“The further you are from the action, the easier things appear.” – jmb
If there was a manual for writing a running blog, I would likely fail in most departments. The thing is, I know it. I even confessed earlier this year in Not Your Typical Running Blog. This weekend was a perfect example.
I jumped into the Schuylkill River Saturday morning in Philly for my first triathlon, a topic that could fill a running blog for months. Rather than write about training, transition strategy and mental preparation in the weeks leading to the race, I wrote about a writer’s retreat, running books, a hard rocker, street art, and Haruki Murakami. Seem odd? Not in my mind, because if your read my posts, there are always (well, almost always) lessons about running buried inside; just not the type of lessons you find in a typical running blog.
The lessons from my first triathlon are more explicit—never underestimate a challenge, and things are not always as they appear. Consider that I’ve completed thirteen marathons, am an avid cyclists, and swam a half-mile on three separate occasions before the race. The triathlon I competed in was a sprint–half-mile swim, fifteen-mile cycle and 5K run. Easy stuff, right? That’s what I thought, and that was my biggest mistake.
The catch with a triathlon is that training to swim, cycle, and run as separate events doesn’t prepare the body to transition from one event to the next without a break. At the end of a half-mile swim, body muscles are pumped and to a degree, fatigued. Once out of the water there is an immediate transition to cycling, and the body has to adjust on the fly. In my case, it took more than five miles on my bike to find a rhythm. Then, after pumping the thighs, legs and lower torso for fifteen miles, there is an immediate transition to running. I thought I’d kill the 5K, half the mileage I run routinely, but after swimming and cycling, my thighs and calves felt like cinderblocks and I never found my stride.
I had considered signing up for the Olympic triathlon—0.93-mile swim, 25-mile cycle, and a 10K run—which would have been a disaster, because the swim would have been tenuous. I can’t even imagine the Ironman—2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle, and a full 26.2 mile marathon. To say I gained an appreciation for triathletes is an understatement; and for that matter, people who master any skill—musicians, chefs, carpenters, nurses, police officers, writers.
In nearly any vocation or avocation you can think of, the further you are from the action, the easier things appear.