It has been an interesting and unconventional entry into the world of triathlon for me. This journey was not a dream I ever thought I would have. I was the spastic kid growing up, picked last for all the neighborhood games. Ballpark teams were my worst nightmare. I seemed to always land on the worst team whatever selection process was utilized. High School PE Classes had me ducking when the volleyball came hurling past, so afraid I would be hurt. I did not run, barely biked and definitely did not swim. My fear of water kept me on dry land, which is exactly where I needed to stay. Tris were not on my radar, I am not sure I even knew anything about them.
While not athletic, I am a social person. If it sounds fun or interesting, I will give it a try. This is why I participated in sports as a child. My fellow social athletes kept me coming back. We entertained each other.
Another facet of my personality is my crazy fear of missing out (FOMO). Sometimes, it gets me in over my head. When asked to do a tri in 2009, my FOMO had me saying yes before I knew what happened. The fact that I could not swim or run and would turn 51 by race day, be damned. YES was what I said!
For my first Tri, I "participated" in Rocketchix, a women’s Tri. Yes, participated more than competed. Due to severe anxiety, it took me over 13 minutes to swim 300 meters and get out of the pool. I talked and ate in T1, and jogged and walked the two miles to the finish line. But the cheering crowd made it quite exciting. There were spirit awards, largest and fastest team awards, as well as individual awards. I wanted to be on a team too. So my friends and I formed our own team.
With a new circle of friends, I improved as an athlete. But the social side of racing was what kept me signing up. I have run 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons. I have ridden MS150s, metric centuries and the 56-mile bike leg in races. However, that 13+ minute panic attack in the water during my first Tri in 2009 was enough. I had no desire to swim and definitely not race in water. I was DONE with the swim. Duathlons and Tri relay teams were more my forte.
FOMO hit hard then things got ridiculous. I had not participated individually in a triathlon since 2009. I felt good about this decision. I felt there was no need to stress myself out. I just did not like the water. Then in 2015, a friend gently suggested that I try a mini sprint. She wanted to help me find my mermaid. I agreed. With her help, I actually competed in two mini pool sprints. It felt really great. But 2016 was a return to duathlons and relays. I had a fun year and expected 2017 to be more of the same. Then FOMO hit again, this time with a vengeance! By the end of 2016, I found myself signing up for a 70.3 distance. OWS?? How and why did I do this? I cannot swim.
When you put yourself out there, you quickly learn what you are made of and how badly you want something. For the first time in my life I had a race goal set. I hired a swim coach and got to work! With the 20 week, 70.3 free online training program from beginnertriathlete.com, I was a work in progress. I began training in earnest. Five to six days of training, along with tips on fueling and strategy, and a lot of advice from friends and teammates, quickly made a big difference in my confidence and endurance.
The most challenging part of the training and racing was open water swimming. It has been a mental game for me. When the fear hit me, I would hyperventilate and my heart felt like it was going to burst. I panicked in five out of my six tris last year. But I finished each race. It was the most humbling and amazing experience. Two of the six races were 70.3 distances. I did not DNF! I have learned a few things that help calm me. I pray, talk to my parents, who have recently passed away or I think about my children and grandchildren.
I was 58 when I did my first 70.3 distance and 59 when I completed my second, both raced last year during my first open water tri season. My first race of my second season, IMFL 70.3, I PR'ed my swim by 13 minutes.
New season - new age group! I was welcomed into the 60-64 year olds by a strong group of women. The age group with the most growth is females over 55. We are proving that age is just a number. It does not limit or define you.
It has been an awesome ride!
Written by Angele Sanders, Siren Luminary
Follow Angele on Instagram! @nolagel