Yes, you read that correctly. This past March, I completed a triathlon with no training. After signing up on a whim from the pressure of my two roommates, I intended to back out right before the race. But I didn’t.
Here’s the rundown: the triathlon was a 500-yard swim, a 6-mile bike ride, and a 2-mile run.
Aside from my daily 12-3-30 treadmill walks at the gym and one 20-minute swimming session at the Rec pool (where I self-diagnosed myself with swimmer’s knee), I had not trained for this race at all. I had not run two miles in over a year, never taken a spin class because they were seemingly too scary, and struggled to swim more than five laps in the pool. Needless to say, I was terrified.
The only hope that I held onto was my high school cross-country days, the camaraderie between my roommates, and my ultimate hype-up triathlon playlist (included below in case you ever want to do a triathlon too — you’re welcome). The night before, my roommates and I carb-loaded on waffles and pasta from the dining hall while planning out our strategy for our race. I still had yet to process I was actually going to do a triathlon.
Somehow, it was finally race day. That morning, I reluctantly put on my swimsuit, packed my race-day bag, and spent ample time stretching. At this point, I simply wanted the bragging rights of running a triathlon.
The walk to the Rec, simply put, felt like a walk of doom. My roommates and I laughed at our insanity for signing up for a triathlon. When we arrived, we stripped into our swimsuits to have our race numbers Sharpied on our arms. It finally felt real.
Amidst my nerves, I resorted to a “YOLO” mindset as I walked into the pool. After asking every question I had in mind to the Rec workers, they reminded me that this triathlon was low-stakes and just for fun. This calmed my nerves a bit, but I still doubted my ability to complete the entire race.
It was finally time to go into the pool and start the triathlon. In my mind, I broke up the race into three different sections. All I had to worry about at that moment was swimming 20 laps. I started swimming, with the strength purely sourced from my adrenaline rush. What I thought to be my worst event quickly flew by as the Rec worker monitoring my lane cheered me on during each lap. I would have never thought I could swim 20 laps, but somehow I just did it (with a 10-second breather each time I reached the wall). This accomplishment carried me through the rest of the race.
Walking into the spin studio, I was a bit nervous. Actually, very nervous. This was going to be the longest part of the race: six miles of biking. After having my bike adjusted, I found myself in the spin studio surrounded by the rest of the triathloners (is that a word?). The music was blaring, my hype playlist was on, and I began my six miles. I ended up taking 40 minutes, but it felt like an eternity. Nevertheless, I pushed through and spinned like my life depended on it.
Then came the final stretch: a 2-mile run. Picking treadmills all next to each other, my roommates and I sprinted as fast as we could. My legs were aching, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to finish. As I gradually increased my speed on the treadmill, I zoned everything out, blasted my music, and ran as well as I could. With 0.15 miles left, I was desperately looking at my distance on the treadmill. I was now sprinting, or at least what felt like a sprint. Then I saw the screen display 2.00 miles.
I was finished. I just completed a triathlon. I did it. My face blaring red and my hair still soaking from the pool, I think I felt a runner’s high so strong that I felt like I could do anything. Dangerously enough, this feeling still has me eager to do it all again next year.
Finishing the triathlon was a feat I literally thought I would never be able to accomplish. Leading up to the race, I would wake up in the middle of the night worrying about what I was going to put myself through because I thought I was not good enough. I severely doubted myself. But somehow I still did it. Actually, not somehow. I did do it.
Every time I set my mind to something, I almost always stop myself with the fear that I am not good enough. But why? Why do I not even give it a shot? Why can’t I believe in myself, just one time?
When I ran that triathlon, I finally forced myself to not quit. Against every possible obstacle in my brain, I was able to succeed. I guess sometimes it takes jumping headfirst into the water (literally and figuratively) and forcing yourself to preserve with no other option.
Although cliché, I really think we are capable of much more than we think. It’s time to give yourself more credit, and open more doors instead of closing them with the fear of failure. Although I still do struggle with this, completing a triathlon with no training really framed my perspective on how much I could have accomplished if I did not get into my own way. In these situations, I often worry “What if it doesn’t work out?” But what if it does?
Completing a triathlon with no training is certainly an extreme example, but I challenge you (yes, you) to not let self-doubt get in the way of achieving what you want. You are perfectly capable and worthy of any accomplishment as much as anyone else is. Running a triathlon not only taught me a lesson about mental grit, but also why we must persevere.