Saturday, July 13, 2013

Advantage of the Disadvantage

            I used to feel like people who had a history in at least one of the sports of triathlon were at an advantage over those of us who did not.  Someone who was once a distance runner or a swimmer should have an edge over those who weren’t (meaning me).  My sports history?  Volleyball was my focus for 6 years until I graduated high school.  I was in track in high school as well, and while I tried almost every event, I never found anything that I was really any good at.  That is until I went on to college and pole vaulted, which was my focus for the next 5 years as I competed at the DII collegiate level.  I graduated college and still had a competitive side of me that needed its fix.
Too bad this doesn't apply to triathlons...
            Thus I entered the world of triathlon.  I could swim.  I could bike.  I could run.  None of it was really fast or anything, but I could do it, so why not?  The summer after I graduated from college (2010), I began getting ready for my first triathlon.  I did a few lake swims to get ready for that portion.  Now, let me explain my history with swimming.  I took swim lessons when I was young, but swimming for me basically consisted of the side stroke.  I could side stroke all day long, and that’s what I did for my first year of triathlons.  And I could do pretty well with it too, compared to other non-swimmers anyway...
            Then there was the bike.  Well, everyone has got to start somewhere.  I started with a one-speed, pedal-backwards-to-brake kind of bike, with the big ol’ tires and seat.  I should also say that I got the bike when I was about 10, but I at least no longer had a bell, basket, or klinkers on it.  I figured if I did a few 12-14 mile rides with that thing, then I would be set for the 16 miles I needed to cover in the race.  Fortunately I was able to borrow a road bike for the race itself.  Not supposed to try anything new for a race?  I think it was ok in this case.
            Now the run.  Back in high school, my sophomore year I ran the mile at meets.  That does not mean I was ever good at it by any means.  But that was my extent of my competitive distance running experience.  Occasionally I would do a 2-3 mile run I guess, but that’s just nothing impressive when the pace was probably 10 minutes/mile.  I started running that summer, and it was fun to see how quickly my times could drop.  Look at me, I can run 2 miles at a sub 8 pace! 
Everything was exciting.  My point is, that I did not have a standard to hold myself to.   Those with a cross country background, or whatever it may be, have a previous standard of what they should be able to do.  When you have nothing for a background, you just keep getting better and better!  Sure, I was getting beat by those with more triathlon experience, or those with a running background, or well, a lot of people anyway.  But I was able to beat myself every time, and that was exciting enough for me in order to get hooked.  When you have a low standard (or  none at all) for yourself, it is a lot easier to surpass the expectations you hold.  You are not chasing down previous standards and finding yourself falling short.  It’s hard to be disappointed when you come from nothing at all.  It also means that I had a lot more work to do in order to make up for all of the time that others had put into becoming fast swimmers or runners.  That’s alright, I can handle a little hard work.  So don't be intimidated by a triathlon just because you don't have a background of distance running or swimming.  After all, maybe you have the advantage!

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