Triathlete in Hibernation – Use it or Lose it!

“Use it or Lose it!” is a well known adage that has been adopted by pretty much any situation where attrition leads to non-utility. I am sure you can think of a number of situations where this may be the case. A coupon that expires, muscle tone after an injury, loss of libido….well you get the picture. The basic idea is the less you use something, do something, or are reminded of something, that something tends to disappear and the less you miss it. Unfortunately in my case, the same goes for racing in triathlons.

Its been a while since I have talked about my history with the triathlon, swimming, cycling, and running.  When I was in my early teens, it seemed like I was racing in a triathlon every other weekend. I was pretty fast for my age. At 14 I placed 4th at the Ironkids National Championship. At 15 I ran a 15:03 5k. By the time I was 16 I had dreams and aspirations of going to the Olympics so I gave up triathlons to focus on running. My last 2 years of high school went fairly well and I decided to go run for USC. 3 days before the start of my Freshman year I hyper-extended my knee in practice and that sidelined me for the majority of the Cross Country season. I competed at the PAC 10 Championship at the end of the season and took last place over all of those who finished that day. USC shut down their Men’s Varsity Cross Country program after that year and I think that was the nail in the coffin for me. I wasn’t mentally in it anymore. I took some time off and tried to get back into triathlons again a year later when I was 19, but I had been out for too long and didn’t have the motivation to train anymore. I didn’t understand it then, but I was in the downward spiral of a deep depression. The likes of which I didn’t fully understand until 2011. It wasn’t until I decided to lose some weight and get healthy again that I realized the source of my pain and anger. I lost 60 pounds and got back into “running” shape. I decided that it was time to try my hand at the triathlon again. It was like I had returned to a world that I had forgotten. The feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself. The camaraderie. The sportsmanship. The family of crazy people who enjoy pushing themselves beyond any normal amount of physical exertion. I was back with my people and it felt good. 19 years is a long time to go without doing something that you love, but the next few years were great! I enjoyed a busy race schedule with decent outcomes. I was able to travel to Milwaukee for the Age Group National Championship in 2013 which was an awesome experience. Being around some of the best in the sport brought out the best in me and everything seemed to be falling right back into place. I had become a faster swimmer and cyclist than I had ever been but my running seemed to be my new weakness. Weird that something I had been so good at when I was younger is now my Achilles heal when it comes to competitions. Makes sense though, I didn’t and don’t spend much time on developing myself back into a runner. I think I still to this very day hold that fear of getting injured again from truly unlocking my best potential.

Now I find myself in a new predicament. The last time I competed in a triathlon was April of 2015. I didn’t stop racing because of an injury or because I was sick of the sport, financially I just couldn’t justify the cost any longer. Triathlons aren’t cheap, especially when you are looking at half and full triathlon distances — these races range in cost from $300 to $2000 — and frankly I just don’t have that kind of money to spend. So instead I focused on finding more gainful employment. A year and a half later I am still struggling to find the cash flow to get back into the race. Working a few jobs to make some of my ends meet has been rough and has taken up the time I used to have for training. So I have been in what I would call a hibernation phase. Sure I have been able to get out and ride here and there or swim with the kids I coach, but the goal of competing in an Ironman seems so far off now. There is so much training involved and my hat goes off to all of those people who have completed this goal. But in my case, I guess if you don’t use it, eventually you do lose it. Even though I may not be as fast as I used to be a few years ago or even close to the shape I was in, I do know that it wont take me that long to get back to where I was a few years ago. I think my major issue is that I haven’t had a goal set to kick start my training regiment back into gear.

So with that being said, I am setting a goal to complete the Bakersfield Marathon next month. It’s the inaugural running of this race and I would be remise to not take advantage of such a great opportunity here in my hometown. I have just over 4 weeks of training time left to mount an attack on the completion of this, my first marathon attempt. Now I am not going into this marathon with the hopes of winning over all or even placing in my age group. My goal is to simply finish in less than 4 hours which translates to an average of a 9:09 minute mile for 26.2 miles. Now this isn’t going to be easy by any means, but I believe it is a goal that I can achieve within the next 5 weeks of training. I think my biggest issue is, after paying for the entry fee of course, is going to be with pacing at that speed and maintaining enough caloric intake to get through it. Regardless of these challenges, I am ready to set this goal into motion and use this as a stepping stone towards completing my first Ironman someday in the next year. Now all I need to do is figure out which career path I want to follow (go back to construction or keep moving forward with teaching) and maximize my earning potential in that field so I no longer feel this financial pinch and get to enjoy life just a little bit more freely!

All I know is, I don’t want to lose the feeling I get when I think about racing again. So its time for me to make my way back into the groove!

Thank you for reading! I look forward to seeing you at the races!

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