My Thai Vegan Cafe, Boston: no place I'd rather be
My legs felt like bricks, my sweat reeked of chlorine, my already-wild hair was even more wild--but I was happy.
I was happy to be running again, racing even. I was happy to have survived the swim and the bike. I was happy even to taste the exhaustion in my mouth as I struggled to intake enough oxygen for my burning muscles--it reminded me of cross country races, of long runs and half marathons.
This past Saturday, I completed my first triathlon. As a sprint tri, it was much more manageable than the other options, but it was far from the short, intense burst of energy that the name suggests. While sprint tri distances vary, this particular one consisted of a 500 meter pool swim, a 13 mile bike ride, and a 5 kilometer run.
Three months ago, I could only doggy paddle, and became breathless within a couple laps. To top it off, the only bike I had access to was a ten-year-old, clunky mountain bike, which paled in comparison to the streamlined road bikes. This race, at least for me, was an endurance event.
The story, however, doesn't begin here. It begins back in late April, when I was in a walking boot and crutches. When I was diagnosed with a metatarsal stress reaction. When my doctor told me: no running until at least mid-July.
Mid-July meant almost three months. As an avid runner in the final weeks of marathon training, I was heartbroken.
As I moped, however, the principle of duality reminded me that something good could arise from this misfortune, if I initiated it. My mind started ticking: no running meant a lot of cross-training (thank goodness I was at least allowed to do that). Cross-training meant a lot of swimming and biking. Swimming and biking meant...triathlon?
I had always said I was a "terrible swimmer," but I had never done anything to try to change that. Why not now?
So I researched, lucky enough to find a tri closeby with a short running leg, allowing me to ease back. I taught myself freestyle through countless youtube videos. I practiced at my local rec center, I practiced in China, I practiced at MIT on my off days during Explo. I'm still not great at swimming, but I've definitely improved. And I can keep doing so if I keep training.
I finished the tri well behind the seasoned, serious participants, but competing with others was not my purpose--improving myself was. Many people can do a sprint tri--after all, there were over 80 of us at the event, of all ages, sizes, equipment, abilities. I by no means accomplished something extremely impressive. My point, instead, is this: I found strength by challenging myself despite obstacles, by embracing circumstance.
You can find yours too.