How to train for a triathlon

The Current’s intrepid multimedia editor spends a lot of her summer gasping for breath

How to train for a triathlon

Arielle Kouyoumdjian, Multimedia Editor

This summer, I was overcome by an urge that still doesn’t quite compute–I trained for a Sprint Triathlon. A Sprint Triathlon entails a 750 meter swim (the equivalent of 30 laps in the pool), a 12.5 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run. All of these are half the distance of the Olympic Triathlon events, and nothing like the incomprehensible distances of ironman triathlons.

The first thing to understand about me is that I hate swimming–or more specifically, the threat of snorting up the brain-eating amoebas that infest some freshwater in rural Virginia. Don’t get me wrong–triathlon organizers are careful to test the water before the race, but what exactly is an “acceptable” level of E. coli?

The second thing to is that I have to be the best. And when three of the fastest boys on my cross country team boasted about a triathlon they planned to run in August, I decided to beat them. They hadn’t even asked me to race, but I wanted the older kids to slap me on the back and chat with me about puke-inducing workouts followed by steak dinners. Before cross country races, the girls’ team captains encouraged us to take it easy, keep it relaxed, and have fun out there–here’s a high five before you go! The boys’ captains flexed their biceps, roared like drunken trolls, and barked, “Go out there and die a little bit!” I compete with the boys on every other level: in Wordle, thumb-wrestling, and carb-consumption. But at some point in 9th grade, I looked up and noticed they were taller, stronger, and (yikes!) sometimes faster than me. This drives me nuts.

The final thing you have to understand about me is that I have an exercise addiction. In order to complete a triathlon, you have to be a little kooky about training. First of all, mine was over the summer, so you have to say goodbye to lazy mornings. Wake up at six a.m to beat the heat, be willing to consume nauseating sports drinks, and re-swallow your breakfast at least a dozen times per hour.

You may also grow addicted to external validation from half-revolted, half-concerned friends who can’t fathom why you’d run 60 circles around a track until your toenails turn black, but praise you all the same. Running has been my pesky, gaslighting, ecstasy-producing frenemy since I was a toddler.

If you’ve read this far and want to hear how I did, (which you probably haven’t and don’t), I’ll tell you anyway: Before the race, I sprinted in and out of the bathroom five times just in case. At 8:35 am, the athletes lined up on the beach in order of speed, for a rolling start. I crept into the middle of the line, tightening the timing chip around my ankle one last time. “GO!”

As I tumbled through the puffy-balloon-arc finish line, my parents cheered and flapped their arms like over-stimulated chickadees, chirping words that I couldn’t process. I couldn’t speak yet. My mom passed me a cold yogurt shake. My dad wiped the snot off my nose with his thumbs. All at once, words settled in my ears and meanings crystalized. “You came in fourth!!” My dad screamed. “Out of 27 women! 14th out of 62 people overall!”
“AMAZING Arielle! 1 hour and 19 minutes!” My mom shouted gleefully.

I finished as the champion in every age group from 15 to 44; the top three female winners were all between ages 44 and 54. I watched as they received bottles of red wine on the podium.
“Next year, that’ll be me! I guess they’ll have to give me a jug of grape juice, instead.”