The very first time I participated in a triathlon, I signed up the day before the race. As we stood on the beach adjusting our goggles before the start, the announcer gave some words of encouragement: "This is what you've been training for! This is where all your hard work will be put to the test!" I suddenly was very nervous. I panic puked twice before finally taking to the water. Although I was a total triathlon novice, with zero training, I managed to complete the tri in a respectable time.
Last year, I signed up for a triathlon and actually committed to training. I was hitting the gym five days a week, and I felt strong and confident. Just a few days before the tri, I fell off a treadmill and sprained my ankle. Badly. It took six months before I could walk normally on it again and nine months before I could run.
I've spent the past year drinking a lot of wine on my couch and feeling sorry for my broken body.
Just a few weeks ago, as the calendar ticked down to the anniversary of that fateful day, I suddenly remembered the triathlon rules. Particularly the one about being able to use your entrance fee within one year of the original competition. So on a frugal whim, I contacted the triathlon company and begged to be added to this year's race. Immediately after they confirmed my registration, I had some deep regrets. "I am so out of shape. I am definitely going to drown. I have only been biking for 6 miles; surely 17 will kill me. Can I even run anymore?" The panic and doubt set in hard.
Then, I read a news story and recognized the name. The person who had been working to help me register for the triathlon was in a terrible car accident, resulting in double leg amputations. He was pinned between two SUVs and, according to witnesses, he saved his own life by calmly instructing bystanders to tie tourniquets around his legs.
So I'm going to stop being such a fucking whiner. I'm going to compete next weekend and quit bitching about being out of shape. I am going to remember that my misfortune was minor, and I am going to be grateful for the ability to swim and bike and run.
Liz Marsh's "Under the Influence" appears in the Colorado Daily twice a month.