The Beginning is Always the Hardest

“Do not give up; the beginning is always the hardest.” – Unknown

Sometimes people are under the assumption that running, biking, and swimming are all easy for me. It can be discouraging to talk with people who brush off my successes with comments like, “ya, but you’re good at that” or “that’s easy for you.” The truth is, I’m definitely not a naturally talented swimmer. And often I feel that I’m not at all cut out for this triathlon stuff; it’s just that I’m way too stubborn to quit or give up on something that I want to do.

I completed my first triathlon in August of 2010. It was an Olympic distance (1500m swim, 24 mile bike, 10k run) race that I signed up for with my sister. The deal was, if I liked the race, I would sign up with her for Ironman Louisville 2011 the next day when registration opened. 

Unprepared and terrified are two pretty accurate adjectives to describe my condition the night before the race. I was staying in a hotel with my sister, her husband, and her husband’s parents. When my sister and I get together and are nervous about something (namely a race of some type) we get a little slap-happy. Let’s just say I may have thrown out a completely inappropriate “that’s what she said” comment to my sister’s mother-in-law. Yup. That’s what happens when I get nervous. Complete abandonment of sense and reason.

Moving on with the race story…

I. Was. Terrified. Swimming in open water is something that has scared me ever since I was little and my dad used to throw me off the dock in Higgins Lake into “the blue” where we could see pike swimming. I was sure that I’d be eaten alive at any second. Unfortunately, that unrealistic fear has never gone away. So you can see why I was a nervous wreck before the swim. And, if you’ve even done a triathlon and looked at the swim course before the race, you know just how unbelievably far it looks. You’re always sure that it must be marked wrong because it looks way too long. 

Luckily, I did not let the fear stop me from starting the race, and once I was in the water there was no going back. (There was a lot of going right and left and not straight, but not backwards. There’s no line at the bottom of a lake!) I have to admit that the swim was long and hard, and it took me forever. But I was so proud to run out of that water. My heart did sink, however, when I got to the bike racks and saw that my bike was one of the few left still hanging on the rack. I was pretty far behind after my less than speedy swim.

I pedaled my heart out on the bike, but didn’t manage to pass many people and was beginning to feel pretty discouraged and tired. By the time I got to the run I was really worn out. I hadn’t researched the course at all, and I was less than thrilled to find out that most of the run was on trails. Uneven ground is much harder to run on and I was exhausted. The course was a double loop, so there were a lot of people finishing their second loop as I was just beginning my first. Thoughts of doubt were clouding my head. Why did I even sign up for this race? How did I think I was going to do an Ironman when I was having this much trouble with an Olympic? I was really getting discouraged. And then, just when I wanted to quit, I realized that they were already starting to clean up the course. They had taken down signs and I had missed a turn. I had to back track to figure out where I was supposed to be. By the time I finished the race I had been in tears and wanted to quit more than once. It was not the ideal beginning to my triathlon career.

And that brings me back to where I started…

“Do not give up, the beginning is always the hardest.” 

If I had let that experience suck the confidence out of me, I would not be where I am today. Instead, it made me realize how much harder I was going to have to work to reach my goals. I’m not good at not being good at things. And there’s only one way around that; get better. Try harder. Give it all you’ve got.

The next day, my sister and I signed up for Ironman Louisville. And one year later we ran across that finish line and heard those words, “You are an Ironman.” But it wasn’t easy. 


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