Al (the "runner" I met at new employee orientation, who is now my husband) took me to the Ford gym and got me all set up. I can't believe it took me four years to set foot in a gym I had free access to. I had never set foot in any gym, though. I think I was a bit intimidated by the idea. We started going a few nights a week after work. Mostly, I did the stair master or the stationary bike. Then, in February, I saw a flyer on a table at the gym for an indoor triathlon in Toledo, OH. I had secretly always wanted to do a triathlon. I had long enjoyed biking as a way to get my body moving, explore new places, clear my head. I had been a lifeguard and swimming instructor in high school. Then I started swimming a couple times a week in college as a way to relax and unwind. I hadn't swum since graduating and I was never a fast or strong swimmer, but I was a confident swimmer. And I knew I could run. This particular triathlon sounded perfect. It was about 12 weeks away. It was indoors. The distances were very reasonable, much shorter even than a sprint triathlon. Transitions would not be timed. I was sure I would be able to get in shape enough to do it. I knew having a goal like that would force me to keep up my resolution. So I signed up!
[An aside: As it turned out, signing up for that triathlon was a major turning point in my life. From that moment on, exercise and healthy eating have been a regular part of my life. I backed way off on my exercise routine after my girls were born, for about a year each time. And I did little exercise other than some yoga and walking while pregnant with my second. But I had laid down a great foundation that made it easy to get back in shape when I was ready and able to resume working out and training. That triathlon was the first of many races I have done over the last 10 years.]
I had already been riding the stationary bike, so I felt pretty good about where I was at with biking. I kept riding at the gym. I'm not sure if I ever rode outside before the triathlon. The ride was going to be inside on a trainer. I do remember that I realized just a few days before the triathlon that I had a 10-year-old bike (a Schwinn Criss Cross--which I still ride, incidentally. It's the bike I pull the bike trailer with. It has been a great bike) that had not been maintained at all in those 10 years. I think it still had the knobby tires it came with. So I took it to a bike shop to get tuned up and get road tires put on it.
I looked into places I could swim and started swimming at a pool in an Ann Arbor elementary school a couple nights a week.
It wasn't really warm enough to run outside yet, at least not in any clothing I had. I was very intimated by the treadmills at the gym. So I started running on the indoor track at the Ford gym. The Ford gym was pretty nice, but it was not big. This track was something like 1/12 of a mile or maybe even less. I know I had to run many, many laps to get a decent length workout.
The day of the triathlon arrived. I was nervous and excited. I loaded up my bike and headed to Toledo. It was not a very big event. Most of the participants were from the northwest Ohio triathlon scene and seemed to know each other. My bike frame and wheels were too big for the trainer, so I had to ride someone else's bike with this weird U-shaped saddle. I'm pretty sure I came in last in every event. But I had a great time! I was so proud of myself for registering and following through with my training! And just from talking to people, I learned a lot about triathlon. The organizers told me I should sign up for the "real" triathlon they were putting on in August. I couldn't wait.
Relevant to my story about considering myself a runner is a conversation I had with a guy at the indoor triathlon. We were standing around, waiting to start the run (which was on an indoor track.) This guy was asking me if I had ever done a triathlon and telling me his story, how he used to be a runner, but it was damaging his knees. On his doctor's recommendation he switched to triathlons. Then he asked me, "So what are you?" I looked blankly at him and said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, most people who do triathlons start out as swimmers, bikers or runners" then went on to describe characteristics of each. Still looking confused, I'm sure, I said, "Oh...well...I'm not any of those. That's why I wanted to do a triathlon."