By: Abra Cranford
Hi, my name is Abra and I am a race junkie.
Since this spring, I’ve already participated in 9 events varying from Bay to Breakers (yes I run, obviously in costume) to Wildflower to the Tough Mudder. I have 6 more on the agenda as of today and that will probably increase as I hear about fun* (definition below) events. I can’t help it. I love race day.
This has not always been the case. I used to exercise as a way to stay in shape (read: not gain too much weight after working at my desk job all day) and have always enjoyed trail runs, alone with my ipod. I would categorize myself as a runner. I did my first triathlon last year mostly to prove to myself I could do one. It was terrifying and hard. I had never really planned on doing another. But then I did another. And then I was hooked.
When people ask why, my response is always “It’s FUN!” then I generally encounter a look that is a mix of disgust, skepticism with a touch of “you have mental problems”. As it turns out, fun to an athlete has a completely different meaning. It’s the thrill of asking my body to do something difficult and have it perform. It’s knowing my arms will pull me through the water, my legs will propel my bicycle and then leap off and carry me down the road. Ok, not always leap. Sometimes hobble. Ok, always hobble. It’s being surrounded by dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people that are all there doing something they love. It’s that feeling of accomplishment as I cross the finish line and realize I’ve done it and earned that delicious beer (if you don’t partake in the post race beer, I HIGHLY recommend it) and mid afternoon nap.
But I’m not just hooked on triathlons, I’m hooked on all kinds of races. Road races, trail runs, obstacle races. I started doing whatever I could get my hands on (and afford...some girls shop, I race). I don’t train in your typical way.
My training method is to continually sign up for events that I think are slightly out of my league. This way, I always have some terrifying event I’m training for in the near future. Not comfortable on my bike for long periods of time? That’s ok, I’ll sign up for a 120k bike ride over some mountains. Have to make sure I survive, right? Better start riding! (I survived but was definitely ready to be off my bicycle by the end) Want upper body strength? Sign up for a 10 mile obstacle race that requires me to haul my butt over walls & up half pipes. Better start with those push-ups!
Sometimes it works out for me. Sometimes it doesn’t. When it does, I now know the new limits of where I can push my body. And next time I can push it harder and farther. When it doesn’t work out, I learn what I need to work on. I would have never learned what I could convince my body to do if I didn’t try something that was over my head. I would still be running on my trail, humming to my ipod, not gearing up to swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco.
So here I am, over my head again. I’m a nervous wreck tiny bit nervous for what I’m going to learn from the Alcatraz triathlon but I’m excited to push myself to the limits.
I’ve learned that you don’t just train for races. Your races train you. Every single event I’ve participated in has taught me something new about myself. Mostly that I’m a little nuts but that’s ok, so is everyone racing with me. I’m not the fastest or the best but I’m there, I’m smiling, and you can bet I’ll finish. Eventually. And I’m never too tired to smile and fist pump at the finish line!