It's amazing how perspectives can change in a short period of time. Twelve months ago, I was ALMOST to the point of swimming freestyle after months of TI drills. Swim workouts were measured in time because it seemed pointless to record swimming 200 yards. My training logs show the first recorded yardage in May, and those were 500-700 yard swims.
In May of last year I broke out my bike and started training on the road. Of course, my steed at that time was a lower end Giant mountain bike, all 35 pounds of it. Still, I hit the roads with a vengeance and logged some rides as long as 15 miles by the time my first race in June rolled around.
By that time, I had purchased my beloved Pol-R Express, and quickly ramped up to 40-50 mile rides. Training through June and July gave me the confidence to complete an Olympic distance triathlon in August, though I still felt distant from much of the triathlon community. While I had certainly invested some time and money, I just didn't feel "triathletey." (I'm fairly certain I just coined that term, so if you take it and make millions of dollars, please remember the little people).
I knew triathletes. They were the ones with all the stories about big races, long races, and lots of races. They wore their club gear at all the meetings and rides. They had months and months of blog entries about their training and racing. They knew all the pros, and had even met many of them. Me, I was just hanging out in their space. I wasn't REALLY a triathlete. Normally a loud and talkative person, I clammed up around real triathletes.
Then, I completed two triathlons in three weeks. The second was at the invitation of a co-worker running his first triathlon. Suddenly, I was the one who "knew everything." I'd been there. I'd set up transition areas. I'd seen wave starts and knew how to avoid the worst of the beating in the water. I understood how frantic you can be going from swim to bike and bike to run. And while I didn't really know all that much, my friend listened to everything I said.
Then Ironman Louisville became a reality, and I jumped feet first into the fray. Though it took me nearly three years to make the jump from half to full marathon, the journey from novice to Ironman was given 18 short months. The change from "wannabe" to triathlete took much less time.
Now, I hope I can be as motivational for all the fledgling triathletes as others have been for me. I try to make sure struggling swimmers understand that 12 months ago, I could barely swim 500 yards. When others cringe at the idea of biking 20 miles, I point out that my first rides, less than a year ago, were only 5 to 10 miles. And running is something that I continue to improve at as I head into my fifth marathon.
Triathlon has something for everyone. If you're new to endurance sports, remember that sprint distance races can be as short as 15 miles, including the bike and run. Often, the swim is in water so shallow the entire distance can be walked, if the need arises. And regardless of the distance, completing any event makes every competitor a winner. As you complete races, the feeling of being an "outsider" will pass. People will start to recognize you.
And they'll know you're a triathlete. Then, you too, can pass the torch.