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Monday, July 12, 2010

Preparation and execution

Eight years ago I got hooked on triathlons. The competition with both myself and those around me was addictive. I loved to push my body to see how much it could do.Then, I had babies number three and four, started a business —basically, I got sucked into the busy-ness of work and life. After having Jane, my fourth daughter, I decided I wanted to get into shape to do another triathlon. I started training in February of this year.

One of my editor friends asked me to write about it, so I got a free coach, running shoes, a bike tune-up, a tri suit and a whole lot of accountability. I persuaded my neighbor to join me and we proceeded to put in eight to 12 hour workout sessions per week from April until race day (last Saturday).

The preparation for the race included some really hard workouts. These workout challenged both my mind and my heart. Sometimes, I felt I wasn't making any progress. This usually happened when I tried to fit into my skinny clothes, or when one of my older daughters told me in a fit of anger, "I'm going to punch you in your non-existent abs!" That tore me down. But, I kept going and so did my workout buddy.

One of the most difficult obstacles came when I fell off my bike and hit my elbow. I ended up in the hospital with a potentially broken arm, a series of fainting spells because of the pain and a major blow to my self-confidence. I missed three and a half weeks of training and I felt horrible — not to mention my arm wouldn't straighten or bend without tremendous pain. But, after a third opinion and a second x-ray, I was given the green light to keep training. So I did.

My doctor told me I'd have to fight through the pain to gain full mobility of my arm. Every day, I'd push my arm as straight as a I could and bend it as far as I a bit more. That pain taught me something. Sometimes things don't always heal right. We sometimes have to push through more pain and go ahead with things even if they aren't perfect.

When race day came, I was reminded of this again. I knew I could swim and bike strong, but the run seemed so daunting. I haven't been the best runner since starting my training. Maybe it is all in my head, but running feels like pulling a locomotive through a foot of mud. I never felt the freedom and calmness I felt on my bike or while swimming. During that 3.2 miles, my knees and back were whining. But, my mind kept telling me, "finish strong, finish strong." That meant no stopping, running through the frustration, running through the discomfort, running through the self-doubt. Like my stiff elbow, my running "muscle" needed to be pushed and pulled to perform better.

I ended the race with a much better time than I thought I would have — still with room for improvement. The proudest moment was when I finished strong and felt that surge of endorphins from knowing I had put in the time, finished strong and didn't relent when things got tough. Sometimes the hardest things in life are the most rewarding.


  1. Thanks for letting me tag along. It was such a growing experience for me! I'll blog about it soon as well. I'm actually pretty excited to continue training and trying again (though it might take some time to improve my swimming as much as I feel is necessary). Anyway- thanks for all the teaching, motivating, and hard work. I never could have done it without you!

  2. Very awesome Pam.

    I just started running in the last two months because I wanted to "do hard things". I ran five miles for the first time this week. Very slowly. But I sprinted at the end and got that wonderful endorphin surge. I can only imagine what it must have been like for you doing a triathlon.



  3. Pam, that's inspirational. I've never been a good runner. Between some physical inhibitors (some real, some imagined) and my need to go big or go home, I've never stuck with it. But here I am, 36 years old, "training" for a 5k in the fall. Thanks for posting this. It makes getting to the gym a bit easier :0)


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