When I ventured into triathlons a decade ago, I was looking for a new adventure and a fun way to stay fit.
Fun was the key word as I pushed myself to discover how much I was capable of, how much I could endure. And the answer was quite a lot.
I found I was capable of achieving podium spots and enduring the endless hours of training required for Ironman-distance triathlons, and I qualified for nationals twice.
Eventually, after years of increasing intensity, I wondered when my athletic ability would peak. I was starting to feel the fatigue. My body was tired, the wear and tear on my muscles and joints evident.
After competing in ten triathlons in one season, I began to commit to fewer races, dropping to six, then four, then two. This year I committed only to the South Carroll Sprint Triathlon (SCST), a local race held on Father's Day to benefit Meals on Wheels. And I only committed to that because I haven't yet descended so low as to stay in bed while my husband goes off to participate in a local triathlon for a good cause.
Triathlon is something my husband and I have always done together, something that keeps us grounded as a couple while we navigate the amazing, all-consuming, ever-challenging years of parenting.
I went into this year's SCST having done no race-specific, competitive-level training. These days, I am back to exercising merely to maintain a reasonable level of fitness. In a typical week, I may run one or two 5Ks, ride for 45 minutes, swim for an hour, take a long walk, and either paddleboard, kayak, practice yoga, or simply do nothing it all.
It is a far cry from when my Ironman training reached eleven workouts over six days and resembled a part-time job.
But even when I wasn't training at the Ironman level, there were speed workouts and hill workouts. There was a schedule, goals. Now I go into each week with no plan. The weather, my mood, and the availability of workout buddies now dictate what I might do on a given day.
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So, I knew I'd be slow at the SCST. How far I'd fallen was the question. The answer was not unexpected. Six minutes.
I was six full minutes off my best time on the course, a number that wouldn't have gotten me within spitting distance of the podium several years ago when the field was more competitive, but a number that was good enough this particular year for me to finish first in my division.
Pre-race, people often ask, "how do you think you'll do?" My answer is that I will do as well as I deserve, given the effort I've put in.
At six minutes slower, I can't say I feel I deserved a top podium spot, but the slower time indeed reflected my diminished effort.
And that's OK with me. If I can swap training for exercising and still perform respectably well at a triathlon, then the view on the way down from the top isn't so bad after all.