.Finding She Tris was life changing for me, but before we get to that part of the story we should start at the beginning and how my journey in triathlon started.
Running has always been an important part of a very full life: I have a wonderful family with a husband Sandy, two daughters, and four grandchildren. Sandy and I have Ph.Ds in mathematics and retired from satisfying careers as college professors in math and computer science.
I am now 78 and have been an unremarkable runner for about 45 years. I win 5ks here and there because not enough women my age were encouraged as girls to be athletes. I lucked into running by signing up for a 1 mile run in my 30s because it cost only 50 cents and had a nice t-shirt. Later, my mother-in-law became a local celebrity because she was the oldest and “won” her age group. She came in long after the 2 ½ milers but was my model for the smile at the finish. I also fudged a little and made sure there was a category for her age and above.
When I was 40, I became “allergic to the world” and became confused in many indoor environments. Petrochemicals sent me into outer space; smoking and perfumes were torture: I resorted to carrying oxygen and threatening people who smoked during faculty meetings with being blown up. My poor daughters could have nothing scented. I lost it when they wore unwashed items from the mall. My mother found a new home for our dog. We built a clean home with no carpets. But I could run outdoors in our unpolluted upstate New York village. Clean air and organic food helped my body recover but it took 5 years and I still am sensitive to many foods and chemicals. Throughout, running helped keep me sane.
One summer in my mid 50’s I watched a sprint triathlon in Charleston and was enchanted. Although I had been running and had added swimming 20 laps in a pool during the winter, I never had the nerve to sign up. Years went by with one excuse after another. That the swim was in a lake with runoff from a dog park was one of my lamer ones.
I learned about SheTris which hosts races with a pool, shorter distances, and all women. I signed up and it was life-changing. Many of the women were first-timers too. Everyone was encouraging and supportive. The bibs had our first names on them and I would hear “keep going Carol, you’ve got this.” I felt as though I had won the lottery when I finished my first race and couldn’t wait for the next one.
Sandy has been at every race, getting us there with plenty of time, fussing about equipment, and trying to make sure I go around the right number of loops on the bike course. As many people seem to know him as they do me and I am grateful that he supports me so generously.
Learning Is Constant
I love trying to keep up with the three sports. Work on my breathing has made running go better. One daughter is a Master Swimmer and has helped with my stroke, but I will never manage a flip turn. I bike on Folly Beach when there is less traffic.
I learn a little with each race. I don’t wear socks because putting them on adds to an already long transition time. I now know that racers bring their stuff in a large plastic bucket and sit on it while putting on shoes. I don’t eat before the race because it just doesn’t sit right. I continue to revel in finishing.
Now, as a faux triathlete, I keep trying for better times, but have decided my purpose is to encourage women to participate and benefit as much as I have. After a race, younger women come up and tell me they want to keep at it as long as I have. I tell them “good, and now get your mothers out here too!” I shamelessly suggest She Tris to any woman who looks like she might be a candidate.
I am now the person encouraging others and yelling “keep going, you’ve got it,” knowing how much it meant to me.
I have to accept the minor indignities of age. I creak a little when I get up in the morning. It is hard to miss the wrinkles on my face, arms, and legs. So I don’t look. I went out too fast in the one swim and resorted to breast stroke for a length of the pool. Balance is a major challenge: my bike slipped on some gravel during training and I limped home with bruised body and pride. I now slow my bike down at the corners during a race and am having physical therapy sessions for balance. Both have made a difference.
Winning my solitary category is fun but the first-place platform was too high and I needed Sandy’s help to get up on it. In my defense, some younger women needed help too. Since then we have moved the lower second-place platform closer so that one can go there first.
BUT the plusses far outweigh everything else. I look forward to the races. I am motivated to keep working out. I feel great most of the time. I never have to watch my weight. I have made good friends.
I am not going to get a racing bike with lower handlebars, but I will get rid of my baggy bathing suit and try to look a little more athletic. I will keep participating in SheTris for as long as I can make it to the finish. I will keep the smile when I cross the line. I won’t even dream of a full triathlon and am comfortable knowing it’s OK to decide what my goals are and aim for them. I hope to help others to be as happy as I am.
Thank you to the women’s triathlon community and especially our Champion of Confidence, Angi Klick, and our Champion of Enthusiasm, Sarah Hays. You rock.