Why did I choose to do a triathlon?

This is a continuation of my last update about completing my first triathlon. Here I get into why I chose to do it in the first place and how I got started preparing for it.

It started with a shattered pint glass. Or rather, that was the tipping point that got me to commit to myself, “I am going to do a triathlon.”

In the winter and spring of 2019, things weren’t going the way I wanted them to. I was making a big push in my life to get my career to the next level. I had freelanced and contracted for a couple years and I was looking for avenues to advance both my technical skills and my writing skills in more rigorous arenas. I even committed to achieving 100 rejections by the end of the year. (Inspired by this and this.) The rejections were rolling in and while I was inching towards 100, I was not yet achieving that career upgrade I sought.

Meanwhile, my home of several years was shifting from beloved sanctuary in dynamic New York City to biohazard. The building manager did some construction on the unit’s deck in December 2018, which turned into a slow leak, which turned into rotted wood floors, which turned into indoor mold spore spritzes that intensified when it rained. This was accompanied by a less-than-helpful landlord. If you’ve rented in NYC, you know, this is a much, much longer story. Short version: I really loved that place, but it was time to pack up and find elsewhere to live.

By July I was post apartment hunt and move, post a bevy of allergy-triggered illnesses throughout the spring, in the midst of overlapping hiring processes, and getting used to a new apartment that checked most of the boxes. I was tired and frustrated. And the new sink was too small.

A bit of context on the pint glass. I had it for five plus years since I lived in New York as an adult. It was originally my dad’s who was a marathon runner and triathlete. I should add – September 2019 was coming and would bring the 10th anniversary of his unexpected death. This had been on my mind during this lively year, and I did not yet know how I felt about it. There were thoughts going on in the background, but I had quite a bit to process. When that cup shattered, I felt like triathlon training could be a way to process everything that had happened that year, in the past ten years, and a way to honor my dad’s memory by doing an activity he loved. I felt like doing something painful and challenging would be the perfect way to acknowledge that anniversary. I resolved – ok, I’ll have to get my own pint glass.

Choosing a Race

I looked at short triathlons in the NYC-metro area that I could get to by public transportation. Originally I tried to find one on that anniversary, but none fit the bill, so I looked at October, my dad’s birthday month. I found a sprint triathlon in Belmar, NJ that was walking distance from an NJTransit station and took place on the first Sunday in October. The distances: 1/4 mile ocean swim, 10.6 mile Bike and 5k Run. That gave me several weeks to train and I’d be able to train through the month of September.

Finding Training Plan

I had no idea how to approach training for my first triathlon, so I found a 12-Week Training Plan online and followed it. My first swim of the plan was July 16th.

Starting Point

Most people who get into triathlons feel confident in at least one of the sports. That was swimming for me. I had grown up swimming competitively from a young age through high school, my first job was as a lifeguard, and I spent summers swimming in the Atlantic Ocean as a kid. I was a fish. Swimming ✅. I also felt fairly comfortable riding a bike. I bought a crappy hybrid bike back in 2017 to see if I would like biking regularly in Brooklyn. I would ride it around Prospect Park for exercise in nice weather, and would commute to the Y on it. Cycling 🤷🏽‍♀️.

Running would be my undoing. Sure, I had run as a kid for fun and as part of sports. As an adult, I actively avoided running. Every once in a while I’d give it a try because it seemed like such a cheap form of exercise and I was curious about the runner’s high people spoke about. I never found it. Every time I tried a treadmill or a brisk jog, I immediately felt agony and decided running was not for me.  Running ☠️.

Aside from this, I’d say my general fitness level at the start of training was minimally active. I was on the mend from allergic reactions in the old apartment, and my fitness regimen, though regular, consisted of going to the Y and going easy (maybe a yoga class, a brief swim, a 30 min core class).

While I definitely could not have done a 1/4 mile ocean swim, 10.6 mile bike and 5k run when I first committed to the race, it was comforting to know that if I put in the time, I would be able to get there.

Closing Thoughts

If you’ve read this far, thank you for your time! You might be wondering why I chose to write about this personal goal on my mostly technical blog. A couple reasons:

  1. This is my blog and I’ll write what I want! But in all seriousness, I’d like to commit to writing even when I am not in the midst of discovering a new technology. This blog started out as me discussing technical challenges, and I want to continue to write about how I approach challenges and problem solving in various contexts.
  2. Transitioning into tech from another career is challenging. Sometimes it feels like a goal where the finish line is constantly moving out of reach. Job searching for the right technical job feels that way. Sure, there may be the goal of a specific role or company, but you only have control over so much and while you might put in the work, the satisfaction of completion, of achieving the thing you’ve set out to reach, can disappear at any time when you meet a person who doesn’t think you’re the right culture fit (based on a 15-minute first impression!) or has met another candidate they prefer. With triathlon training, I was able to set a goal with the gratification of an end date and the ability to compete and finish on my terms.

It was incredible to harness my competitive spirit in this multi-month endeavor. I strongly believe that ambitious humans need outlets where they can set and strive for challenging goals and then achieve them. It creates a ripple effect in other aspects of life. I will be writing more on this topic, and I will also be training for more triathlons in the future. I already have my eye on a couple races in 2020.

Do you have a story about working towards a fitness goal? I’m a huge sucker for these stories and would love to hear about it!

Until next time, S

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