It’s been an interesting experiment.
I say “experiment” because I wasn’t sure what would stick – would I fall in love with cycling? Is swimming my thing? Am I a runner at heart? Or would the combination of all three make me the happiest?
Let’s say this: making the decision to run a tri is akin to birthing triplets (*on a much, much smaller scale. No offense to the triplet moms out there.) It was downright overwhelming. Despite having almost no downtime, I felt like nothing was going well. Someone was constantly being neglected. Cycling, my colicky, stubborn baby, demanded the most attention and stole my patience. Swimming suffered silently; it never uttered a peep, even when I ignored it for weeks. And running, my darling, perfect and favorite child, began to deteriorate from lack of care and attention. I think Cedar City was the best example of what happens when you disrespect running.
I wish I could wrap cycling in a fuzzy blanket and drop it off at a fire station in the early morning hours. That’s how much I loathe it. I tried – I really did. But it’s just not a fit. The first week I had a bike, I couldn’t even look at the damn thing while wearing my heart monitor; my little heart would shoot up to 165+ bpm at the mere sight of two wheels. On Day 1 of the Great Experiment, I spent an entire morning with a friend, just riding circles in her safe, flat cul-de-sac, trying to get used to the brakes and gears. I must have repeated “small chain, big hill” about a million times to myself. Apparently, graduating from a 10-speed bike means you suddenly have 28 gears to use. This is 27 more gears than I need. I clicked, I shuffled, I peddled. I tried to get into my big chain.
I tried very hard to not fall.
During that first week, I forced myself to ride everyday, thinking practice makes perfect. Wrong. Practice only leads to an extremely sore jaw due to the long amounts of time I spent clenching it. Three full days of soft foods and protein shakes encouraged me to chill the f*** out, lest this ridiculousness continue. Kim may suck at biking, but she is hungry.
Eventually, I got to the point where my friend deemed me not a risk on the roads, so we started traversing her neighborhood. Slowly. Well, I thought we were flying – 12 mph! – but she just gently laughed at me. You mean we have to go faster?! OMG. But I don't want to...
On a bike, there is no music. No jamming out to a song, getting lost in your thoughts. No Despacito. I mean, I can’t tell you how many runs I’ve been on where I actually forgot I was running. Or better yet, I’ll forget I even ran that day. This is especially true for early morning runs. I zone out and by 10am that day, I have to look at my Garmin to remind myself I did, in fact, run that morning. Not on a bike, though. You are aware of your surroundings, your balance, speed, elevation, gear position, tire pressure, traffic, weather, barometric pressure, wind speed, cloud formation, and if that dog is coming for you or just out for a little jog. Is that glass in the road? Pebbles? Water? Avoid all of this! Does that car see you? Who is behind you? Why did that cyclist just zoom past? Why is this considered fun?
The week I got my bike, I forgot how to swim. No joke. It took me a solid 400 yards to remember how to move my arms over my head. Kick, too? Geez, this is complicated. I must have looked like I was drowning during one rather unfortunate flip-turn because the 17-year old lifeguard actually woke up from his nap and came over to ask me if I was okay. “I got a bike,” was the only thing I could spit out, along with a copious amount of pool water. Stupid bike.
“Runners never look happy,” an avid cyclist (and non-runner) told me. Huh? I thought, looking at him. Not happy? We are deliriously joyful. Filled to the brim with elation. We are elves of merriment. Okay, our faces may be grimacing, but inside, we are thoughtfully working through the problems of our lives and this world, one mile at a time. We are thinking about how good it feels to move across the Earth. What an amazing sense of accomplishment we will feel when the run is over. How running is our greatest, truest, and last form of freedom.
“Maybe they are just thirsty,” I offered instead.
But my friend does bring up a good point; as I straddle the fence between worlds, I’ve noticed some key differences. Namely, cyclists seem to like other cyclists. A lot. This pack mentality is definitely safer; riding in a peloton is a simple equation: the bigger the group, the more visible you are to cars. This phenomenon lends itself to the social nature of the sport; cyclists seem really…friendly. Agreeable. Outgoing. They do these crazy things called “fun rides” that involve riding 100+ miles and eating things like sandwiches and spare ribs at refueling stations. Plus – get this! – it’s not even a race. It’s a “ride.” They aren't competing for anything!
I know, I’m just as confused as you are.
Runners…we, well, we don’t eat spare ribs at mile 10. Just Honey Stinger waffles pre-run. (Mmm, waffles). Runners don’t travel in packs. We move in highly-concentrated little groups that have been carefully established and crafted over many years and miles. And better yet - most of us are content to log solo miles. In fact, we love our alone time. We relish it. We may know each others’ paces and routes, but constantly running in a group can be exhausting. Who can talk that much? Likewise, who needs space? Hamster-ing around the same oval for hours at a time is so fun! Keep a careful eye on those splits since a few seconds make a difference. Neurotic, yes, but remember, we are used to slurping pure glucose out of foil packets because our digestive systems are shutting down. No ribs for us, thanks. It's hard to not go a tad bit nutso when your daily sustenance isn't even a food group.
Not to mention - let's talk about cost. Running is so much cheaper. You buy some non-cotton socks, a pair of shoes, maybe a watch if you're feeling crazy, and you are off. Cycling: not so much. There is the cost of the bike, helmet, shoes, padded shorts, and several shirts with 300 pockets each. I actually have my own bike mechanic at this point. Because - get this - you have to rely on other people. ::shudders:: I'm at the cycling shop three times a week for various gear and tune-ups. Pedal changes, tire kits, bike fittings, lights, water bottles. So. Much. Stuff. So. Much. Conversation.
It’s as simple as the difference between dogs and cats. Neither is better than the other; they are just different. Most dogs are pretty happy-go-lucky animals, social and pack-minded. Rule-followers because when you live in a pack, you need order. Cats…not so much. We like what we like. We are finicky, particular, sensitive, independent. We enjoy a nice nap in the sunshine. Don’t tell us to fetch, ever. You can pet me and tell me I'm pretty when I'm ready, thanks.
It’s good to know who you are – and in this case, I am happily feline. I will anxiously be looking forward to finishing the swim on Saturday, getting on and off my bike without dying, and finally and gloriously putting both feet on the ground for the run. Do I have any goals? Only to raise money for Girls on the Run Las Vegas. (insert shameless plea for money here)
Will I do another tri? I honestly have no idea – I’m keeping an open mind, but as I make list after list of all the gear I need, I can only think that stuffing a bunch of gels into your short pockets and running 26.2 miles is far easier than tri-prep.
Besides, I'm ready for a nap. In the sunshine. Pet me behind the ears. No, not there. Oh, better.
Full blog report next week!
PS – what is my swimmer-animal analogy? A fish, of course!
PPS – and what do I call triathletes? OVERACHIEVERS.