If someone had told me years ago that at the age of 45; I would start competing against myself (or others) in marathons and triathlons, I would have wholeheartedly denied the thought.
It started with a dislike of where I was heading. I had become increasingly sedentary and although I was the same size, my shape was changing quickly and nothing fit well. That is when it all started.
My neighbor Val invited me to run with her; that quickly became the evening routine, along with a few 5k races here and there for fun. During all of this, my husband was cycling with “Turbo” the next door neighbor. Cycling with my husband and Turbo was new and fun, which prompted the need for a bike that allowed me to keep up! Yay, a reason to buy a new bike! Whenever we all would get the same day off, we would plan a ride. Nothing was more fun than the three of us cruising in what we called “Missile Formation”. Yelling “passing on the left”, as we whizzed by!
With all of this new activity, Val said suggested that I sign up for a sprint triathlon with her. Since I didn’t know how to swim, except for a basic dog paddle and keeping my head above water, I didn’t put much stock into the thought. However, at that point, she had planted the seed in my mind. Somewhere in between, I decided to sign up for a Sprint Tri to complete in August of 2017.
A little “bass-ackwards”, I signed up for the triathlon and then started going to the pool. Had to make sure I could at least stay above water and moving forward for a quarter mile. Nothing to make you work harder than knowing you have signed up already! For several months all my weekends and days off became pool day. I practiced (as I like to call it) my side swim, not really knowing it was an actual stroke of some sort that I was doing. I watched swimming videos, read articles, etc… basically anything to try and learn how to freestyle.
One weekend while at the pool, there was a nice lady that I nicknamed “Pool Friend” in the lane next to me using a swim tool in her practice. She swam nicely. I took that as my opportunity to try and be a little more extroverted than normal. I looked over and said, “Excuse me, may I ask what that is?” She smiled and to my dismay, happily and quickly began explaining that it was a pull buoy. Pool Friend then went into what and how it was used. She even took a little extra time to show me how to freestyle and gave me a few pointers to practice.
One day I finally swam enough laps in one setting to know “Ok, I think I can at least finish this thing”.
I’m so thankful my husband is so supportive and didn’t mind going with me to oversee what I hoped would be the completion of my first Tri. Not really expecting to do any more afterward; I joked that he came as backup in case I sank to the bottom or got eaten by sharks.
I only had four goals for that day:
- Do my best
- Finish the swim
- Finish the Triathlon
- Have fun!
I was the last one in the water – too busy getting some photo ops! I came out of the water ahead of five people. My husband said that as I exited the water I had a huge smile on my face. He said it looked as though I had just won the entire triathlon. I was super excited that I finished the swim and didn’t sink to the bottom.
If you’re wondering, yes, I did finish. I even managed to finish with a fairly respectable time. I did accomplish all four goals that day! So for all of you out there who are hesitating because you are not a swimmer, runner, or cyclist. If you are not all of the above but have been curious about triathlons, start slow. I have learned over the past year and a half, to pull my strength from others. If I have a friend that runs, I join in. If I have a neighbor who cycles, I join in and so on. Since joining Tri Sirena, I have met so many fantastic women that regardless of differences in age, background, etc… are super supportive. I remember my first real ride with clipless cycle shoes!
Fellow Sirens, Sarah and Lynsey were not afraid to have me near, even though I gently explained I would hang in the back. In case I wrecked, I didn’t want to take anyone out with me! Sarah during the ride would give me tips whenever she would think of one. “When you stop, make sure to step out wide, this will help keep you from falling over”. Boy, was that super handy! Thanks, Sarah!
You may not have that one person that does everything, but draw your support, strength, and knowledge from others. Be open-minded. I’m in no way an expert and don’t pretend to be. If you find that your mind is saying “You can’t do it”, start reminding yourself of what you can do first. You will find that all those little can do’s eventually will outweigh your “can’t do”, and you just might be standing next to me, waiting for the air horn to blow!
Written by Loretta Ehlers, Siren Luminary
Follow Loretta on Instagram @turtull.tri