Bike · Injury · Running · Swim · Triathlon

What It Means To Be A Triathlete

Hi everyone!  As you may have learned last week, I’M A TRIATHLETE!  Those are three little words that I never thought I’d say, but have brought me so much happiness in the past week.  From the moment I crossed the finish line of the Gold Nugget Triathlon (recap here!) I’ve felt like a totally different person.  It might sound crazy, but I know that my running injury has had a bigger effect on me than I’d like to admit, and this race made me feel like myself again – only more badass!  Doing a triathlon was so much harder than I ever imagined, and I still can’t believe I did it!

img_1676A super blurry screenshot of my finisher’s video.  This is the exact moment I become a triathlete!

Finishing my first triathlon means more to me than just being able to say I swam 10 laps, biked 12 miles, and walked/ran 4 miles all in one day as fast as I could.  It means that even with my injury, which still hurts pretty frequently, I can accomplish amazing things.  I’m NOT broken and unable to be an athlete, even though my stupid SI joint would say otherwise.  I can’t even begin to talk about how hard these last 8 months of injury have been, and how tough it was to give up on my goal of running a marathon this year.  I’m still not sure when I’ll be back to running pain-free, and it used to be devastatingly hard for me to think about that.  But this triathlon has totally changed my outlook on this whole injury situation.  How?

First of all, I would have never done a triathlon if I hadn’t been injured!  I briefly thought about it before, but always decided that I would rather train for a half marathon instead of spending “precious running time” learning how to swim or ride a bike.  When my PT suggested swimming and biking as alternatives to running while I recover from my injury, I rolled my eyes and decided to hit up spin class a few times a week.  But if I hadn’t been in that fateful Tuesday night spin class with my favorite teacher, I would have never even thought about signing up for the Gold Nugget Tri (you can read all about my crazy race sign up saga here).  I made a super quick decision to try to get into the race, and that ended up being the best thing I could do for myself!

triathlete definition

Second, it turns out that running isn’t the only athletic thing I enjoy doing!  Nothing will ever replace running – it’s my first true athletic love, and I will do everything I can to get back to it as soon as possible.  But it turns out that a really hard and long swim can give you a “swimmer’s high” and a huge sense of accomplishment, and biking fast down hills is just about the only thing better than running fast down hills.  I’m starting to crave bike rides as much as I used to crave going for a run, and I don’t even have to worry about doing slow intervals like I do with running because it doesn’t aggravate my injury.

Third, I actually enjoy trying new things so I loved this whole process!  I was a nervous wreck before my first adult swim class, but after that first class my instructors repeatedly told me that I picked up on swimming really quickly and were able to teach me 3 different strokes, and I graduated as the best in my (small) class.  I’ve never been told I pick up on any athletic activities quickly, so that was totally shocking to me.  It made me realize that there are so many things out there other than running, and this injury is my opportunity to try them out.  I think I could become pretty good at swimming and biking if I keep up my training, and I’m curious to see what else I’m able to do pain-free that I might be slightly good at!

img_1610Yep, I’m a 2016 GNT finisher!  So proud!

Finally, I learned that I’m not just a runner.  Once I started running, I realized for the first time that I could accomplish amazing and difficult things.  It’s a big reason why I did so many half marathons, and why I fell in love with training for race after race.  It felt so good to be able to accomplish my big and scary goals!  But that also made it really difficult to deal with my injury.  I didn’t know how to cope with the fact that I couldn’t do the one thing I relied on for stress relief, goal setting, and endorphins, and that I might not be a “runner” anymore.  And if I’m suddenly not something that I’ve identified as for so long, what am I supposed to do?  I’ve learned in the last few months that I’ll always be a runner at heart, even though I’m taking a bit of a break right now.  And I learned that I can be so many other things, like a triathlete!  I’m adding that to my list of accomplishments, and also giving myself a new identity to be proud of – but not to be completely reliant on like I was with my “runner” identity.

It’s crazy to think that 4 years ago today, I wasn’t a runner or a triathlete.  I had no idea that my life would someday be filled with running gear, blogging, and race medals hanging on my walls.  No matter what these past 8 months of injury have done, I am so crazy proud of how far I’ve come and how much I’ve accomplished.  I’m so excited to be able to tell the world that I’m a triathlete, and I can’t want to see what my next crazy accomplishment will be!

Do you identify as a runner or a triathlete?  What would you do if you couldn’t call yourself that anymore?  Would your past self be shocked at all the crazy stuff you do or were you always an athlete?  And most importantly, what scary goal have you always wanted to accomplish?

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15 thoughts on “What It Means To Be A Triathlete

  1. Congrats on your accomplishment! Isn’t it awesome what you can learn a bout yourself when you really focus and put all your effort into a specific goal! My huge goal is a sub 2:00 half. The closest I’ve gotten is 2:07 so I need some work but if I actually train accordingly I know I can do it!

  2. Congratulations!!

    I too am transitioning to a triathlete due to an injury ( severe arthritis in my knee) . I begin pre training this week with full training for my September tri starting in June.

    Your post gets me even more excited 😉

    1. Ooooh you will have so much fun! Make sure to check out the Tri Newbie Chronicles section of my blog for all of the tips I learned while training. I basically just read tons of blogs to figure out what I was getting myself into, but I did it!

  3. Woohoo….Welcome to the world of triathlon!!! Be warned its addictive 🙂 Congrats on putting yourself out there and pushing your boundaries. I am a runner and a triathlete too (tri-belle.com), and triathlon is so much easier on your body. The cross training really helps to keep me injury free.

  4. It’s funny because I don’t identify myself as a runner but other people do. Like you, I was never athletic growing up. Four years ago, the only running I’d ever done was the dreaded mile in PE and I’m pretty sure I came close to failing. So it’s crazy to me now that 3 miles is a short run and sometimes I still can’t believe that I’ve ran 13.1 miles. I’m trying to stop denying when people call me a runner (because I am a runner) but old habits die hard. Congrats again!

    1. It honestly took me until I ran my first half marathon before I began to identify as one. I think my most recent struggle is that people call me an “athlete” and I laugh in their face. I am so far from an athlete! But it does make me feel more comfortable being called a runner after I heard that!

    1. Thank you! Oh man, I just wrote a comment above about being called that by my coworkers and laughing at them because it sounds so ridiculous! I’m not sure if I’m an athlete, but I’m definitely a triathlete 🙂

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