December 21, 2009
The alarm goes off at 5am, but I'm already half awake, listening to talk radio, callers blathering on about aliens and crop circles and 9/11 conspiracy theories. I drag myself out of bed, trot across the heated floor, which the soles of my hard working feet relish, and throw a slice of bread in the toaster.
Spread some peanut butter and jam on it and plop myself in front of the tv to watch the morning weather forecast. Midway through breakfast I swallow the 3 little pills that keep me from certain death and mutter to myself as I do twice each day; "Dream as if you will live forever. Live as if you will die today." The dog looks up at me to see if I'm talking to her.
I get dressed, grab my backpack, and head out the door. It's dark. And cold. And raining. I turn on my front and rear bike lights and start pedaling toward the pool to get an hour of swim training in before work. As I head downhill the wind chill effect drops the temperature below zero Celsius and I pedal harder to generate some body heat. The cold wind makes my eyes water and tears threaten to freeze on my cheeks.
You may be wondering: Why do I subject myself to this torture to train for triathlon?
Because it's a hell of lot easier than the alternative.
Soon after I started taking ARVs I discovered that mild exercise very often alleviates the frequent nausea I experience as a side effect of the medications. Hang around the house too long in the morning after I take my meds and the nausea may be more intense and prolonged. So it's 'Giddy up Buttercup' to get the heart pumping, the sweat flowing, and to my mind, the medication toxins with them.
But that's not the whole story. It doesn't explain my passion for triathlon. To understand that obsession ('passion' and 'obsession' are interchangeable, n'est-ce pas?) one must consider my childhood experiences and my parent's influence.
As a young child, my parents raced stock cars on the local dirt tracks. This was my first exposure to the thrill of competition. Later, after we moved to a farm, my parents became involved in tractor pulls and from there, their interest has currently evolved into truck pull competitions, each with their own pulling truck and more trophies than can be humbly displayed. Years ago a reporter for the Toronto Star wrote an article about my mother and titled it the Tractor Pull Queen, I kid you not.
When I first moved to the city to attend university I had to explain to the city slickers what was involved in tractor pull competitions, which is: they hook a tractor up to a weighted sled, the weight moves forward as the sled is pulled, and they see whose tractor can pull it the farthest. For my own entertainment, this quickly morphed into: 'my mother, competing against men, straps herself to a tractor and pulls it as far as she can, beating all of the men and that's how she got the title Tractor Pull Queen'.
As well, my maternal grandfather started taking me to the thoroughbred horse races when I was about ten. This further exposed me to a competitive environment. Sometimes we would stop at his alcoholics anonymous meeting on the way. As such, I first attended an AA meeting at about age ten. It was purely for my edification. It is the only time I have gone to an AA meeting. I'm not alcoholic; I don't go to the meetings. I don't go to Shriner's meetings either.
So it is from this early exposure to competition that its seed was planted in me. But triathlon is about more than just competing against others. Triathlon is really about competing against yourself. To set goals and work toward them. To master 3 different skill sets and training routines while considering them holistically. To transition quickly from one sport to the next. And then the next. To manage time to train and work and pursue social and familial fun.
Triathlon is about testing your physical limits, and mental fortitude, in a (usually) non-lethal environment. To see if you can go faster. Or farther. It is about pushing through the pain and exhaustion to reach the finish line.
Triathlon, whether training or racing, is really about discovering who you are - your true authentic self - especially when the going gets tough. When the only reason to keep digging into your physical and emotional reservoirs is because you want to know yourself. And discover how deep your willing to dig to achieve your goals.
Sounds a lot like life.
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