Guest post: Couch potato to Triathlete…in 8 easy weeks?!

As ya’ll know, I’m gearing up for a pretty scary (in a good way, of course!) challenge this fall with the Wicked Half marathon commitment I made (nothing like knocking stuff off my bucket list, right?).

Well – I recently met and started working with Amy who actually is a client of mine in my IRL life job as a self-professed PR goddess.  In our last face-to-face planning meeting, she shared her upcoming plans to run the Danskin Triathalon and, of course, I hopped all over it wanting to learn  more, being a fitness geek and all. Well – after we got to chatting and I learned her reason for signing up for her first triathalon to begin with, I was floored: She was about to hit the big 4-1 and wanted to rock it in style.

Um, hello? How on earth could she be turning 41?? She honestly does not look anywhere near that, mid-30s at least! <—and I’m not saying that because she’s a client of mine, I’m saying it because it’s true. Once you see the pics, you’ll agree, I’m sure of it. 🙂

So anyway, I asked her to document her journey for me in a guest blog which she’s done – and gotta say, I’m totally and utterly inspired! It breathes new life into my half marathon dreams in a big way – I am already envisioning myself at the starting line and again at that finish line. Incredible.

Without further ado…

I turned 40 in April last year and thought “no big deal.  It’s the new 30, right?”  But when January of this year rolled around, I was staring at the short end of turning 41.  “I’m not just 40 anymore, I’m IN my 40’s!”  So when a friend suggested that our group of gal pals sign up to do a sprint triathlon, it only took a wee bit of arm twisting to get me to agree.  I was hesitant, but thought, “I gotta do SOMETHING this year. I can’t turn 41 and just let it pass.”  So we signed up for the Danskin Triathlon Series in Austin taking place on June 6th.

At the time, I had 5 months ahead of me to train.  Then 4 months.  Then 3.  Yikes!  I went for a jog one day and realized I needed help, and I needed help fast.  One of the gal pals who also signed up for the Danskin found out about a group called Heart Zones training…triathlon training by women for women.  On April 6th I joined about 70 other women in a small bike shop in southwest Houston to learn how we can go from couch potato to triathlete!  I signed up on the spot.

The greatest thing I took away from training with Heart Zones is the women supporting women.  On one memorable bike ride to prepare us for the hills we’d encounter in Austin, one of the workout leaders (WOL), Mac, rode alongside me as I lagged way behind with my $99 Walmart Comfort Series Hybrid bike with only 7 gears on a 16 mile ride in the hill country of west Texas.  I can still hear her voice telling me when to shift and to pull up on the toe clips to make it through hills.  I subsequently bought a used bike from the bike shop and while I have room for improvement, I’m not quite the laggard I was that day.

As June 6th approached, friends and family asked me if I was nervous.  I wasn’t.  I may not have been in the best physical shape I could be, but Heart Zones coaches and WOLs had mentally prepared me.  I visualized myself going through transition from swim to bike to run.  I even practiced a couple nights before the event by running from the living room to the guest room putting on and removing my gear…with my little dog following me back and forth.  I had it in my head I’d like to finish Danksin within 2:15:00 to 2:30:00 based on what I was doing during training.

At 7:17 am, June 6th, I walked into the water and maneuvered myself to the front of my heat. I stood in the water with my hands on my hips just looking out at the water, anxious, no, eager, to start.  The announcer asked who was a first timer at Danskin, and I raised my hand along with many other women in my heat.  A woman behind me said “no way, this isn’t your first?  You look so confident.”  And I was.  At this point, I had about 8 weeks of preparation for this moment, and I was ready for it.

The horn blew and I went into the water.  I managed to keep my position ahead of most of the women in my wave.  Not because I was fast, but because I knew what to do, and I wasn’t intimidated by the half mile ahead of.   I swam the half mile in 19 minutes.  As I came out of the water, my heart rate monitor was on too tight, and so I tried to take it off and struggled with it for a few minutes.  As a result, my first transition was way over at 5 minutes and 45 seconds.  I started off on the bike and felt good about it.  Then came the first hill.   I wasn’t ready for it.  I started to recognize the symptoms of pushing myself too hard, and it was either pass out or get off the bike and have a chance of crossing the finish line un-aided.

I got off the bike and pushed it up the hill along with several other women.  Someone said they drove the course the day before and it was all uphill.  I said “how can it all be uphill?”   Well, it goes like this.  Up, up, up and down some, then back up, up, and down a little more, then up and then down one long hill and clock 29 miles an hour with nothing on your body except a thin layer of tri suit and a bike helmet.  This went on for 12 miles and 57 minutes.  But I only walked up that one hill.  When I found myself riding past other women walking up other hills, I yelled words of encouragement (“you go girl!”) as I knew how invigorating it was when people encouraged me.  I struggled to rack my back at transition (taking a long 2 ½ minutes), yanked of my helmet, camelback and biking gloves and set off for the run.

A trail run.  Like I said, I’m not much of a runner, so I felt no shame in walking most of it.  But as I came into view of the finish line, I could see on my watch that I was close to beating my goal of 2 hours and 15 minutes.  I started to jog.  Then someone called out my number (“come on 607! You can do it!”), and I started to run.  My watch was ticking, and it said 2:06:00.  The finish line was so close, and I started sprinting.

I finished in 2:08:14. A couch potato.  Me.  Sprinting across the finish line to beat a goal time I had set for myself.  Someone asked me that afternoon if I’d do Danskin Austin again, and I said “probably not.  Give me the flatlands of Houston!”  But if I WERE to do it again, I could easily shave 5 minutes off my transition time.  I wouldn’t wear the heart monitor so tight so I could breathe better and swim better (not faster, better). I wouldn’t care about racking my bike too close to others …whoops, there I go again.  Couch potato already making plans to improve her triathlon time.

8 thoughts on “Guest post: Couch potato to Triathlete…in 8 easy weeks?!

  1. Congrats again, Amy!! I’m so proud of you and on behalf of Austin, I’d like to apologize…the hills while pretty to look at with a beer in hand from the boat are quite another thing to bike/ run in the dead of summer.

    Certainly not an easy task, you go girl! 😉

  2. Oh my gosh – what an inspiring story! As someone who wants to do a tri “someday,” I loved reading this. You overcame your adversities and seriously make 41 look damn good! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Amy – you rock!

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  5. I just signed up for my first sprint triathalon. I’m seriously nervous about it, but reading your story made me excited. Thanks for the inspiration.

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