JULIA BAYLY

Putting the ‘try’ in triathlon

Julia Bayly
Julia Bayly
Posted May 03, 2012, at 2:19 p.m.

Every so often I enter into a new adventure simply because it seems like a good idea at the time.

To be honest, this happens a bit more often than I like to admit, and afterward I often console myself with the thought, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Which is exactly my question right about now after registering for my first ever triathlon.

No, that is not a typo — yours truly, who in her younger days would stoop to just about any level to escape from gym class, has willingly signed on for the upcoming Tri-Aroostook Triathlon on June 30 starting at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

Fifty-eight training days and counting.

Tri-Aroostook is for a pretty good cause, as all funds raised go toward Pink Aroostook, a breast cancer and health support and awareness program at Cary Medical Center in Caribou.

Granted, Tri-Aroostook is a so-called “sprint triathlon,” meaning it is far shorter and less intense than say Hawaii’s Iron Man or California’s Escape from Alcatraz, the latter of which includes a 1.5-mile swim from the famous prison around occasional sharks in the frigid waters of San Francisco Bay to the mainland.

Still, Tri-Aroostook’s 525-yard swim, 10.25-mile bike race and final 5-kilometer run will be anything but a cakewalk (or cake swim-bike-run, if you will).

Which is why here at Rusty Metal Farms training has commenced, and right off the bat I can see a few challenges in need of conquering.

Challenge No. 1: I am really not a runner, nor am I a particular fan of running because, quite frankly, it hurts.

But technology has brought the sport a long way and thanks to the snazziest pair of purple and yellow trail running shoes you have ever seen, at least I don’t seem to trip or stumble quite as often over roots, rocks or other obstacles real and imagined.

And frankly, technology is part of the fun as there is seemingly no end to the fancy accoutrements with which the 21st century triathlete can equip oneself.

My personal favorite is the Garmin GPS watch which, after a run or bike ride, will download all sorts of data into my computer including time, distance, route map, average speed and calories burned. Sadly, I’ve yet to find the button that will command it to prepare my post-training snack.

Speaking of snacks — those are another good reason to train. Few things taste better than a tall glass of chocolate milk and a pretzel after a good run or bike.

Every day since registering I’ve laced up those snazzy sneakers, tied a bright orange scarf on house dog Corky-the-Shusky (who looks way too much like a coyote for comfort) and together we set out for a mile-long trail run through the woods.

The goal here is to build our way up to the required 5K of Tri-Aroostook, something within my abilities.

Last fall — because it seemed like a good idea at the time — I had trained for the annual 5K Fort Kent Turkey Trot held on Thanksgiving Day.

Trouble was, no one organized the trot last year, something I did not find out until two days before Thanksgiving.

Undaunted, Corky and I mapped out a 5K course here on the farm and held our own Rusty Metal Farm Turkey Trot. We tied for first place.

Given that I do a fair bit of cycling in the summer, I’m figuring that third of the triathlon is well in hand.

Which brings us to the next challenge — swimming.

There are not a lot of options for pool training around Fort Kent — especially this time of year before the outdoor municipal pool opens for the season.

There is the pond here on the farm, however right now the water temperatures are just above freezing, which would be good training if I were planning on escaping from Alcatraz.

Not to mention the leeches therein. Then again, trying to keep ahead of the bloodsucking parasites would not only spur me to greater speed, it has to be better than swimming with sharks.

Admittedly, all I know about triathlons is what I’ve seen on television, which is to say precious little.

Typically they start with the swim, which brings us to another challenge — something called the “transition area.”

From what I have read, it is in these transition areas that racers change from swimming gear to cycling attire and then from cycling wear to running clothes.

All I can think of is the particular challenges associated with changing from a wet bathing suit into spandex cycling shorts.

The word “chafing” comes instantly to mind.

Not that I have any real shot of finishing the course in a remotely competitive time, but even if I did, those transition areas would no doubt be my undoing.

I’ve watched the athletes on television stripping out of swimsuits and sliding into their cycling shorts in smooth, fluid motions and then leaping onto their bicycles where their special cycling shoes are already clipped in to the pedals.

In my case there will be a lot of hopping around on one foot trying to get shoes on/off while trying to yank shirts and jerseys over my head.

I suspect it will be reminiscent of my golf game, in which there are times I can actually make it to the green in two swings, only to spend the next half hour chasing the ball around, putt after putt, trying to sink it in the hole.

The transition areas will become my putting greens.

Then there is the ongoing challenge of making sure the body has the right fuel to train and race, and one slight miscalculation can throw everything out of whack.

Take last weekend, for instance.

On Saturday, Corky and I did our run and then it was time to hop on the bike for a solid 45-minutes to an hour of spinning.

Toward the end of the ride I noticed I was kind of thirsty. About that same time it hit me that for some inexplicable reason I’d had virtually nothing to drink all day, other than coffee — a diuretic.

Combine that with the fact I took some anti-inflammatories and aspirin that afternoon and by early evening dehydration was setting in.

It wasn’t pretty and I spent the rest of the weekend chasing hydration by drinking copious cups of herbal tea and bottles of Gatorade in between stomach cramps.

Still, with 58 days left to get ready, I am reasonably confident these and whatever other challenges crop up can be overcome, as long as the chocolate milk and pretzels hold out.

Besides, what’s the worst that can happen?

Registration for Tri-Aroostook is limited to 150 participants and information is available at www.triaroostook.com.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award-winning writer and photographer who frequently submits articles to the Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at jbaylybdn@gmail.com.

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