Monday, December 14, 2009

When life hands you lemons...

This quote, which was shared with me by a good friend, sums up my last year. It's probably pretty obvious to my friends that I used exercise as a way to cope with a bad breakup. In fact, one of the first things I did in the immediate aftermath was dust off my bike and go for a ride. I couldn't feel any emotional pain if I was in physical pain. Somewhere along the way, I became addicted. It's true that I used physical exertion to overcome my emotions. But at the same time, it gave me confidence, focus, energy, got rid of my insomnia, regulated my appetite, and gave me control over my life again.

Fortuitously, around this same time, my labmate and I were listening to our favorite podcast and one of the hosts was training for her first triathlon. Just like us, she was not athletic and had never considered doing anything like that before in her life. We started talking about putting together a relay team for the Cayuga Lake Triathlon, which was many months way. She was the swimmer, I was the biker, and we recruited a friend as the runner.

As soon as the spring set in, I started going biking with a friend. Training for the triathlon gave me a goal to strive for. I put hundreds of miles on my bike and forced myself into a regular workout routine, no matter how hectic life and work were. When the triathlon finally arrived, I was a little disappointed how short and easy 13 miles felt and how slow my time was. I hadn't been training for speed just for endurance which was the wrong approach for a sprint distance race. I bought a bike computer, switched to clipless pedals, and decided to train for my first century ride instead. I biked around Cayuga Lake on September 12, two days before I turned 28. It was that ride that gave me the sense of accomplishment that I had been looking for.

I knew immediately after the CLT that I wanted to do a triathlon on my own. I knew that I could do the swimming with enough practice and the biking was obviously not a problem. However, at that point, the furthest I had ever run in my life was one mile and that was in high school, and if there was one thing I knew with certainty, it was that I *hated* running. Since the biking season was winding down (I am not someone who will ever bike in snow), I decided to start training for running. I figured that I could force myself to run 5k so that I could do a sprint distance triathlon. Much to my shock, I discovered that I really like running, so much so that I might even try to do a half marathon next year.

People seldom understand what I mean when I say that I enjoy the soreness that comes after a good workout. I'm in good enough shape right now that a normal run or bike ride doesn't hurt. It's only when I push myself a little further than I can handle that I get sore. The pain reminds me of all the progress I've made and tells me that I'm getting better. Looking back over the last year, it's hard to believe that I've come so far in such a short period of time. There have been ups and downs, but I'm quite proud of where I've ended up.

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