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Iron Girl Triathlon Wrap-Up: Lessons Learned

After six months of training, and with the Iron Girl race under her belt, our Peachtree Corners writer and first time triathlete provides a final wrap up of what she's learned along the way.

I can hardly believe that six short months ago, I had never swam a lap in the pool or shifted a bike.  Hell, I didn't even own a bike.

I thought I was in shape, and I very quickly and clearly found that not to be the case. 

When I could barely swim the length of the pool on my first try, so out of breath that I needed to pause half way, it became abruptly apparent that my three times a week yoga classes, my biweekly volleyball games and occasional strength training sessions were no where near enough to put me in the cardio shape I needed to be at in order to compete in a triathlon.

So, although I was certainly far from a "couch to race" participant, I had a uphill pilgrimage to tackle, a relatively formidable one at that.

I've learned many valuable lessons while on this marvelous and transformative journey, and decided to dedicate my final triathlon article to sharing these tips with others who may be considering their first triathlon, perhaps the most relevant of which are summed up here:

Triathlons are not for sissies or excuse makers.  Triathletes are hard core, motivated individuals with grit, moxie, tenacity and colossal mental capabilities.  They know the meaning of dig deep and know how to stretch their physical limitations (primarily because many of them feel as if they have no limitations). 

With that said, nearly anyone is capable of finishing a triathlon if you are commited to doing so.

You don't have to be a certain body type or a certain age to be a triathlete.  I've trained with women who are easily two to three times my size, decades older (or younger) and with various physical capabilities.  And, many of these individuals are faster than me, usually due to experience.  

There will be many obstacles, some expected, many not, to conquer (carving out time to train, dealing with unforeseen injuries and equipment issues, motivating yourself on a daily basis to continue).  Those that reach the finish line are the ones that are able to recognize that there will be set-backs and are quick to recognize solutions to overcome these hindrances.

Injuries are commonplace among triathletes.  Listening to your body and knowing when to take a day off to rest an aching shoulder, knee or ankle is key. 

Finding a commited training partner and alligning yourself with a knowledgeable coach or an organization (for me, it was the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training group) will vastly improve your chances of reaching the finish line.

Develop a relationship with a reputable bike shop (I very highly recommend Cadence in Sandy Springs), a massage therapist and a physical therapist.  And having epsom salts on hand for a soak in a steaming hot bath after a long training day is always a good plan.

Don't expect to lose or gain weight while training.  During intense training periods, your metabolism will increase off the charts and as a result, you'll eat like a lumberjack (your body will need the calories to adequately perform).  Instead, what you will gain is muscle and supreme confidence that your body is far more capable than you thought it was.

And most of all, enjoy the process; don't just go through the motions.  Revel in the seemingly insignificant moments when you swim a little farther or faster in the pool.  Full out celebrate your ability to chug up the ridiculously long hill that, on the last training session, you had to get off of your bike and walk up.  Pat yourself on the back and feel the shoulder muscles that possibly didn't even exist several months ago.

Thank you to all who followed my columns along this journey;  it's been such a pleasure updating you all on my trials and tribulations.  I'm quite humbled by the experience and left contemplating what my next adventure will be (and if anyone has any recommendations, feel free to let me know!).

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