A Smile On My Face

A Smile On My Face

by Michelle H.

My journey started over one year ago.  Last year, around February or March 2008, I decided that I wanted to do a triathlon.  After all, I had watched the Ironman competitions on TV and recalled how all the athletes just looked like regular everyday people.  After being around all the triathletes at the run club, it sounded like fun and something I wanted to try.  I wanted to know what all the hype was about.  There was one problem though.  I didn’t know how to swim.  Sure, I swam as a child, but I never had any formal swimming lessons.  As a child, I used a nose clip when I swam.  I asked Coach Joe for a swim lesson to explore this crazy idea I had about completing a tri.  I wasn’t afraid of the water, I just didn’t like getting my face wet.  I couldn’t go under water without holding my nose.  Coach Joe was very patient and had me floating on my back for our first lesson.  I knew based on my fear and anxiety I had a lot of work ahead of me if I was to overcome my demons.

I soon came to the realization that completing a triathlon in 2008 just wasn’t in the cards for me.  However, 2008 wasn’t a total let down.  I did complete my first marathon.  That is another story for a later time.  Since I wasn’t ready to complete a tri, I did the next best thing.  I went and watched the 2008 Naperville Women’s Triathlon.  I remember all the energy and excitement and cheering for all the athletes.  I walked away that day feeling so inspired and determined to be back experiencing it all for myself in 2009.

Fast forward to March of this year.  I called Coach Joe for my second swim lesson.  I was able to get my face in the water and take a couple of strokes.  From there we worked on flipping over to my back for recovery and flipping back over to take a couple more strokes.  I remember Coach Joe telling me that I could do the whole tri like that if I needed to.  That wasn’t good enough for me.  So I continued to work on getting comfortable in the water and trying to figure out this breathing thing.  I struggled with it for about a month until I asked Coach Joe if I could wear a nose clip as I did when I was a child.  Maybe if I wasn’t constantly feeling water go up my nose I could actually focus on my stroke and breathing.  Guess what?  It worked.  I put that nose clip on and got in the water and everything came together.  I actually felt like I could swim.  I felt like a big dork wearing a nose clip but I didn’t care.  I could swim, which meant I could do the Women’s Tri in June.

That feeling was short lived because in order to complete a tri you need a bike.  I didn’t have a bike.  About a month before the race my bike was ordered.  Again, that is a story for a later time.  Three weeks before the race Coach Joe and I were getting a little nervous about me not having a bike yet.  I had done all my training on a spin bike in spin class.  Two weeks before the race, my bike came in and I took it out for the first time on a group ride.  Of course, I fell.  My pride was hurt but luckily I wasn’t.  The week before the race, there was another group ride and another fall but unfortunately this time I hurt my right hand.  Not bad enough to be broken but swollen and painful.  I started thinking that maybe this triathlon stuff is harder that it looks.

Race day came and I was as ready as I was going to be.  Between the nerves and the nausea, it helped having a bunch of friendly faces offering encouragement and support.  Participating in that race was an amazing feeling.  A feeling that I cannot describe.  My goal for the race was not to RACE but to enjoy the experience and get through it all with a smile on my face.  I did exactly that.  What a feeling of accomplishment!  I know now what all the hype is about and that it is definitely harder than it looks.

I remember telling Coach Joe after the race, “Guess what?  I’m a triathlete.”  Thanks go to Coach Joe, as he helped make my dream a reality.  Thanks to all of you who supported me and cheered me on.  It really made a difference and helped keep that smile on my face.

Enjoy all the photos from our fabulous day in Naperville at ET-Photo.

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