Susan Lacke is back this week with more discoveries from her new life as an endurance athlete. After running her first marathon in February, Susan is currently training for Ironman Wisconsin 2010.
At the start of my last post, Matt introduced me as a “vegetarian marathoner and 2010 Ironman hopeful.” Looking at those words felt…surreal. That phrase looks so impressive and glamorous, two words that have never been used to describe this particular No Meat Athlete.
I’m a huge klutz known for eating the pavement on my runs. I still haven’t mastered clip pedals on my bike, so I crash at least once per ride. My swim coach tells me to quit whining at every training session. And before each race, I pray that if God has any mercy, he won’t let me be Dead F’ing Last. God doesn’t always have mercy. ..but he has a great sense of irony and humor, apparently.
For better or worse, though, triathlon training is something that I love. If I can do it, anyone can. If you’re thinking about taking up the sport, perhaps you can fulfill the impressive and glamorous role to make up for dorks like me. If you’re still on the fence, I’ve outlined the good, the bad, and the ugly of how triathlon training has impacted my life:
Triathlon training works the entire body. Every single square inch of it. And it shows.
Triathletes are sexy-looking folks, y’all, and I’m not just saying that because I’m biased. They’ve got GREAT arms, shoulders, legs…because they use all those parts on a regular basis. There’s also a confidence that comes as a result of pushing the limits of your body consistently.
I used to be incredibly insecure about my body. I was heavier and my proportions were much different than they are today. I will never be rocking a hot Hollywood bod, but I’m much slimmer, much more fit, and much more in love my body than I ever thought I could be. I love that over time, it’s turned into this efficient machine which allows me to accomplish feats I once thought impossible.
I’m not ashamed to admit it: I thank my body on a daily basis for allowing me to do such cool things. And sometimes, I even look in the mirror, do some flexing, and say, “You stud-ette, you. You sexy triathlete animal. SSSS-GROWL!” Don’t deny it, fellow NMAs: You do it, too.
My relationship with food has changed entirely.
My roommates and friends from college may recall some of the idiotic methods I used to lose weight quickly. Some were stupid (not eating food during the day so I could “save” my calories for the beer I was drinking at night), some made no sense whatsoever (existing solely on Diet Coke and apples for a week), and others were downright dangerous (laxatives and diet pills).
Food was the enemy; it was something that I felt I had no control over. Since I’ve become a vegetarian, food and I have decided that we actually like each other. We’re BFF’s, actually. I love food! It’s the energy source for what I do, and I have a responsibility to choose premium fuel for my body. Vegetarianism, for me, is a choice I consciously make every day to treat my body to the awesome fuel it deserves.
My active veggie-loving persona also allows me to feel almost zero guilt when my alter ego, the indolent cupcake-loving side, comes out to play every now and then. It’s a good balance.
Triathlon training works the entire body. (Déjà vu, anyone?) And it HURTS.
Most days I’m fine, but there are some days when saddle sores, blisters, bruised toenails, and muscle aches make me cringe with every movement. You can always try to play off your injuries, bruises and scrapes as something cool, like you got in a bar fight with a ninja. Eventually, though, people will find out the truth…and unless they’re a triathlete, too, they’ll think it’s kinda lame.
My apartment looks like someone came in and vomited triathlon everywhere.
I don’t have a dining room. It’s my bike cave. I spend hours on the trainer pedaling furiously, but never make it to the living room 3 feet away. The toilet in my spare bathroom doesn’t work, but that’s okay: I never use it as a bathroom. It’s the wetsuit rinse and storage unit. I can’t open a closet or chest without running shoes or hydration packs stumbling out and hitting me on the head. I store extra ice in the freezer for after my races – unfortunately, not for a celebratory margarita, but for those inevitable aches and pains (see above).
The clothes are not flattering.
Triathlon clothes are skimpier and tighter than anything Julia Roberts wore in “Pretty Woman,” and that’s not exactly a good thing. Sure, I love my body, but spandex suits always seem to exaggerate the parts I still struggle to love.
Additionally, I’ve embraced the fact that no matter how I dress it up, my padded bike shorts will always make me look like I have a horrendous case of Camel Toe.
Whizzing can be complicated. Seriously.
Sneaking behind a bush to discreetly pee during a race is acceptable (and, judging by the hoots and hollers some of your fellow athletes will give bush pee-ers, ENCOURAGED). However, sneaking behind a bush to discreetly pee during one of your regular training runs is “public urination,” and in most states results in a stern talking-to from the police and 100- to 500-dollar fine.
Not…that…I know from…ahem…personal experience.
But the logistics of finding a run or bike route that has a bathroom or two along the way (and will let you use it when you come clomping in there wearing your embarrassing cleats and camel-toe shorts) can require a LOT more forethought then you ever thought peeing would require.
Triathlon is not a sport for the modest.
While we’re on the topic of bodily functions: you might do things that you once thought were gross, like blowing snot rockets while running, or peeing yourself while on the bike.
Nudity is also a strong possibility. The multi-sport aspect of triathlon, especially in the longer distances, requires more wardrobe changes than a RuPaul concert. It’s not like there’s private changing stalls, either. So if you’re the type who insists on doing the hanky-panky with the lights off, either get very comfortable with semi-public nudity or find a different sport altogether.
In all, I wouldn’t change this lifestyle…not even for a second. The good FAR outweighs the bad and the ugly. The most beautiful thing about triathlon is that anyone can do it. If you have the chance to watch a local tri, take a look at who is competing. You’ll see male, female, young, old, blue-collar, white-collar…they’re all there, and they’re a part of this great community. Where else could spandex-clad, camel-toed folks who pee and undress in public find such glory? It doesn’t matter if you finish first or last in a race: You’re still a triathlete, and that’s pretty darn awesome. I hope to see you at the races!