Why do I love triathlons?
There are the obvious reasons.
The constant training keeps me in shape. The constant outdoor training forces me to explore my city by foot and by bike, activities that immediately appeal to my inherent sense of wanderlust.
Also appealing: the fact that I can build muscle and endurance without having to be married to a gym.
Running is free. Biking is free. And the paths available to me for these pursuits are gorgeous, well-lit, lined with palm trees and guarded by dolphins and a popular family of manatees.
And then there’s swimming.
Swimming feels SO good when you spend half the year living in stifling humidity. If you’re lucky enough to live within two miles of a 50-meter public pool as I do, you don’t have to fork over big bucks to install a backyard pool. For five bucks and no upkeep, I can bike two miles to a sprawling aquatic complex that borders the bay and swim 80 laps before Henry rises from his afternoon nap. (FYI: This is only when Joe is home to man the fort.)
Living in St. Petersburg how could I not be a triathlete? I read somewhere that Florida is the triathlon capital of the world. I’m not sure if this is an accurate claim, but whatever. I’m reaping the benefits.
I truly love living here. This is a statement I didn’t come to lightly or easily. It took me YEARS to adapt to Florida. Having grown up in rural Upstate New York I was accustomed to SEASONS, hills, undeveloped farm land and neighbors with a lot less disposable income. Of course when I moved to Florida’s Gulf Coast I was looking to escape most of these things, but roots are roots and eventually I missed mine.
Then Joe came along. Followed by St. Pete.
Without Joe and without St. Pete, it’s safe to say I’d be living elsewhere. Joe brought me to St. Pete. St. Pete brought me to triathlons. Triathlons brought me verve.
The sport changed the way I regard eating, exercise, aging, depression, self-discipline and my own physical limitations.
Training for races changed the way I view Florida. Though I’m fully aware of the fact that triathlons are held in cities all over the world, for me the sport is invariably linked to Florida. For this reason (and 300 others) I love St. Pete.
Year-round sunshine makes training (mostly) pleasant. There are dozens of races within an hour of my home. I’ve grown closer to neighbors who dig the sport – some novices, some diehards and some in between. I’ve even trained with these folks.
I’ve encouraged friends and family members to race. Both of my sisters completed sprint distance races. I ran a sprint with my sister PK shortly after getting pregnant. I ran the same race with my sister Heelya a few months after Hank was born. (My sisters are so bad ass they raced on mountain bikes. HOLY MOLY I was proud.)
Triathlons are exciting. For those of us who bore easily a triathlon provides just enough variation to keep us invested. Just when you’re sick of swimming it’s time to hop on a bike. When biking starts to get old it’s time to head off on a run.
Some of my friends and family call this trifecta TORTURE. I call it exhilaration.
Triathlons are the race equivalent of the candy bar variety pack. You prefer some chocolates to others at different times for different reasons. You power through the bag even when you get a stomachache five chocolates in. And when it’s over, despite 10 good minutes of satisfaction, you’re already looking for the next fix.
Endorphins are an ephemeral chemical. And it’s not just their opiate-like release that keeps you pressing on. It’s the athletes around you who are pressing on in many cases against unimaginable odds – amputations, blindness, cerebral palsy – that fill you with such tremendous awe, respect and raw emotion that you vow you’ll never again complain about a single ache or pain.
During the St. Anthony’s race I swam alongside a powerhouse of a man who was tethered to a raft, inside of which sat a disabled woman, her smile brighter than the rising sun. During the last leg of the run, I spotted a similarly musclebound athlete pushing a man with cerebral palsy in what I can only describe as an adult jog stroller. These feats are so much bigger than any of mine, and for that I am incredibly grateful.
The number one reason I love triathlons: because right now I’m lucky enough to be able to do these things, so why wouldn’t I? This fact has little to do with my love of outdoor exercise and everything to do with a general obsession with living in the present.
My body is in working order. Triathlons have forced me to never take this for granted. I run these races because I’m able to. Plain and simple. I never want to feel like I squandered any second of my youth and vitality. I feel good right now, so right now I race.
As far as addictions go this one seems like a pretty productive one.
Also: I just finished a bowl of vanilla ice cream (before bed!) and I don’t at all feel shitty about it.