Yesterday a friend told me he is planning to do an Ironman triathlon before his 40th birthday. Up until now, I don't think he has had a regular exercise program at all, and he's about my age, so that seemed crazy. I am afraid I might have implied as much.
In retrospect, I think part of the problem was envy. I don't feel that is a goal I could (or even want to) set for myself, but I admire the spirit that it takes to set a truly outrageous goal.
When I set the goal to do my first sprint triathlon all those years ago, I really didn't know if I could do it. I had to buy a bike becuase I didn't own one. I trained like crazy for six months because I thought it was going to be really hard for me. I cried when I got to the race site and saw how many hills I was going to have to ride after training only on flat roads. When I actually did the race, I realized that I had prepared a lot better than most of the other first-timers. So maybe I have a problem with confidence -- maybe I could be doing a lot more than I have been. I have been sticking to short races for the last couple of years because work and school were keeping me so busy, plus I didn't have the money for the gear upgrades that training for longer races would require. When I finished my sprint triathlon this year, it was a bit of a letdown, because I know I hadn't trained enough. I need a more challenging goal.
I still don't see an Ironman in my future, but yesterday I made the decision to do a longer race next year. I picked this one, which is a distance I have raced before (1500 m swim, 40 k bike, 10 k run) but always with extreme difficulty. Both times, I felt like I barely finished. The course I picked is a really challenging one, with lots of hills on the bike. So next spring (or this fall if I can find a good deal) I am going to get a better bike that really fits me. I even have a friend who is interested in buying my bike if I upgrade. I'm going to need to train all winter in Spinning classes to make sure I'm ready to get serious once outdoor biking season starts. I'm going to make sure to stay in good running and swimming shape too, and actually get myself into the weight room. My goal is to finish the race feeling great, not feeling like I was hit by a bus.
Setting a goal that will stretch me a little more has already energized me to push myself a little more in training. Yesterday (before I had heard about my friend's race plans), I had gotten up early to swim some laps, plus I had a 10-mile bike ride with a friend planned. I decided (after setting a new goal for next year) to ride my bike to the place where I was meeting my friend, which added an extra 7 miles roundtrip to my ride. Not a huge deal, but I felt more like an athlete again because I was looking for ways to add distance to my workout.
I think if I stick to these plans, the extra weight issue will stop being such a big issue. I still plan to track my calories, and with a goal like this, I know I need to have good nutrition. By next August, I hope to be a lean, mean, triathloning machine.
And I'm going to train like I'm competing for $10,000.