There and Tri” (love it!) super-sprint triathlon in September, where you only swim 400 yards, ride 9 miles, and run 2 miles. I think I should give that one a try, and in the meantime, find a pool and have someone teach me how to do something other than act like a drowning cat when submerged in water. I’ve been wanting to take Riley to swimming lessons, so hey, maybe there’s a Remedial Mother-Preschooler special out there.

In conclusion:

• GOAL: TRIATHLON
• CHALLENGE: CANNOT SWIM FOR SHIT, ALSO AM SURE WOULD BARF/DIE RIGHT NOW IF RUNNING/BIKING WERE TO BE COMBINED
• SOLUTION: START GOING TO AQUATIC CENTER. TRY MINI RUN/BIKE COMBOS.
• MINI-GOAL: SUPER SPRINT TRIATHLON SEPTEMBER 19
• NOT SURE WHY I’M: TYPING IN ALL CAPS

Do you have any short-term/long-term goals you’re thinking about right now? What are you doing to accomplish them?

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Amy
Amy
12 years ago

My current goal is to run an 8k in September. I’ve only ever done 5k’s (although my best time is under 27 minutes!). I think you’re right about the impossible actually being possible, once you, you know, TRY. And I heartily believe you can do a triathlon!

Dina
Dina
12 years ago

Do it! I also cannot swim and have never learned to breathe underwater, but I did the Danskin Triathlon a couple of years ago. I swam the whole half mile on my back, with one of the lovely swim angels swimming alongside me to tell me where I was going. I felt very badass despite being one of the last people out of the water, and yes, your legs feel like a numb jello by the running leg, but it’s so worth it. Find a team to train with if you can, makes it much more fun.

Eric's Mommy
Eric's Mommy
12 years ago

Signing Riley up for swimming lessons is an awesome idea. My son was terrified of the water until he was about 4, he has been taking swimming lessons since then (3 years) and he is such a great swimmer and loves the water. He evens competes with 10 and 11 year old kids. Totally worth it.

Lucrezia
12 years ago

I’ve been thinking of doing a marathon for a while, and while I haven’t made that leap from thinking to doing yet I can really relate to this post. My level of coordination and endurance is even lower than yours but I figure running can’t be that hard, right? Keep us updated on the triathlon trial. :-)

justmouse'
12 years ago

long term goal: being thin/fit. at this point in my life (and knowing myself the way i do) this is ranked right up there after turning lead to gold, and developing powers of invisibility.

short term meandering sort of goal: learning scottish gaelic. don’t ask why. i don’t know either. i just LOVE it, even though it’s about the hardest goddam language i’ve ever seen. i’m just sort of learning this on my own through books, tapes, podcasts and computer programs. so…i should be accomplished my short-term goal maaaaaayyyybe by the time i DIE.

in terms of super realistic goals? just keep getting up every morning, doing my job, raising my family, and keeping my head above water.

Sunshyn
Sunshyn
12 years ago

I forgot how to swim, too, and I used to be pretty good at it. Add to that, it hurts my back to lie prone and kick. Yeah, go figure.

Beth
Beth
12 years ago

You are going to love it! I can see you getting addicted to triathlons. I’ve only done one, then had to skip what was going to be my 2nd one due to a medical problem. Right now my short term goal is to work up the nerve to do one in August without a wetsuit. EEEEK. Freaking out just thinking about it. Long term I’d like to FINALLY lose the 10 pounds that’s been nagging me forever.

Jess
12 years ago

I have recently picked up swimming as My Gym Thing, as you know, and while I felt like that at first too? I have gotten SO MUCH BETTER, and SO QUICKLY. And also, I totally cheat and watch the good swimmers in the pool and copy them. It’s how I figured out how to kick my legs, when to breathe, and what the arm motion is supposed to look like. I was HOPING to learn more from a trainer, but we all know how that turned out, so I’m holding off on that one for awhile.

Seriously, swimming = SO AWESOME. It’s a total body workout. It’s cardio AND strength training all at once! And you don’t get all hot and flushed because you’re in nice cool water while you’re working out. And it’s low-impact! And I’ve only been doing it for two weeks and I can already feel arm muscles that were always buried below all that flab before.

Wow. Apparently, some sort of Swimming Advocacy Association should be paying me to be their brand ambassador. Or something.

whoorl
12 years ago

I’ve got to start running again. What used to be an easy 2 miles has become barfing up a lung after 3 minutes. GAH.

I saw a Nike ad once that said, “Right now, someone busier than you is running.” Man, I love that.

Just do it. JUST DO IT.

/peptalk

Erin
Erin
12 years ago

Triathlons are my current obsession. I did a try-a-tri last month and my goal was to come in under an hour. I did it in 1 hr 2 min and I was satisfied because the transitions (water to bike then bike to running) are way harder than I thought. I had trouble getting my t-shirt on after the swim and my shoe laces came undone on the run twice because I didn’t take the 10 seconds I needed to to make sure they were done up well.

That said, I am now doing a sprint triathlon on August 8th (750 m swim, 20 k bike, 5 k run). I feel the same way going into this one that I did a month ago before the first. Namely, this is an impossible challenge. But you know what? I just did it the first time and I will just do it again.

I got a shirt from the first one and I feel amazing when I wear it. I earned it damnit.

A piece of advice though – you need to do brick runs a lot (running after biking) and it will feel like you can’t move your legs for the first mile. It is just a brain thing, not a muscle thing but it takes a few minutes to get over the feeling that bricks are on your feet (hence the name).

It is such a doable challenge. You will do great and it will feel amazing when you finish. Good luck!

Jenny
Jenny
12 years ago

You Go, Girl! I did the Danskin Triathlon twice, many years ago. I have always been a strong swimmer, and more recently a decent cyclist, but running … never. I passed some people during the swim, lots more on the bike, and EVERY SINGLE ONE passed me back during the run. Oh well. It was a great experience, and I always feel so Badass saying “oh yeah, I’ve done triathlons”.

In recent years I’ve been struggling with a knee issue that keeps me from even attempting to run, and I’ve fallen into Serious Sloth. (Plus I lost my husband last year, so I cut myself Serious Slack in the doing-anything-I-don’t-feel-like-doing department). That said, I really want to get back on my bike. I hereby promise to use your example as the impetus to take my mountain bike to the shop and have it outfitted with slicks and a kid seat, so I can take my 3-year-old on short (dare I propose daily?) outings on the bike. There, I’ve said it! Watch — I’m going to pick up the phone and talk to the bike shop RIGHT NOW.

So, thanks for the motivation!

Liz
Liz
12 years ago

Heee. When you got a bike I thought to myself: “I wonder when she’s going to start thinking about doing a triathlon.”

(Side note: The word you are looking for is: “Adult Onset Athlete” We’re a fun group :D )

This is how it always starts. It’s totally worth it. And totally fun. You will absolutely hate your life on the run of your first triathlon (um. And on every subsequent triathlon) but the feeling of badassery upon completion is so extreme that you immediately will want to do it again.

For swimming: Here’s the thing no one tells you about triathlon: With the exception of former college swimmers who then bought bikes and started doing tri’s, every triathlete hates swimming. So, here’s what you do:
“The 0 to 1650 Plan” (that’s 0 meters to 1650 meters): http://ruthkazez.com/SwimWorkouts/ZeroTo1mile.html

That’s the plan I started to use before my first tri and it worked great. I’m about a million races down (from every distance to super sprints to Ironman) and trust me, if I could do it, you can totally learn to swim for tri’s.

vague
12 years ago

That is awesome, and I have no doubt at all that you will find swimming and kick it’s Speedo-clad ass up one side and down the other.

Me, I have signed up for two 5K races, one at the end of this month that I will probably have to run/walk my way through, and one at the end of October that I plan on running completely. I have never run a race before, so I am excited and nervous in equal measures.

Lawyerish
12 years ago

Go for the tri! Everyone I know who’s done them has absolutely loved the experience.

As for goals, my brother and I are planning to do this bike/kayak/run as a tag-team (he bikes and paddles, I run) next June in Seattle:

http://www.mountaintosound.com/course.php

I’ve been running a bunch of half marathons this year; it’s the perfect distance for feeling like a badass but not wanting to lay down and DIE by the side of the road.

I’m signed up for the NY marathon in November, but will likely cancel my entry since the pain of ’05 and ’06 are still very fresh. I think I need five years between marathons to blot out the memories. Or maybe now that I’ve crossed it off my list I can just NEVER DO ONE AGAIN.

Jenny
Jenny
12 years ago

P.S. I did call! The bike shop has kid seats in stock for a mere $100, and they’ll install. I am ALL OVER this.

heather
12 years ago

this particular post came at just the right time for me. thanks for being a real-live-no-bullshit inspiration.

Liz
Liz
12 years ago

I dealt with that swimming challenge when I had to complete a test before getting my scuba certification. I thought the same thing: how hard could it be to swim a few laps? Man, glad I tried it out before the actual test. And even after training for a while, I still ended the laps portion of the test in a pathetic sort of drowning dog style. I’m sure you’ll do better.

She Likes Purple
12 years ago

Finish a marathon. Because if Ron on The Biggest Loser can do it with his jacked up knees, so can I.

Also, take a fitness vacation. Not a break from fitness, but a vacation that focuses on physical and mental well-being.

Sarah
Sarah
12 years ago

Do it!!! Check out the Danskin one in Seattle. Don’t know if you can still register – it fills up fast, but it is perfect for the first time and they are SO SUPPORTIVE and excited for those who are doing it for the first time.

Noemi
12 years ago

Ha! I am one of those “former college swimmers who then bought bikes” but am still terrified of the swim portion of a tri (which idea I have also been kicking around for some time).

I had no idea there were super sprint distances- now that sounds like something I could tackle. Good luck with yours!

Bekki
Bekki
12 years ago

I know I’m a stranger, but I live in the area, and have excellent swim related credentials. (I’ve coached aquatics for a great many years at a very high level.) If you are interested, I’d be happy to help, or at least give you a game plan.

I’m woefully out of swim shape myself and now the boys have a regular bedtime, am really looking forward to getting back in the pool.

Email me, if you’d like.

Heather C
Heather C
12 years ago

I think I’d like to take swim lessons, because I’m a self-taught swimmer and I never did learn proper technique. I suck at the swimming.

But something I’d really like to re-learn is ice skating. Again, I taught myself how to skate, and I was pretty good at it when I was, oh, TEN. I’m not saying that I could do triple lutzes or anything, but I could go on the ice and have a good time.

I stopped for many years, but when I moved to Quebec City there was this perfect free rink right near my house. I got out my skates, went to the rink… and skated for maybe five minutes. I had forgotten how to everything about skating, and the arches of my feet hurt so badly I could barely move. I also forgot how to fall, and I hurt my wrist by landing on my hand. So where once I could whip around a rink like a freaking speed skater, I was reduced to clinging to the boards trying not to injure myself or others. I would like to fix that.

Maggie
Maggie
12 years ago

The local community college nearby offers discounted entry & class rates to residents. My best friend who couldn’t swim for sh*t–seriously, she was bad at the doggy paddle, and that’s being nice–started taking the weekly drop-in classes (you pay for classes in bulk, and then show up whenever you want) and within about a month, she was swimming laps better than me. And I took swimming lessons for about 12 years, including some competative stuff, AND the summer camp I went to had to create a new swim cap color for me because I surpassed all of their swimming levels (& corresponding swim cap colors).

So, in short, if you have a college or community pool nearby, it could be verrry helpful! :)

pseudostoops
12 years ago

I’m tentatively, and with much trepidation, thinking I’m going to do the Chicago half marathon in September. Which: eep. But also: whee!

Kate
12 years ago

Oh Linda, man. The more you talk about this kind of stuff, the more jazzed I get. You’ve been such an inspiration with your fitness journey that I jumped on that bandwagon. I just did my first half marathon (the Rock n Roll Seattle a few weeks ago) and even though there was WAY more pain than I anticipated, the feeling of accomplishment and pride…and the rush of ADRENALINE….wow. I still get teary. And I can’t wait to do the next one, pain and all.

If you’re not sure about swimming, try a duathalon. Then you’ll get used to the biking/running part and can work on the swimming.

And there’s a quote I have hanging next to my race number and finisher’s medal that says:

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the Courage to start.” ~John J. Bingham

Kate
12 years ago

Oh and Jenny up there?? You go girl! Good for you!

Nicole
12 years ago

I teach people how to be swim instructors (and I teach the people who teach the people who want to be swim instructors). If you want pointers on technique, let me know. I can explain the physics of it in plain English :)

(Not to usurp Bekki :))

Pete
Pete
12 years ago

Training for Solvang in the Spring

Angie
12 years ago

Have you considered a lazy man’s triathlon? You bike/swim/run over a month’s period. Obviously, this wouldn’t be your ultimate goal, but perhaps spending a month swimming a few miles would be a start?

Kaitlyn
12 years ago

Good for you!! You can totally do this! Swimming is hard (1k swimming is equal output to a 5k run, so…) but it will feel harder because the movements are foreign to your body. Good luck and I am sure you will be able to do this!

k
k
12 years ago

Gotta say- if you successfully learn how to swim for this, you will instantly become one of my go-to role models.
I’ve never learned how. I get the concept intellectually, I’ve taken classes as a little kid and as a young teen- but I’ve never quite gotten it into my body. Everyone always cries out “oh, *I*can teach you how!” and then fails. It is my block.
However! I do think I could do it! Because… there’s no real reason I can see that I couldn’t (other than, you know, all that failure.)
Thus far, my only role model in this has been Julia Roberts in Sleeping with the Enemy- and since that’s fiction, she only sorta counts. You would be a real life swimming learner, and oh, I would look up to you so much. I would be flat out inspired.
No pressure or anything. But yeah. You’d inspire me.

Courtney
12 years ago

I participated in swim teams growing up and in high school. I wasn’t fast, but I had endurance. After that many years of staring at a clean pool bottom, I can’t bring myself to swim laps again when I could be rocking out on the iPod on a bike ride, run, hike, etc. I get too bored with myself!

That said, it IS a great workout. And I’ll probably go back to it someday when my joints call for something more low impact. In the meantime though– uh uh. Nope. Not unless you hold a gun to my head. I get too bored!

Olivia
Olivia
12 years ago

I think that totally rocks, good luck! I’d love to do a triathlon, but I need to start with baby steps. I’ve been keeping my eye out for a 5K scheduled sufficiently off in the future so I can give my out-of-shape self plenty of time to prepare. For me, the swimming and biking part should be fine. It’s the running that I’m a giant wimp about. Oh, and the endurance, of which I have…uhhh, none. Whatsoever.

Best of luck to you, I’m sure you’re going to rock it!

Shawna
12 years ago

I’ve wanted to live a more artsy kind of life and this year my photography is scheduled to appear in a total of 4 shows. My first Art-in-the-Park is this Saturday.

Like you, by the way, I am a dog paddler. Unlike you, however, I’m perfectly content to stay that way.

thatgirlblogs
12 years ago

this pisses me off. I was all proud that I walked up the stairs today — you athletic people amaze me so.

Mary
Mary
12 years ago

Does “push this watermelon-sized baby out of my hoo-ha” count as an athletic achievement? Because that’s what’s next on the list for me.

Motherhood Uncensored
12 years ago

I have my eye on a 10K this fall and perhaps *perhaps* a 1/2 marathon in the Spring.

I swam a bit the last couple of months and was embarrassed at how winded I was after one lap of the pool.

You can do it.

Valria
12 years ago

I signed up for the Seattle 1/2 marathon last fall and ended up walking it.

Then I signed up for the Rock and Roll 1/2 marathon last month and ended up running 1/2 of the 1/2 (or quarterthon if you will).

So I think the Seattle 1/2 marathon in November must be on the “to-do list” and run the whole 13 miles this time.

Lauren
Lauren
12 years ago

In my pre-kidlet days, I did a bunch of triathlons. Some on my own and some via Team in Training (love them), from a sprint up to a half-ironman. I have been a big ol’ sloth after Jacob was born, and have been trying to motivate to get back out there. I’m in the Seattle area (West side, yo) and am lifeguard certified, so I’ll teach you to swim if you’ll help drag me out running/biking. Email me if you think that might be cool.

Melis
Melis
12 years ago

Youtube is full of swimming advice, some of it very good. I have a disability resulting from a battle with bone cancer (I won! Yay!) that prevents me from riding a bike or running, so swim at least 4 times a week to get the kind of intense cardio workout I can’t get on land.

Though I knew how to swim pretty well, I’ve been watching the free videos from http://www.goswim.tv to refine my technique. Thanks to them I’ve finally figured out how to do a flip turn in the pool and have gotten the hang of bilateral breathing. I should point out that I’m in no way affiliated with them and found them randomly thanks to looking for flip-turn tutorials on youtube.

Triathlons are totally badass. I’m doing my first in the form of a relay (I’m doing the swim, two friends are doing the bike and the run) in August.

Donna
Donna
12 years ago

Wow.
This is gonna be a cool place to read for the next few months.
I couldn’t swim that far if I had to, and I scuba dive.
You rock hard…….Are you insane? Nope.
A bad ass? Oh yeah!

KT
KT
12 years ago

I’ve been terrible with exercise lately, but I’ve recently (a) signed up with a personal trainer at my gym (once a week), and (b) signed up to do a 9km run in September. So my training has begun – the furthest I’ve run non-stop is 7km, so 9km should be fine. But it’s winter here in Sydney, so it’s a little bit difficult to get motivated. I just ran 7km this morning around a bay near my house, and it was brilliant – a dazzling Sydney morning and I felt good. In a world of pain now though…

Your triathlon plan sounds perfect. My friend was very similar to you. She got some swimming lessons and handled the swim with no problem. It can be confronting diving into the water with that many other people flailing around you, so the key is probably to break away to one side instead of being trapped amongst all the arms and legs. Good luck with it!

Liz
Liz
12 years ago

i was a swimmer in high school and i’ve taught several runner friends how to swim better for this very purpose! if only you could commute to portland for swim lessons, i’d be happy to teach you. :) seriously, though, ask around. i bet someone you know was a swimmer and would be able to give you some tips. and i’m sure your super cool gym has adult swim lessons after a fashion. i’m looking forward to reading about riley and swim lessons. ;)

i have thought about doing a tri too (and your super sprint one is almost short enough for me!), but oddly enough, i think i could hack the swim and the bike…but the run would kill me.

muscle-wise, running/biking/aerobics tend to build up a different kind of muscle than swimming. which is mostly why my dad, a life-long born-to-run guy at 61 (he did NOT pass that on; thanks a LOT), literally sinks. also why swimmers cross-train on running, but not running very far. the up-shot of this aside is that i bet once you simply start swimming more, it will be easier. you might not need as much instruction as you think. besides, as you said above: you CAN do this. :)

short tip (like this entry isn’t long enough):
-look straight down at the bottom of the pool, not forward. if you are looking too far forward/up, your head bobs up and your legs drop down, and then you’re not skimming the surface, but swimming against it at an angle. boo. the spine bone’s connected to the head AND the legs, as it turns out.

Jessica
Jessica
12 years ago

I think it’s AWESOME that you’re committing to do this. Recently I’ve been challenging me to step up my workouts. It’s only been about a year and a half since I seriously started working out and only now am I seriously viewing myself as an athlete. I participated in my first 5k last month and my next goal is to RUN the whole thing. I’m training and soon it’ll be a reality. Along the same lines as you… I think it’d be IMPOSSIBLE for me to run a half marathon, so, someday, I want to run one. That’s MY long term goal.

Good luck with yours! Can’t wait to see pictures of your feats!

Jenn
Jenn
12 years ago

My current goals are to improve my 10k time (I’ve only ever done one, so I’ll take ANY improvement) and finish the half marathon I just registered for (gulp!) on August 16. My strategy is to run. And run some more. And then run some more. And somewhere around last Tuesday (finally!), I think actually it started to get easier. That’s the funny thing about running, I think–it sucks SO bad when you’re trying to get in shape, but once you find your groove it feels SO good. Good luck on the tri–you’re MUCH braver than I am!

Meagan
Meagan
12 years ago

Congrats on your new goal! You’re going to love it. I started training for my first (from NO athletic ability – couldn’t run 2 minutes and couldn’t swim for shit) a few years ago and totally got sucked in. For swimming technique I recommend the book Total Immersion (Laughlin/Delves). I taught myself to swim decently with this book alone. It is plenty to get you started, and when you’re ready you can get a coach or join a master’s group.

As far as my goals, short term I’d like to pop this kid out in January. Longer term, maybe run a half marathon a year postpartum? We’ll see.

Penny
Penny
12 years ago

Short term goal: not to kill myself or anyone else while I quit smoking.
Long term goal: quit smoking

KT
KT
12 years ago

You could absolutely so a tri. I can’t swim for shit either but floundered my way thru a tri several times.
Short term? Full Marathon in January.
Long term? Improve diet and exercise so that marathon training doesn’t feel so damn hard.
You can DO THIS!!

Sarah
12 years ago

I knew it! As soon as you bought the bike. :) I have trained for the Danskin (and then didn’t end up competing because I had to attend my Grandpa Ward’s 90th b-day in San Diego) and have done plenty of open water swimming here. There are many many tri-training groups around and you can certainly find a swim coach to work one on one with you until you get comfortable at freestyle. If you want me to teach you to swim for FREE, I’d be more than happy to!

I’m one of those “college swimmers who bought bikes” that Liz up there in the earlier comments was talking about. 400m is totally doable! To give you an idea, I am totally out of shape and my 45 min swim workout is about 1600-1800m. The trick with swimming that seems to really get most of the runners/bikers is that you have to learn to make the most of your breath since you can’t breathe whenever you want to.

Sarah
12 years ago

Hmmm, I meant Liz of 2:31pm. :) Also goals: to launch my business and start making money!

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