Triathlons aren’t funny. Triathlon training is no joke either. Well… it wasn’t supposed to be. But you guys, I’m such an impulsive weirdo that when a friend texted me last September asking if I would do a Half Ironman with her, I said yes before I even knew how far it was. Who does that?
A mere 24 hours later, I decided to ask my other friend, Google, what I’d agreed to do.
And that’s how it went down.
I joined a gym with a pool in October. Then in December I thought I should start looking at bikes. Grab your popcorn because that, my friends, is where the comedy show begins.
Before I tell you about that fateful December day, you should know the only bike I’ve owned as an adult is a $100 mountain bike from Wal-Mart. I drive a “mom car” and I ride a “mom bike”… complete with a sexy baby trailer on the back to haul my little girl and her baby dolls around the neighborhood.
So when I walked into the local bike shop for my fitting appointment with a super sweet dude named Eric, I really had no freaking clue what I was doing.
Eric was very professional and helpful. When I told him I’d “never had a racing bike” or done a triathlon but was signed up for the Steelhead 70.3 the following June, his eyes momentarily got a little big. OK, way big.
“That’s pretty ambitious,” Eric cautiously replied. “But we’ll get you all set up and then the training is up to you. If you train for it, you can do it.”
“Great, thanks,” I said, smiling.
“Soooo bike shorts,” Eric replied. “You’ll need those. But you’ve probably never…”
“Noooope,” I laughed.
Eric walked me over to an array of black spandex shorts. With the straightest look on his face and the most professional tone in his voice, Eric proceeded to show me the gel-filled insides of the padded shorts and talk about the importance of protecting my LADY BITS.
I swear to God he said those exact words. Lady Bits. And then he mentioned my PERINEUM.
I felt like a pubescent teenage boy as I coughed through a snicker in order to prevent full-on laughter.
Eric took his job seriously. He went on to explain how said Lady Bits could actually go numb during a ride if I didn’t have the proper seat or proper fit on my bike.
What in the actual…
He then had me straddle a little contraption and asked me to pull the bar up to my PELVIC FLOOR to get a proper height measurement.
Immaturity at an all-time high.
I was half listening to Eric as he explained how he was using my measurements to set up the special bike that would get my perfect fit. The other half of me was texting Cindy the play-by-play of my gynecological visit to the bike shop.
If he says clitoris, I will die, I thought to myself.
He didn’t. We found a new bike in the shop that met my specs (I wasn’t picky because, again, I had no flipping clue what I was doing). Eric hooked me up with clip-in pedals and special shoes and I was on my way with a giant dent in my wallet. I left the bike at the shop because he needed to install a few things on it and because it was December and I live in Northern Indiana. No need to have that thing taking up space in my garage until spring.
This is about the same time in our great triathlon adventure when Cindy started texting me with her “finds.”
I didn’t even have a bike or a solid training plan and this woman was buying wet suits, biking shorts, biking skirts, classes at Orange Theory, a cell phone holder for her bike and a whole bunch of other triathlon-related shit. I laughed every time she sent me a new text with a new purchase.
I finally got my bike home from the shop in April – a day after my first half marathon of the season and a week after spring break. I’d bought a pair of bike shorts from Eric (per his advice) and thought I was all set to go.
Kid-free and without plans Good Friday, I set out for my first 20-mile ride. That was way out of my comfort zone, by the way, because it entailed clipping into my pedals and riding this super light bike that felt like it could blow over if a gust of wind hit me the wrong way. I pulled on my new spandex and promptly decided the gel padding made it look like I was wearing a diaper.
No biggie, I thought. My booty will be on the bike seat. No one will ever notice.
And that was a fantastic plan. Until I got a flat tire less than 10 minutes into my ride.
There I was, on a busy four-lane highway with my brand new bike, my brand new bike shoes that clip-clop like a horse when I walk, my brand new bike diaper shorts and a (brand new) flat freaking tire. I could try calling friends for help or putting a plea on Facebook, but then I realized I was only about a mile from the bike shop and it was still open. So I started the clippity clop mile walk to the shop, rolling my bike beside me.
I like to refer to it as the diaper-butt walk of shame.
Of course, when I arrived at the shop, my helpful friend Eric was there and very gently asked what my tire pressure was when I left my house.
“Why would I need to know that?” I laughed.
“Ummm because you should check your tire pressure before every ride,” Eric replied, amused, but not smiling.
The learning curve continued. I felt like I should tell him at least my lady bits didn’t hurt!
Eric also showed me how to change the flat – at one point asking, “Did you see what I did there?” when he noticed my face buried in a text message, as I gave Cindy the walk of shame play-by-play.
“Shoot, sorry. Can you please show me again?”
He was very patient, telling me I really needed a spare kit with me at all times and allowing me to put it on an account at the store since I didn’t have any cash or cards with me.
I left that night and enjoyed my 20 miles, laughing about the shorts and the fact that Eric and everyone else at the bike shop must think I’m a gigantic idiot
Then it was May. Two months until the big race and less than two weeks until my first triathlon ever - a sprint distance (500 yd lake swim, 12 mile bike, 3.1 mile run). In the meantime, I’d been following a training plan that had me in the pool two to three times per week. But I knew I had to get out in open water sooner than later.
So Cindy and I got a little mom-wild one chilly Friday evening, squeezing into our new wet suits and doing the damn thing. And we survived. Until we thought the mayfly guy might murder us.
We approached the shoreline at the end of our swim and saw an older gentleman staring at a tree near Cindy’s car.
“Excuse me,” I said, opening the car door to grab my phone. “Do you mind taking our picture, please?”
“Of course not,” the man smiled.
He snapped a few of us standing in the water then went back to the tree. Cindy and I shot each other a puzzled look and shrugged.
As we started to strip our wet suits, he told us he was disappointed.
“You see,” he said. “It’s prime mayfly season and so far I’ve seen none. I’m waiting for the hatch – it should happen any day now. I thought for sure today would be the day.”
Cindy and I looked at each other again, our eyes widening a bit with stifled laughter and a bit of, Oh shit, what’s our safe word to get the eff out of here if things get super weird?
The man went on to explain how thousands of mayflies hatch from the bottom of the lake in mid-May and you can see fish jump for them as the bugs come up out of the water and fly away at dusk.
Keep in mind, we’d just swam 20 minutes in that cold ass lake. At dusk. In May. It was that moment we both wondered exactly how many we'd swallowed during our inaugural dip.
“I want to show you what one of these looks like,” he continued, pawing through the tree branches as we quickly toweled off and pulled on clothes over our bathing suits. “It’s truly fascinating. They have two adult life cycles, but mayflies only live 24 hours and they have to reproduce in that time. Can you even imagine? 24 hours of wild sex and then you die. That’s quite a life!”
By this point, I was quietly but violently shaking with laughter. I also noticed a weird bug clinging to the collar of the man’s shirt. It looked an awful lot like the insect he was describing.
Cindy, on the other hand, was on high stranger danger alert. She quickly gathered her stuff and threw it in the car, glancing nervously at mayfly guy and then back at me.
As we simultaneously opened the driver and passenger doors to book it, we heard him yell, “Found one!”
We humored him, took a quick peek and got out of there. He was probably harmless, but how in the hell does a triathlon training swim turn into THAT!?
Suddenly, it was June. The month of our half Ironman. Shit. That’s a 1.2 mile swim in Lake Michigan, a 56 mile bike on a busy highway and a 13.1 run with very little shade. I'd learned any endurance sport that takes several hours to complete requires proper nutrition. That means keeping up with electrolytes, calories and protein. Many triathletes choose to take in a majority of their nutrition on the bike since that’s the longest part of the race and they’re sitting down.
But clipping into pedals, following traffic laws, doing nutrition and sipping water all while staying upright on a bike isn’t easy! I knew I needed practice.
One Saturday morning, I set out for a 50-mile ride, grabbing a random protein bar from my pantry. Remember, this was purely experimental so I could practice eating on the bike. I shoved the bar into my sports bra with my cell phone, which was playing music, and set out on my way.
By mile 25, I was on a flat, two-lane road somewhere between Elkhart and the Indiana-Michigan state line. I took out the bar and unwrapped a gooey, chocolatey mess.
All good, I’ve got this. Gotta roll with the punches and troubleshoot when necessary.
I took a small bite, licked my fingers and focused on staying on the road. Suddenly, a pack of about 8 middle-aged male bikers pulled out from a side road and were riding directly in front of me.
It all happened really fast.
Do I turn off my music so I can talk to them?
Should I ask to ride with them?
What if they ask me to join?
What’s the flipping etiquette here?
Oh shit, chocolate…
I shoved the partially unwrapped, melted protein bar back down my sports bra, took out my phone and hit pause.
I looked down and saw chocolate smeared all over my chest and hands and I knew it was on my face too. I tried to swipe my mouth with the back of my sweaty hand, then accidentally set my chocolate fingers on my handlebars.
Well this is embarrassing,
The dudes never even acknowledged me. I was literally right behind them, had been moving faster than them, had to slow down for them and they couldn’t even say hello. What was I going to do? Scream “Hiii! Good morning! WHO LIKES CHOCOLATE?” from the back of the pack? Ah, no.
I heard one of them yell, “Right!” to signal a right turn to the group.
That immediately meant my chocolate cleavage and I were going left.
I suppose if I look back laughing, those newbie triathlon training moments couldn’t have been that bad. Right? Plus, having someone to text who was also in the throes of training helped remind me I’m human.
Then there’s that little 70.3 mile Half Ironman thing we finished last weekend.
I’d send Eric a thank-you note from my Lady Bits, but that’s probably not appropriate.
I'm a mom to 3 beautiful, spirited, tiny humans, I'm addicted to running + barre, I have no filter & I work full time in the corporate world. But behind the scenes of all that is where it really gets interesting...