In two months, I will compete in my first triathlon.
Flashback eight months: I am a thirty-five-year-old mother of four children, ages nine through two, and after a decade of pregnancies, night feedings, and strolling around town at a toddler’s pace, I have only recently started exercising regularly: at a hot yoga studio, two to three times a week. My body has noticed (so have my friends). I have more energy. I am beginning to imagine Life After Babies.
This is where I am — at the yoga studio, glowing from the aftereffects of a class — when the crazy idea strikes: I would like to do a triathlon. I am high on endorphins. I feel strong. The idea, therefore, seems neither absurd nor impossible.
When I get home, I ask my husband, “What do you think???” A kinesiologist by training, and an all-around athletic guy, he is enthusiastically supportive: “Why not?”
Actually, upon consideration, there are at least a few why nots. How athletic am I, really? I haven’t run a race of any kind since cross country in high school (the memory of those meets still makes me sick to my stomach). But there is an even more glaring, and daunting, why not: I’ve never learned to swim. I can tread water and float on my back (in other words, keep myself from drowning); but swimming lessons were not a part of my childhood, and I can’t swim a stroke with my face in the water. In fact, this has been a primary motivator for pushing our kids into lessons: You Must Learn To Swim Because I Never Did!
It occurs to me, all in a flash: if my kids can learn, what’s stopping me? And the answer arrives just as swiftly: the only thing stopping me is myself.
Do I believe that I can learn new things? Am I willing to take risks, to look foolish, to admit ignorance, to ask for advice and help? Well, of course I am willing! If a decade of motherhood has taught me anything it’s that I am infinitely capable of learning new things, looking foolish, admitting ignorance, and asking for help.
If doing a triathlon means that I first have to swallow my pride and flounder around a public pool in a way that has all the lifeguards on high alert, heck, I can swallow my pride and flounder with the best of them. I will learn to swim!
It’s day one of my triathlon challenge.
Tomorrow, a flurry of practical questions will arise, but today, I’ve taken the first step. It is also the most important. This is the day when the crazy idea comes to me — I would like to do a triathlon — and I do not push it aside. Instead, I say, Why not!