While enjoying lunch on a Thursday with my friend, Amy, she dropped this bombshell:
“Hey, I’m doing a triathlon this Saturday. You should join me.”
“This Saturday? As in day after tomorrow?” I laughed so hard I almost choked on my cornbread. “I haven’t ridden a bike in 20 years!”
“I’ve got an extra! And it’ll all come back to you when you hop on. Just like, well, riding a bike!”
In a lapse of sanity, I agreed.
Now to tell John. “Ahem. I’m going to do a triathlon.”
“What?” He was concerned. “How long do you plan to train?”
“A day,” I replied, trying to sound logical.
“And what’s the course?”
“1750 yard swim, 14 mile bike ride, 3.1 mile run.” I sat down, feeling suddenly tired as I said that out loud.
He smiled, shook his head and said, “Knock yourself out, Baby.”
Actually, I was afraid I might do just that.
So what did I get from this experience besides a t-shirt and some really sore muscles? A few life lessons.
1. There’s power in pacing yourself. When the gun sounded, hundreds of us charged into the lake. The adrenalin was overpowering and I took off like a mad woman! Halfway to the first buoy, I heard myself gasping louder than I’d ever gasped. It then occurred to me my competitive swimming days were 40 years ago. “Oh, no! I’m going to be one of those that has to hang on the side of the safety canoe while they haul me in!”
Instead, I switched momentarily from freestyle to breaststroke, catching a second wind. From that point forward, I swam more even strokes and reached shore, leaving a respectable number of swimmers behind me in the lake.
What’s the take away? You don’t sprint at a triathlon. You can’t go full-throttle and finish a race of considerable length. And in life, pacing yourself (mixing hard work with enjoyable activity, making room for quality family time, working on projects a little at a time instead of cramming at the last minute, etc.) helps you to ‘catch your breath’, better manage your to-do list and take care of yourself, making you more effective in the long run.
2. Work smarter, not harder. It wasn’t long before all those swimmers I’d left in the lake passed me on the bike.
But I’d learned a great tip from Amy during my “one day training”. Think ahead: maximize your speed going downhill to make your next uphill easier. The natural response is to coast downhill. But the wise biker prepares herself for the hard work of the next hill by shifting gears and pedaling hard on the downhill, gaining power and momentum while saving valuable energy for the upcoming hill.
Are there some ways you could maximize your efforts at work or home? Maybe it’s prioritizing your tasks, learning to say “no”, delegating other tasks to the right person, putting a stop to procrastination or simply getting more rest. Work smarter to make your life more productive and enjoyable.
3. Two are better than one. Just when I thought I might have to get off my bike and push, I heard my name cheerfully shouted by Amy, gaining behind me. (The ONLY reason I was ahead of Amy was that her bike chain had come off and she’d spent several minutes getting it back on.) She slowed to my pace and rode the rest of the way with me, turning my laborious journey into hilarious laughter!
By the time we reached the 5K, if I’d had any money on me, I’d have gladly called a cab. I was so DONE. But Amy kept me going.
“Let’s run to the white post, then we’ll walk a minute.” I didn’t think I could finish the 5K, but I could make it to the white post. And then the blue mailbox. And finally, the finish line!
We need our friends! Your encouraging words might be just the refreshment your friend needs to keep on keepin’ on.
4. You can do more than you think you can. Believe me, I’m no star athlete. But somehow, I made it to the finish line and lived to tell it!
What uphill challenges are facing you that seem more than you can do? Stay the course and dig deep. You’re going to get through this, finding within you a reserve of power and resolve you didn’t know you had.
5. Don’t quit. You’re doing better than you think you are! I stayed a while afterward, enjoying food and festivities, but left after a bit. Later, my phone rang. “You’re not going to believe this: YOU WON A TROPHY!”
Turns out I won 3rd place in my age group!
(OK, so there were only four women in the category and hey, the 4th place winner had a hard time swimming with that cast on her leg, but that’s not the point. The point is…I WON A TROPHY!)
Remember, don’t quit, no matter how discouraged you may feel. You’re probably doing a lot better than you think you are.
My rear end hurt for a week from that blasted bike seat. I was stiff for days. But I wouldn’t take anything for the experience of having tried my best and completed the task.
Great lessons for us all, whether trying a triathlon or just living life.
But hey, next time, I think I’ll train for more than a day!