What’s Your “Why”?

Paula Chapman Pict.We all have different reasons for pushing ourselves past our limits.  What’s your reason, and how do you work through the tough spots to make your why a reality?  Paula Chapman is one of those folks that set a goal and went for it.  Here’s how and why she did it….

My husband started doing sprint triathlons the year we got married (2005) as part of a weight loss contest with a friend of his from work.  He really enjoyed it so I spent the next several years going to his races and watching him and everyone else compete and complete.  I think it’s pretty impossible to go to many of those without being inspired yourself.  I saw so many different people of clearly varied fitness levels and natural talents all finishing their triathlons with such joy and visible feelings of accomplishment.  In 2008 I decided I wanted to give it a try as well.

I had never been a swimmer.  I could survive/tread water, but I didn’t put my face in the water.  Getting that figured out was the biggest challenge right off the bat.  It took basically 3 months before all the practice finally clicked and all of a sudden I could breathe right in conjunction with my swim stroke.  Now, five years later, I enjoy swimming (though I don’t train as much as I should…  swimming for me means having to get up before 4:30am and then getting into a cold pool, so sometimes I end up missing that one); it feels natural and I don’t panic (unless I see some creepy sea grass or something, LOL).  I do want to get faster.

I had never really been a runner or a biker either (why did I want to do this again?!!!  Oh yeah…  it was inspiring…  And I think I always take pleasure in conquering things that are hard…  just my personality).  So, again, back in 2008, I got a starter bike and started biking and started running (4 miles was a really long for me at that point).  That year I did two sprints.   They were hard; I was slow; But I still loved them.

2009 brought a different challenge.  My husband and I found out we were pregnant with twin girls, so I took a break from triathlon.  We had them in July of 2009 and that year was definitely hard…  and wonderful.  That following January (2010), I started training for triathlons again.  I talked one of my good friends into training with me as well (mwaa ha ha) so we trained for and completed two sprints again that year.  This friend and I also started doing half-marathons that year, completing the Poulsbo and then the Seattle half marathons.

2011, I focused on running only and did my first marathon and several more half-marathons.

In 2012, I came back to triathlon and trained for and completed my first Olympic distance (at Ocean Shores) tri and continued to do several half-marathons in the fall.  My husband was training for his first full Ironman that year, so it took some tricky coordination on our part to balance work, training, kids.  I work full time and so I already don’t get to spend as much time with my girls as I would like to.  As a result, I only do training while the girls are sleeping (which means either getting up really early before they wake up or training after they go to bed at night) or on weekends.

This year, my husband took a break from triathlon so that I could train for and complete my first half ironman distance triathlon.  It was definitely a challenge preparing for that, particularly getting the time in the bike that I needed.  Before this year, I’d never ridden even as long as 30 miles and since the weather here is a little sketchy in winter/spring; this meant I had to spend quite a bit of time on the trainer (very boring).  I also didn’t really enjoy going for long bike rides outside by myself (partially due to being hesitant about being potentially stranded with a  flat and not trusting the crazy drivers around here), but in the two months before the race, I pretty much had to get over that in order to get enough long rides in.  One side benefit of this is that I started commuting a couple days a week to work on my bike so that I could then leave work early and get a long bike ride in on my way home.  I discovered that I really enjoy riding early in the morning (before the crazies are out) and my commute is essentially the same amount of time as when I drive my car!

I completed the half iron triathlon this year and it was great.  The swim went fantastic.  I lost a couple of minutes off my prediction, but I FELT great the whole time.  No panic, no problems sighting, no problems at all.  The bike felt HARD.  It’s the flattest course possible, but the winds were extra rough.  I kept pushing, but it didn’t FEEL fun or fast.  (BTW, one of my favorite things about this course is getting to see the baby deer out there; they are so cute!)  The run also felt HARD.  I felt very, very slow, even walking quite a bit on the second half.  It turns out that I really wasn’t going that slowly; my pace was about 30 seconds per mile slower than my half-marathon PR (not following a 56 mile bike).  Both my bike and run times were much faster than what I was predicting based on the previous year’s Olympic time.

I would definitely do another half iron distance tri.  I’m not sure I can quite see doing a full ironman yet, but that’s kind of the way this goes for me.  I have to keep growing and training and then maybe a full will not seem like such a crazy idea (after all, two years ago I would have not seen myself doing a half).

The rest of this year is dedicated to marathon training (Portland Marathon in October), so I’m excited to continue on in that.  And I’ve got two Disney Races (Tinkerbell 1/2 and Princess 1/2) at the start of 2014.  My girls (who just turned 4) are super excited about those because (aside from the obvious Disney trips) they get to compete in their first running races at each of those events (200 meter kid’s dash).

So, that’s my history.  As for why I do triathlon, I think it’s because: (1) I like feeling strong when I finish something that’s hard, (2) I like setting this example of a lifestyle full of fitness for my girls, (3) I like the connection with my husband and friends that we get when we train and compete together.

Submit your stories of inspiration to us by writing them up, including any relevant pictures, and sending them to feedbak@trifreaks.com!  One of the reasons we work hard every year to put on these events is to inspire people to push through their limits and create new ones!  We have our own stories for why we do this, and we want to share your too if you will let us!  Help us inspire folks and tell us YOUR WHY?

The TriFreaks Inc. Team