It’s hard to know where any goal is going to take a person. A goal I conjured up last fall had its roots in middle- and high- school cross country and track, grew to various 5K’s such as the “Turkey Trot” and “Color Runs”, and branched off as I trained for a couple half-marathons with a trainer. I liked doing these events to stay fit and ease stress and really enjoyed the atmosphere of race day. Then last fall, 6 months from the date of the event, this casual fun-runner got a wild idea to sign up for the local YMCA’s Got Energy Triathlon.
I figured the familiarity of a local race would give me the best chance of success on this journey. It was a good starting point, but there were more challenges ahead. My goal of “just finishing” seemed lofty from the start. I wasn’t a strong swimmer, and my only concept of cycling as a sport was, “they use a different kind of bike, don’t they?” That set me on a journey to learn as much as possible to get a realistic sense of my abilities and of what I had yet to learn.
The two greatest challenges I was facing were swimming and doubt. I was told that swimming in a lake was something to get used to. From my experience, the darkness of the lake, waves, and unpredictable temps were definitely forces to be reckoned with; unlike swimming in a clear, temp-controlled pool with lines to follow along the bottom, and calm water that allows easier breathing. Fortunately I met some great people during training that helped me adapt! As for other doubts, I decided to enlist some further assistance…
It was a run day on my training schedule, about halfway through my training plan. I was procrastinating on Facebook and doubting my progress after struggling through the Tri-specific swim lessons I had attended. As I scrolled down, I noticed an ad from a local animal shelter for a little brown pitbull mix that was looking for someone to run with. Not having a dog of my own and thinking about how fun it might be to go out there, I went out that afternoon and signed up to volunteer to run trails with a dog named “Deano”.
Our first run was very memorable. He kept a good pace with me and was focused and energized. Things were going smoothly, until he stopped suddenly, almost tripping me to grab a stick that was about the width of my wrist. He treated it like his prized toy and refused to give it up. I thought he would drop it if we kept going but he only proceeded to happily carry it the whole way back to his water bucket. It was so charming to see his enthusiasm. I knew I had to come back to run him.
I had such mixed feelings three weeks later when the shelter posted pictures from Deano’s adoption. I continued to visit the shelter on every run day after because plenty of other great dogs needed to get exercise. It made my run days happy and awesome and probably made the dog’s day to channel pent up energy.
Soon after starting the dog runs I was fortunate that a local triathlon group I heard about at my gym allowed me to swim the course lake with them. Their support helped my confidence and swim time significantly.
I ended up getting 2nd overall in my age group and gaining much more than I bargained for in my goal of …just finishing.
Read the story 10 Things I did to Survive my First Sprint Triathlon by Margaret Smith
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