Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Picking and Choosing

The definition of swimming: Propel the body through water by using limbs.

The definition of running: Move at a faster speed than a walk, never having both feet on the ground a the same time.

The definition of biking: Riding a bicycle.

It all seems so simple. But apparently, it's not. I'm signed up to do a Try-a-Triathlon in August and truth be told, I've been looking at two others mini-tris in the Champaign area as well, not because I'm all gung ho about killing myself or competing at some higher athletic competition. It's more about investment.

To do any of the things above you assume you need minimal "things." To swim -- you're going to need a suit at the very least and some goggles, unless you're a pro at keeping water out of your eyes and have 20/20 vision.

To run, most people want the bare minimum -- some socks and some shoes. Honestly, I need those, a sports bra, some dry wicking everything (don't even get me started in how the weather warming up has suddenly given me bacne like crazy from the sweat around my sports bra), a ponytail holder and a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes. Later... I'll want some sunblock... and I prefer to have my iPod.

To bike, most people need a -- you guessed it -- bike.

But to do a triathlon which is all three sporting events put together (not in this order), there is apparently special gear. Special swimsuits that also act as running/biking tops/shorts, so you don't have to change out of them when you're running from the water to put on your shoes to get on your bike and when you're (I'm assuming) dumping your bike and taking off running like mad toward the finish line. No one stops the time clock for the transition, so you want to make it as fluid as possible. However, people do have special cycling shoes, special running shoes. They may have different hats, different water bottles... and then the bike is, in all of my reading, the acme of a triathlete's experience. If you're biking for miles, you want to be comfortable and fast. Apparently, my hybrid bike that I tool around with X-man's trailer on the back isn't exactly up to par. It's not a road bike.

So, with the help of my friend Andrina, who wants to do a lot more triathlons, I started down the road of bike research. And what I found was that the least amount of bike that wouldn't have "real triathletes" snarling at me was $1,200.

That amount of money is way more than I wanted to invest. I started saving money last November and after my birthday had $500, which I had determined was the most I could save because I also need new running shoes before June. So I started to look local and look used. But everything was labeled as "needs work" and I was wary of bike auctions and ebay after reading the triathlete web sites where other beginners had gotten screwed over. So I took my money and bought the lowest grade bike that I could get that didn't have the name Schwinn on it (Schwinn makes my hybrid that I love -- it's very comfortable, I got it at Target and would recommend it to anyone looking to haul their kiddo around in a trailer). Real triathletes will still laugh at my bikesdirect.com choice. But I don't care. I have a bike. It has pedals and brakes that work and it's not something I would have ridden in the 1980's to pick up groceries for my mother on my 10-speed. Joel put it together for me this weekend. I's pretty though -- it even has maple leaves on it, and how cute is that for my the Try-a-Tri in Toronto in August? (So cute people will probably vomit on me during the ferry ride over.)

And at some point, I'll switch over from riding on the stationery bike to riding on a real bike after I get it fitted.

The next thing I nixed was the fancy biking shoes. My bike pedals have straps like at the gym, but no clip-on pedals. I don't have a heart rate monitor. I don't even have a bloody watch that does splits. I have no fancy suit or goggles. I've got a speedo I bought at thanksgiving and the goggles I got on clearance last fall. I'm scrappy (i.e. cheap) because I'd rather spend $700 to go see my friend Robin in the Virgin Islands in June.

In addition, the amount of triathlon gear marketing was overwhelmed me. Even the basic needs lists that web sites give you seemed excessive, and truthfully, it frightened me. I don't have any grand notions of doing well. I just hope I finish. But at the same time, I don't want to be the suckiest one out there -- that everyone is staring at. I already feel that way at running races. And these people are a whole different breed. Of course, most of them won't be at the mini tris... thank goodness.

I had a friend today tell me that I was just barely learning to walk when it came to this whole body changeover. That I've lived in my head too long, and now that I'm learning to use my body, I am totally insecure about my abilities, which is strange because I guess in my every day normal life I seem rather confident about things. I found that fascinating. Moreover, I liked that my friend wasn't afraid to tell me how she felt. She was hitting a raw nerve. A very raw nerve.

1 comment:

Andrina said...

:-) You sound like me last year... I was so stressed about the transitions I'd play them over in my head over and over when i should have been sleeping. I spent hours on Youtube watching videos of other triathletes doing transitions, and what they were wearing and why. I spent hours in running shoe stores figuring out what was the best for me - and then spent weeks touring every running shop in the local area looking for elastic no-tie laces because that's what all the triathlon websites told me I needed... Oh, and the bike, I knew I wasn't going to spend a fortune, so make that another few hours, who am I kidding, weeks on Craigslist looking for something better than my pretty bike with a basket that I used to get groceries!

In the end none of that mattered. For the length of the race we're doing you could wear your swimsuit for the entire race - or just pull on a pair of quick-drying shorts after the swim if you need to. The bike ride itself is only 10K - it's over in no time flat. You don't need padded bike shorts for 10K, nor do you really need clip pedals. There were many people out there last year on their mountain bikes with knobbly tires - yes they were slower, but they were still getting it done! I was there on my $20 garage sale special 1980's road bike and running shoes and it all worked out just fine.

And well, the run - it's 2.5K. Seriously, I know we both do more than that in an interval training session. Our "short" runs are longer than that!

The real list of what you need is:
Swim Suit
Running Shoes (& socks if you need)
Bike Helmet (They won't let you race without one)
Towel (somewhere to put your stuff, and dry your feet after the swim)
Water Bottle w/ water -even then, water is available on the run course, I just kept mine on my bike and only used it in transition.

That's it... The race gives you a swim cap, so you don't even have to worry about that.

I stressed way too much about all this last year - and certainly don't blame you for having a stress moment also. The first one's a bit daunting. After it's over though you're going to wonder what all the fuss was about :-) It's going to take you less than an hour to do the full race - we're not doing a 14hr Ironman here :-D

Enjoy it!