Health

Consumed by training: My triathlon challenge

The triathlon, my first ever, is in less than a week. Realistically, there isn't much left for me to do, in terms of training. Either I can swim 1500 metres, cycle 40 kilometres, and run 10 more, or I can't. One more week of training will make next to no difference. And yet I'm utterly consumed by this project. I can't seem to turn off the push toward the finish line. I was afraid of this.

Getty Images

The triathlon, my first ever, is in less than a week. Realistically, there isn’t much left for me to do, in terms of training. Either I can swim 1500 metres, cycle 40 kilometres, and run 10 more, or I can’t. One more week of training will make next to no difference. And yet I’m utterly consumed by this project. I can’t seem to turn off the push toward the finish line.

I was afraid of this. 

I’m a goal-oriented person. That probably goes without saying. When I set my mind to something, I head toward it with an intensity that is at times annoying. It is annoying even to me. I don’t seem to come with an “off” switch.

And so my life, at present, is arranged around the upcoming triathlon. My children are eating cheese doodles out of the bag for their after-school snack, because I don’t have the time (or the energy, or the interest) to bake nutritious treats. I can’t remember which laundry basket holds the dirty clothes and which holds the clean. An army of ants is feasting off the smorgasbord of our kitchen floor. Do I still have a husband? In the past few weeks, we’ve shared more moments over email than face-to-face. And I’m crashing into bed as soon as the kids fall asleep. 

And yet. 

And yet, we’ve also shared some magical family time that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, pulling off a couple of trips to the lake where the triathlon will be held. It’s the closest I’ve come to balance, in this final push toward completion. We’ve gone together, as a family, though it means leaving after work, and a late bedtime for everyone. I pack a picnic, swimsuits and towels, and of course my own (borrowed) wetsuit and goggles. The children play in the sandy shallows, watched by my husband, and I swim out deep. Practicing, practicing, practicing. 

It feels, in those moments, that it’s all working out. That I’m managing to share my triathlon project with the ones I love most.

And then we drive home, and pile through the door, and the teeth still need brushing, and everyone is grumpy, and the counter is piled with dishes, and the floor is littered with wet towels, and someone wants a bedtime snack, and I’m serving up cheese doodles. Again.

But it’s okay. It really is. It’s all good.

When the triathlon is over, and the goal completed, I’ll miss the chaos and the busyness and the alarm ringing early. I’ll miss the necessity of focus. And I’ll miss that look on my ten-year-old’s face when he sees me in the wetsuit at the lake: just for this moment, his mom is totally super-hero cool. Okay, truth be told, I might miss all of this too much to let go. 

What comes afterward? I don’t know, and can’t think that far ahead. But something surely will: More triathlons? A marathon? Trail running? Adventure races? Whatever it is, it’s going to have its share of thrills and trials. 

Not having an “off” switch has its annoyances, but it sure as heck makes life more interesting.