I’ve thought about attempting a triathlon for awhile now. Mostly because of my friend John.
John has been doing triathlons for years. He’s so into it that he got an Ironman logo tatooed on his right calf a couple of years ago. He and I follow each other on Strava (a social media app for endurance sports), and I admit it’s kind of cool to see the variety of exercises he manages to pack into a typical week.
But even though John has invited me to join him for triathlons on several occasions, I’ve resisted primarily because of the swimming component. I’ve run regularly for about seven years now. I’ve used the bicycle as my primary mode of transportation for almost seventeen years now (I do realize that this is different from the sport of cycling, but still I’d like to think there are some connections there). I’ve never been a strong swimmer, though. Something’s off with my freestyle swimming stroke, and I always end up running out of breath when I try to swim that way. My sidestroke, breaststroke, and backstroke are workable; still, they’re not great.
But here’s the thing: In February, my friend John was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. The average life expectancy from the point of diagnosis is eighteen months.
I figured if I was ever going to attempt a triathlon, I wanted to do it with John. I wanted him to be with me as I undertake such a new endeavor. And I wanted to be with him as he faithfully endeavors to run the race marked out for him (both literally and figuratively). It turns out that several others have felt the same way, including John’s brother, John’s son, and John’s niece. The story has gotten even bigger over the last few months, with John chronicling his journey at JohnDrage.com and even a few news outlets picking up the story (see the video below). I feel like I’ve had a front-row seat to witness an incredible story of faith and perseverance.
So after much deliberation and physical preparation, I will be making my first attempt at a triathlon this weekend — the Ohio Ironman 70.3. Mostly because of my friend John.
That being said, I honestly do not know how this triathlon is going to turn out.
I think I should be able to complete the 1.2-mile swim in about 55 minutes. That would be within the 70 minute allowance. But I’ve never had a truly successful lake swim of that length (or any length). And I’ve certainly never done it with a crowd of other people in the water. It’s entirely possible that I’ll get disqualified before I even finish with the first leg of the race, but I’m prepared to give it my best shot.
I think I should be able to complete the 56-mile bike ride in about four hours. Which is within the 5.5-hour total allowance (for both the swim and the bike). Still, I’m not going to be riding on a specialty road racing bike like I expect most of the other triathletes will be using. I wonder if I might even get some smiles and stares as I ride my electric-blue Marin Nicasio RC (my city bike) to keep race costs down and stick to what’s familiar. I’ve also never actually done a bike race before. So there are enough unfamiliar elements to leave me unsettled. If I have any mechanical issues with my bicycle out on the road, I’m slow enough and clumsy enough that it’s entirely possible to get disqualified before I even finish with the second leg of the race. But I’m prepared to give it my best shot.
So even with some transition time and extra time built in for unexpected pit stops, I’d like to think that I should have 3-3.5 hours to complete the 13.1-mile run before I hit the end of my 8.5-hour total time allotment.
Running is my most comfortable discipline, and I can usually run a half-marathon in half of the time that should be left to me after the swimming and biking. But I’ve never run that many miles after swimming and biking so many miles beforehand. There’s also likely to be a heat component which will be unusual for me, with temperatures likely around 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the middle part of the day. I’ve been struggling with a bit of respiratory congestion this week, which adds a health component that I don’t usually have to deal with. And there will also be an emotional component, with the Drage family’s involvement…
There are just a lot of unknowns heading into this weekend!