Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ten Years of Tri U Mah

I'm going to take you back a bit.  To July, 2004 as a matter of fact.  One of my good running buddies, Marcia Lee, had entered the LifeTime Fitness triathlon as part of a relay team.  Her daughter would swim; her son would bike and she would run.

This "triathlon" thing was sort of a puzzle to me.  I didn't quite get how the whole thing fit together, how you'd have energy enough to finish the dang thing, and, oh yeah:  the swim.  The D R E A D E D swim in a L A K E.  With other people.  And fish. 

I'd done plenty of road races up until this point.  Every thing from 5Ks to marathons.  Didn't do them fast, but finished them.  Through them, I had found a great bunch of friends and had certainly challenged myself in ways I never thought possible.  But triathlon?  You'd have to be crazy to do one of those, right?

I wandered down to Lake Nokomis and got sucked right in by the triathlon sirens.  I watched the race and by the time my friend crossed the finish line, I was hooked.  I wanted to try my hand at this swim, bike and run thing.  I wanted it bad.

One tiny problem though: I couldn't really swim.  Oh, I could dog paddle with the best of 'em.  I did a lot of "splashy, splashy" in the pool if I was on vacation somewhere, but swim?  For several hundred yards?  And in a lake where I couldn't easily touch the bottom or get to the side wall if I got in trouble?  Not so much.

But the seed was planted and triathlon became a goal.  I started swimming.  To make it to 100 yards I'd break up the four lengths by doing freestyle, then backstroke, then breaststroke, then side stroke.  Then I'd have to catch my breath for a bit.  Then I'd do it again.  And again, and again.  

I finally figured out that I could benefit from some swim lessons and found David Cameron, Total Immersion guru, who helped me become more efficient in the water.  Sayonara, back, breast and side strokes.  Now, it was freestyle all the way.

By the end of 2004, I felt confident that I could sign up for a triathlon in 2005, but which one? 

Enter:  Tri U Mah

Tri U Mah, an indoor triathlon hosted by the University of Minnesota, debuted in February 2005.   Slightly different than other triathlons, which have a stated race distance that participants cover, Tri U Mah breaks its race up in to 30 minute swim, bike and run segments with 10 minute transitions between swim/bike and bike/run.  Participants cover as much distance as they can during the time blocks and winners are determined by the total distance covered.

The venue is terrific -- the University of Minnesota Rec Center.  Participants get to swim in a great pool AND have the lane all to themselves.  After the swim, participants transition to a stationary (spin) bike, and then finish up by running on the treadmill.   Volunteers are pretty peppy and very helpful.  The swag is always great.  (Good shirt; sometimes a bag; lots of yummy post race snacks). 

It was the PERFECT first time triathlon for me.  I signed up for the race, was nervous as hell when I started and beaming, beaming, BEAMING when I was finished.  I've done the race each and every year since 2005, making my 2014 race the first of my 10th year of triathlon. My, how times flies....

The race has become the 'season opener ritual" for me and several of my friends.  We find it to be the perfect reminder that outdoor season is coming for sure and it is time to get back to training. 

I fell in love with triathlon that February and haven't looked back since.

After that, I moved on to outdoor tris and conquered my fear of open water swimming (OWS). (Candidly, the OWS thing took me a long time to embrace.  It really wasn't until I did a training swim with my coach, Greg Rhodes, at Lake Ann Park in 2009, that I let go of my OWS fear.  He got me over it by tricking me.  At the beginning of a practice swim, he told me that, if I made it from one side of the lake to the other, I could walk back to our starting point.   Greg, who is a terrific swimmer, took off in the water.  I hemmed, hawed;  I adjusted my goggles a million times.  I stopped to bob for a bit.  I finally got over to the other side and was going to get out to walk back when he said "Oh, no.  You are swimming back and you aren't going to stop.  You can do this".  And I did.)

Sprints led to Olys, which led to half-irons, which led to Ironman.  Took me three times to cross that finish line at Wisconsin, but I did.  And I'll do it one more time this year in September.
So, thank you, Tri U Mah, for giving me something to look forward to each February.  See you in 2015.