It’s no secret that I hate running. It’s boring, it hurts my joints, it’s dependent on the weather, and it’s really, really boring. But when I heard about BYU’s Lazy Man Triathlon, I sort of forgot how much I hate running. I thought “Lazy Man? Well, that sounds like it fits me to a T! Sign me up!” I’m always looking for some gimmick to trick me into exercising, so why not?
The idea of a Lazy Man triathlon is to complete the same amount of miles as an Iron Man (2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking and 26.2 miles running), except instead of doing it in one day like a real athlete, participants have an entire month to complete the course. Easy right? That’s what I thought, so I registered and got my very own card to track my progress. I love coloring in boxes -that’s how I motivate myself to do everything else in my life. So when I saw all those boxes waiting to be filled, I was bursting with gleeful anticipation.
Then I started the actual exercise. Lazy-schmazy, this was work! First of all, I have never run twenty-six miles in one year, let alone one month. Since I could only run three miles at a time, that would mean I’d have to talk myself into running (no easy task – I’d rather scrub toilets) nine times. And even at my fastest, I can’t ride more than fourteen miles in one hour-long cycle class, so the goal of 112 miles seemed almost impossible. When I broke it all down into numbers, it was obvious that I would not be able to slack off, no matter how busy I got with piano recitals and festivals, choir concerts and the crazy PTA project I volunteered to co-chair.
Well guess what? I did it! With four days to spare! Here’s what I learned from the experience:
1.Triathlon is not spelled “triathalon”. I never knew that.
2. How to use a treadmill. About a year ago, I asked my husband to show me how to use a treadmill and he looked at me blankly and said, “You just turn it on and run.” I explained that I was really afraid I would fall right off of it and he said, “Like on cartoons?” I said, “No, like ‘80s sitcoms, but same idea.” He thought it was silly of me but showed me how it worked. Then I managed to fall off, triggering the emergency stop key. Then my arms knocked into my headphone cord, sending my phone flying to the ground and popping into pieces. Then my arms knocked into the emergency stop cord. Then I got off and decided to never try a treadmill again. In the meantime, my husband kept running on the treadmill right next to me, watching his show, oblivious to the three times I had to restart the stupid machine.
For this challenge, I ran almost exclusively outside. It’s October – the month with the most pleasant weather and the most gorgeous scenery.
But because of some time constraints earlier in the week, I was left with one measly mile of running last night. I was at the gym anyway so I decided to try the treadmill for just one mile. I managed to run the whole time without falling or breaking anything or turning anything off, but it was not fun. Even with headphones and a show playing on my phone, I couldn’t help watching the numbers on the screen showing my progress slowly, slowly, slowly. That one mile felt longer than any of my other runs.
3. I’m not that great of a great swimmer. I used to think I was pretty good. I was on swim team as a child, I swam laps regularly when my kids were much younger, so I assumed that part would be a cinch. But once I started trying to swim the crawl and I could see the drop from shallow to deep below me, something strange happened – I started to panic that I wouldn’t get enough air. It was totally irrational, especially considering my previous swimming experience, but the same thing happened when I started experiencing vertigo as an adult. It appeared out of nowhere.
The panic I felt was so overwhelming the few times I tried, I decided not to push it, opting instead to complete the 85 laps by swimming backstroke and breaststroke. It was much easier and made the whole experience much more pleasant.
4.This really is out of character for me. I went running last week past the high school. Some trumpet players from the marching band were outside practicing, but since I didn’t think I knew any of them, I just kept running without waving or stopping to say hello. The next day, my son (who’s also in marching band) said, “Were you running past the high school yesterday?” When I said I had and that I had seen the trumpet players, he said, “They told me they saw you, but I said, ‘My mom? Running? Outside?” Oh, yeah, cheeky boy?
5. I actually enjoy running. That’s right, I said it. I really hated it at first, but I reached a bit of a turning point one morning after I kept thinking of phone calls I had to make and laundry I had to do. I couldn’t find my headphones, and then I was disappointed when I did find them, and then I noticed it was raining, then was disappointed to find it was only faintly drizzling. I had no excuses left, so I forced myself to just go. And then I had the nicest run. And I was so pleased that I had overcome my tendency to let myself off the hook.
Another big change happened after I told my brother-in-law (an actual Iron Man) how difficult it was to run and how I couldn’t run farther than three miles. He said, “Oh, three miles is the worst. Haven’t you heard that before? Once you get past three, it’s so much better.” My husband and sister, both long-distance runners, agreed, so I tried bumping up to 4 ½ miles the next day. It wasn’t bad! Who knew I could do that?
After that, running became fun. Of course, it helped that I got hooked listening to Serial. I can get through two full episodes each time I run and I only have one episode left, so no spoilers, please.
6. I’m capable of more than I thought. Not only can I run further, it turns out I actually can exercise longer than an hour without dying. I really can make myself leave my couch and my Snuggie on a chilly evening to drag myself to the pool. I really can push myself harder on the bike.
I got a really crazy idea. I never planned to do this at the beginning of the month, but by the end, I started feeling more confident. I started to wonder what would happen if I tried to do a mini triathlon all in one day? 14 miles on the bike, 25 laps in the pool, and 3 miles running? I had an open stretch of time on Monday so I decided to give it a try. Two and a half hours later, I was tired and a little sick to my stomach, but I didn’t die and I wasn’t terribly sore afterwards. I actually pulled it off and it felt pretty good.
In 23 days’ time (I’m not counting Sundays), I swam 4 times, ran 8 times, and rode bikes 10 times. That’s a whole lot more than I usually exercise. Not bad for lazy old me.
7.I’m no Iron Man. Before I began this challenge, I would look at my friend and brother-in-law who completed the Iron Man and think, “Wow. That is crazy. How do they do that?” Once I started the challenge, I thought, “How is anyone capable of that?” I would leave a cycle class and realize I’d just expended every drop of energy I had just to accomplish ⅛ of just ⅓ of what an Iron Man accomplishes in ONE DAY. It was impossible to wrap my head around just how difficult it must be to do what they’ve done. Now I understand why my sister got so emotional as her husband crossed the finish line.
Me? I got this t-shirt. That’s cool, I guess.