By Lee Anne Grace
For the past several years I’ve dreamed of becoming a triathlete. Triathlons are athletic events in which participants, without stopping, swim, bike, then run. I can run, but overcoming the challenges of learning to swim and ride a bike seemed insurmountable.
As a child, I was the weakest swimmer in my class at the YMCA. I did not graduate to the minnow class like everyone else. As an adult, I was essentially a non-swimmer.
I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was 9 years old. I’m not sure why I stopped riding my bike with the purple banana seat and monkey handlebars, but I remembered it being really fun.
Whenever my dream would come to mind I would dismiss it as silly and not possible, but the unquenchable desire to become a triathlete kept coming back. I began to wonder why I couldn’t let go of it. Why did I want to start doing something like this for the first time at the age of 48? I concluded a lot of it has to do with having a good reason to do many of the things I wanted to as a child but couldn’t. If I was a triathlete I could go swimming, ride bikes, run some, and play outside as an adult with a purpose. It would be a great way to stay in shape and have lots of fun in the process.
Seven months ago I sustained a running injury. Since I was unable to run for exercise, a friend suggested this would be the perfect time for me to work on swimming. During the fall I tried to get serious about learning to swim several times, but I became discouraged by my lack of progress.
After waiting several months, I had surgery in late December to address my injury. After I came out of the post surgical fog I realized I had to do something drastic to get myself back on the right track of fitness. I dismissed all of my excuses for why I couldn’t reach for my dreams and I registered for a triathlon.
I questioned my sanity many times after I signed up. I could barely swim a length of a pool without stopping to catch my breath. I had gone bike riding twice before surgery, and I had fallen several times. I wasn’t even sure I would be able to run again. The surgeon said my long-term prognosis was uncertain.
During the first weeks after surgery I spent a lot of time in the pool. As the weeks slowly progressed, I started looking forward to swimming. Over time, I gradually started swimming greater distances and gaining confidence about being able to cover the 400 meter length of the swim portion of the triathlon.
My quest to become proficient at cycling has been truly comical. Experienced triathletes all recommended I start with clipless pedals. These are bike pedals that attach to specialized cycling shoes. Clipless pedals give you more pedaling power. More power is good, but the downside is your feet are essentially stuck to the bike pedals until you disengage them. This can be a problem when stopping. Sometimes I can’t get my foot unclipped from the pedal in time to put it on the ground before I tumble over. I’ve been told clipping in and out becomes second nature. I’m sure that day will come for me, but I can assure you it hasn’t transpired yet. In the meantime, I consider it a successful ride if I fall only once, and even better if I don’t have an audience for the fall.
Right now I am continuing to rehab my knee. It is strong enough to run easy a minute at a time. I may have to walk/run the run segment of the triathlon, but as long as I’m headed toward the finish line I will be experiencing success.
My goal is to finish the Rebelman triathlon in Oxford on April 7, thereby fulfilling a dream years in the making.
My next goal is to conquer my fear of open water swimming, and complete the King of the Hill Triathlon, to be held right here in Tupelo on June 29. For more information about registering for King of the Hill or becoming a triathlete, contact Bryan Cooper of Tupelo Multisport at (662) 231-7055.
Lee Anne Grace is an elementary music teacher for Tupelo Public Schools. After reaching a weight of almost 300 pounds and failing at numerous diets for over 25 years, she has been successful at losing weight and maintaining her weight loss four years.