Finding the strength to compete in a triathlon

Will Jennifer’s anxiety get the best of her when it comes to returning to triathlon?

Jennifer Pinarski 0

In the middle of a 4K last month. I can do this, right?

Before I was a middle-of-the-pack trail runner, I was a half decent swimmer and triathlete. It was swimming that gave me the courage to give triathlon a shot in a sport that favours runners and cyclists. Over my five years in the sport I acquired all of the gear needed to look like a triathlete, even if I never made it close to the podium.
 
(Triathlon is very much a gadget-y sport. Yes, you can complete a triathlon with bathing suit, mountain bike and running shoes, but you’ll want all the carbon fibre and neoprene too).
 
But after having our babies, I sold off my too small wetsuits and dusty road bike and stopped going to the pool because it seemed like I no longer had the time. Then, after moving from Winnipeg to Ontario’s cottage country, I no longer had a long list of nearby budget-friendly races to compete in. (Triathlon is so much more expensive in Ontario, but a rant about high race entry fees will be saved for another day.)
 
Returning to the sport was always in the back of my mind. What I loved best about sprint distance triathlon was that, with a reasonable amount of fitness, I always felt like I could pull off a respectable race. I even swam a 4K open water swim last month and finishing gave me the confidence to seriously think about signing up for a sprint distance race this summer. But when I went out for a sprint distance brick workout earlier this week (20K bike ride, 5K run), I struggled and ended up in tears because it was so hard. The only thing that kept me going was having read the race report of my pal Jared Chartrand (aka Irondad), who spectacularly crashed during the biggest race of his season, a half Ironman that would have qualified him for the World Championships. The crash meant he lost his chance at qualifying, but he still finished the race. Here I was all pouty because my 5K was hard, and the reason it was hard was that (a) I’m no longer in my 20s, which is when I last raced, and (b) I’ve spent the last year running and cycling slowly and avoiding all speedwork.
 
I’m still up in the air about registering for this sprint triathlon (scheduled for August 12). I’ve joked to a few Facebook pals that I’d much rather register for a hilly 150KM charity bicycle ride that is the same weekend — because it would be easier than a sprint triathlon. (Endurance athletes have a very warped perception of what is “easy.”) At $60 this sprint triathlon is a bargain as race entries are concerned, and the race is practically in my backyard, making it possible to ride and run the course as part of training. Really, the only thing in my way is the voice in the back of my head that says “you’re too slow.”

Photo by Mike Melansen / Runner’s Life Peterborough

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