Let's get something clear up front: when I decided to do the AIDSRide 10 years ago, I was more than happy to raise money for a worthy cause, but it was not my primary reason for doing the event. Not that much had changed in May: I did not set-out to do charity and then decide to do it through endurance athletic training. However, I did have more of a personal connection this time around as my Grandfather Harold passed away 14 years ago after a long battle with Leukemia, so raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society certainly carried some meaning.follow this link. (There's a brief pitch/explanation of why I did this on that page as well.)
But fundraising was never my big concern. I knew enough people -- family and otherwise -- who I was pretty certain would happily donate to this cause (and I was pleasantly surprised by many not-close acquaintances who chipped in $10 or $25 or whatever they kid, many of whom I still owe official thank you emails). What obviously made me nervous was the idea that in four months time, I was going to have to run into open water, swim nearly a mile, bike 25 miles and run 6.2 miles.
Point of clarification #2: In May, I was nowhere close to being able to do any of this. After buying a new pair of running shoes, I went to the gym and couldn't really make it through a full mile on a treadmill. I've always hated running. It hurt my back and my shins and my calves; it exhausted me nearly instantly; and frankly, I found it fairly boring. The first time I tried running outside (maybe a week later), I couldn't even finish one mile. I was utterly incapable.
I was never that terrified of the bike. Having trained for the AIDSRide in 2000, I knew that being able to ride 25 miles, even with a few hills, was utterly doable, but my first time getting into a pool, I became instantly concerned about the swim. I always loved the idea of swimming, but the actual process of swimming laps was another story. I hadn't even tried doing so in years, and my first attempt on my own (coached swim practices hadn't started yet) was unbearable. Getting through one length of a 60 yard pool took my breath away, and not in the wonderful, awe-inspiring, majestic way. I had to rest after each length of the pool, and that was only 60 yards. How was I ever going to complete 1600?
This is where participating in Team in Training really helped me as they provided us with weekly training plans and offered structured and scheduled practices with coaches each week -- eventually, we swam every Monday evening, ran every Wednesday evening and biked every Saturday morning. This proved especially valuable with the swim where I was taught an entirely new way of swimming freestyle in an efficient manner to carry me through the long hall, and while it was exceedingly difficult for weeks, eventually my capacity to distance swim got to the point where not only did I not need to stop for a rest after each 25 yards, 50 yards, 100 yards or 200 yards, but I was swimming a full mile (1760 yards) without stopping; in fact, during one solo swim session about a month ago, I swam more than a mile-and-a-half with only a couple brief breaks, and I could have done more, but I ran out of time.
Swimming easily became my favorite of the three events. I've always loved cycling, and I still do, but I became quite frustrated with my bike (a nearly 10 year old mountain bike which is incredibly heavy and slow). Plus, even though I was more confident and comfortable cycling than either swimming or running, and I had only had one bike accident my entire life and that was over 25 years ago when since I ran into a parked car and broke my tooth, the bike caused me some physical pain, and I have the scars to prove it.