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  • Writer's picturejulietertin

Well, I Signed up for Ironman

Before you say something inane like, "Well you're an endurance athlete, so this will be no problem for you," hold up.

Biking muscles. Running muscles. Your legs are made up of multiple muscle groups. Your quad is made up of five different ones alone. The two activities engage different muscles and even use different muscle fibers, which means running up and down mountains does not = being any kind of decent biker (unless you know nothing about either sport).

Real quick (all good stories begin 'real quick'), let me debrief the three times I raced my bike.

Most recently in Feb: the Mt. Taylor Quadrathlon (15 miles or something uphill, 15 back down later). I trained for this by riding my bike twice, 30 minutes each, on a stationary bike at the gym while listening to my favorite podcast. I hated it.

The time before that? Same race, only I don't remember training at all. I do remember wishing I hadn't worn underwear. I also rode a gravel bike, which was the worst purchase because I quickly learned that if you want to do two things poorly (road bike or mountain bike) then this is the bike for you. During this race two years ago, the mountain bikers with backpacks passed me. The old ladies in tutus passed me. I pulled over halfway up the mountain and pretended that I had to pee so I could cry behind a pine tree. Just a little.

And the most I've ever ridden a bike? A half ironman years ago that I have almost no memory of. I remember distinctly cringing before hitting every crack on the way back down Scenic Byway 61 (a classic Minnesota highway that winds along the shore Lake Superior; very beautiful until you have a bike seat made out of concrete), I remember my knees cocked out like chicken wings because my bike was too small, and I definitely remember coming off the bike proclaiming that I was quitting because this blows. In retrospect, I took one GU in 56 miles and didn't drink anything because I didn't want to fall down. I didn't even have a way to fix a flat. At the transition, I was talked into "finally getting to run," which is the only reason that I finished that dumb race.

Me circa 2017

If being a great runner translated to great biking, we'd see the same jabronis on all of the podiums. So no, respectfully, this is not easy for me.

I signed up for IMAZ (Ironman Arizona) to go back to beginner's mind. To be uncomfortable. Do you know how exhausted I am of hearing the "I only run when someone is chasing me" or "Running is too hard on my knees" comments? Super tired. I don't know if it's because I coach ultrarunning, but people really, really love to preach to me how terrible running is.

Hello friend, have we met? I run hundreds of miles at a time, thousands in a year. I will be the first to tell you exactly how terrible running is. But the people I'm talking about, the ones who feel the need to dump on it, are people who have never made it over the first hump of learning how to run long enough to understand the sport. Let me illustrate:

These sad folks in blue are still in their cave, defended by their assumptions formed after a few meager attempts to claw out. No wonder they think running is exponentially difficult. It's fine to not like something, but don't try it a little and then proclaim an absolute truth about it.

And that's exactly where I am with biking: biking is the worst. That is my absolute truth. But (and this is a giant 'but'), I would like to actually try to dismantle my own bias and try to learn what cycling is and how so many people can possibly enjoy pounding their crotch this hard and cranking their necks. (I didn't say I was going to be objective; I said I was going to give it a fair shake.) The concept is unfathomable to me, but I don't know what I don't know. I'm very much hoping the graph for triathloning (still gotta make sure to put the right number of o's in that word) looks similar to this.

So, I invite you to come with me on this journey. Selfishly, it will help me a lot.

I am not following a coach or a training plan (besides my own ideas, which I will share. I put my coffee cup on them now so they are a little stained, but that's ok) and I'm not trying to follow all the rules. I'm open to advice and tips and anything else I find along the way, which I will also gladly share whether it works or not. The first thing I did was go to Target to buy a butt pad for my bike. And yes, it might get saturated (AZ is hot as hell - it'll dry) or expose me for the poser that I am, but that's alright. I am racing to do my best, not to compete. Everyone seems very worried about transitions in the tri world, but if the difference is finishing 14:38 or 14:43 then I'll take the dry shorts, thanks.

We are truly at the beginning, and here is our jumping off point:

-I ordered a swim suit that fits (because that's what women love, having to size up in swimsuits) so, off to a great start there. I only own one pair of bike shorts, but don't worry, I ordered a second pair this week.

-I went on my first real ride yesterday! I live near a big, long hill and I think I should probably ride down that thing (it's a couple miles) and then back up it a few times a week. Something tells me it won't be the flat parts that are the hardest.

-We need to get the mileage up. 112 miles is a lot more than 20. The most I've ever ridden is 54.

-We need to Google "chamois" as well as learn to pronounce it.

-We need to increase the speed upon my steed! The average female 30-35 years old finishes the bike averaging 16.6 mph during an Ironman. Yikes. Are these people aware of the great irony of riding a bike fast? The faster you go, the more wind resistance. So you literally have to bike harder just to bike even harder. It takes 8 times more effort to bike 20 mph compared to 10 mph, for example.

This is going to be wild.

Final thought: It's great to be great at stuff. It feels good to be proficient, or even more than proficient, at something. I take a lot of genuine pride in being able to coach other runners, and I have a wall of shiny buckles and stories, but I don't want to forget the other half. I don't want to cook the same recipe, even if it's the family favorite, for two decades when there is so much good food out there to try.

Final, final thought: I should really learn how to swim this week.

Nah, I'll just start designing my M dot tattoo.

PC: unknown on the interwebs

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