Diary of an Overweight Triathlete

I am a triathlete. No, seriously, I've finished more than 15 different triathlons in my "illustrious" career. I know, due to my somewhat unique circumstances it seems improbable. But looking back, there's nothing like your first triathlon--no matter your weight. Crossing the finish line is all that matters.

It was a 600-yard swim, a 10-mile bike and a 5K run (which I actually walked). But I did it. In about 2 hours. Which is more than an hour longer than the first place finisher. Slow and steady finishes the race!

The night before the race, I was wracked with nerves and wanted to bail. "Hey, if anyone needs me, I'll just be hanging out at the top of this rickety staircase wearing roller blades," I thought. Fortunately, "accidentally" injuring myself to miss the race wasn't in the cards.

Those pre-race emotions were a nice complement to what I actually thought about during the race. "I hope I get attacked by a shark," and "I'd give anything for a flat tire," were a few of the highlights--basically, any legit excuse to quit.

On race morning, I arrived early to claim a spot on the outside end of the rack, which provided a little more room for all my crap important race gear. I figured if I were way off balance getting out of the water, there'd be less chance to damage others' gear if I happened to fall over, say, putting on my shoes. Luckily, that didn't happen.

I decided not to wear a wetsuit, as the water was fairly warm. The size of my ass allows me to float at the surface, so I don't gain much buoyancy in saltwater with a wetsuit. And frankly, I wanted one less thing to deal with.

I waited at the start, knees knocking, until the horn finally went off. Start time! I leapt into the water like I'd been shout out of a cannon--OK, more like a snail on the move. I attempted to avoid the mosh pit of the swim start by hanging towards the back, and I soon found my rhythm. Well, rhythm might not be the right word, as my swim stroke basically looks like I'm actively drowning--at least, according to the lifeguards who constantly asked if I was OK.

I was last out of the water and everyone was clapping, which was nice, but also embarrassing. I heard "Yay! She didn't drown," being murmured among the crowd as I stumbled my way to transition, grabbed my bike and took off. I suddenly forgot how to clip in and had a super awkward start. Aces.

Having the cute little bottles in the cute little bottle holders on your bike is nice in theory, but a whole different world in action. My arms were dead from the swim. I felt like I could barely hold myself up. Then I was supposed to blindly reach down, grab my bottle and then put it back? Well, that was clearly above my skill set. Hello, dehydration!

The bike course was three loops--in other words, a great opportunity to be humiliated one lap at a time. I was on my first lap when the cool kids on their last lap came up on me like a Mack truck, one after another shouting, "ON YOUR LEFT." After the second lap, the volunteers tried to wave me into T2. Not yet fellas, not yet.

On the last lap I spotted someone in front of me. I wasn't last! I focused on that cyclist and pedaled as fast as I could, but I just couldn't catch up to that 8-year-old. Little jerk.

I arrived in T2 and very gracefully (not really) dismounted. Because this was a hometown race and I have lots of faster racing friends, I had quite the cheering squad as I prepared to run. I felt physically awful. I had a headache and my body ached, but not my heart thanks to all the support. I knew I just had to get through 3.1 miles and I was done!

I headed out on the run at a very brisk hobble and tried to get some salt and electrolytes in me. When I arrived at the halfway point, I started feeling a lot better and was able to run/walk. I came down the finish chute excited and exhausted, looking like Leanda Cave! Well, kind of.

So what did I do after finishing this simultaneously humiliating and unbelievably uplifting experience? I went right ahead and signed up for another sprint triathlon (slightly longer, yikes!), and I'm vowing to go into this one better prepared. I've even started training more, which has been, well, pretty awful. But it's getting better.

After 41 years of being fat, but athletic--though never, ever graceful--I'm making a change. But slowly. Slow and steady finishes the race, remember?

Kathy Gilmour is a Key West-based Athena age group triathlete. Since finishing her first race, she has done more than 15 triathlons. Follow her growth and progress in the sport of triathlon through her blog, Diary of a Fathlete.

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