On Triathlons & Life Lessons, Part One

On Triathlons & Life Lessons, Part One

At 7:10 a.m. Saturday, I find myself in a place I never thought I’d be: Bobbing on the Allegheny River anxiously awaiting a race equivalent to a sprint triathlon.

The slight current makes for a nervous game of bumper-kayak, and we keep apologizing to each other, awkwardly tangling paddles as we attempt to break apart. At 7:20, off we go.

It takes all of one minute to realize that, despite my best efforts, everyone is pulling ahead and I am falling back. I stroke so vigorously, my legs start to shake, my tongue is dry, and my arms ache.

This is not good, I think.

While I’ve been training for this, kayaking back and forth in a local lake for two miles, I swear this is the longest mile of my life, and I haven’t even hit the halfway turnaround.

Even more women pass me on the way back down-current and I concede: I guess I am just not going to be that good at this.

As I jog up the path to the transition area, slipping in my wet sandals, I tell myself: Breathe, enjoy this.


I have been training the past eight weeks for the Pittsburgh Adventure Race. I have logged many sweet-scented, green miles biking and running and kayaking on our local trails and in the nearby lake.

I have learned the beauty of sunset over evergreen hills while an egret sails above and I pull my paddle through glass-like water, cool drops hitting my legs.
I have risen early to ride a dozen or more hard, fast miles, learning the gears and feel of a new bike.
I have learned the joy of running through the woods, sidestepping roots and rocks, dodging puddles, ducking underneath low-slung branches.

I have felt strong, competent, agile.

This morning, I dry my feet, put on socks, running shoes, bike gloves, helmet, and sunglasses; take a too-brief sip of sports drink; grab my bike.

downtown race

I have tossed and turned over this, the 12.5-mile leg of the race, in the high-occupancy vehicle lane of a busy urban highway, with cars going 70 miles an hour on either side of the lane barriers.

I have fretted over the 6-mile steady uphill climb, knowing I have not done enough hill training. And, my natural cautiousness has caused me equal worry over flying back downhill at speeds that could easily rise up to 30 mph {or even more for fearless racers}.

But, as soon I mount and begin pedaling, I begin passing racers. I find –shockingly — I am good at this part. If there’s a racer ahead, I am either thinking of passing him or passing him.

 Join me tomorrow for the rest of the story?



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