“If I Am Going to Do This Triathlon, I Need to Commit to Training”
By Terri Seidel – “If I am going to do this triathlon, I need to commit to training”. Those were my words as I sat and discussed with my husband the thought about me participating in the 2016 TriZou Triathlon – my first triathlon.
We were discussing my participation in this Triathlon since my husband had participated the year before, and I felt it was something I had to yet accomplish in my lifetime.
Why this Triathlon?
The Mizzou TriZou Triathlon is held every May at the University of Missouri in Columbia MO (MIZZOU) and attracts about 600 participants – it’s one of the largest Triathlons in the Midwest. My husband, all three of our children, as well as countless brothers, brother-in-laws, nieces, and nephews, have all graduated from Mizzou.
My son Josh participated annually at the TriZou. It was one of his favorite events. In 2013, Josh’s life was tragically taken in an industrial accident at the business he owned.
After his death, a group of his high school and college friends established the Josh Seidel Memorial Foundation – a foundation created to carry on Josh’s legacy by awarding scholarships and helping schools and other organizations.
The foundation created a tagline that summarizes what it’s all about.
LIVE LIKE JOSH – Work Hard – Play Hard – Help Others.
That is how Josh lived his life. He worked very hard. As an entrepreneur, he co-founded a successful manufacturing business in St. Louis. In spite of the long 60 hour weeks that all new businesses need to thrive, Josh would play hard, and the TriZou was an example of that. He would train for this event, and participate, with personal goals to improve his time each year.
TriZou becomes ‘SlyZou’
In 2014, a group of his friends from Mizzou decided they were going to participate in the TriZou, in honor of Josh, to carry on his tradition. Those participating unofficially renamed the TriZou the SlyZou. Josh’s nickname was Sly, and from here forward, this event would be referred to as the SlyZou.
That year, we had 7 participate in the event, and 21 spectators. It was very heartwarming to see his friends continue his legacy and participate in an event that meant very much to Josh.
In 2015, the JMS Foundation related participants soared to 15 participants with 18 supporters cheering them on. Josh’s dad Mike participated in the DuZou, which consisted of a one-mile run, seven mile bike, and one-mile run.
Mike finished and actually won a medal in the Clydesdale class (above 220 pounds) and 59 years old age group. However, in his words, the race almost killed him. The missing ingredient was he hadn’t committed to training to the level I knew I needed.
He trained briefly, running to attempt to pick up his endurance. However, he had only registered about 20 miles total on the bike before the event – if you are riding 7 miles the day of the race, a collective 20 miles is hardly considered “training”.
Planning for the TriZou 2016
So as my husband and I discussed my participation in the 2016 Triathlon, I told him I would do it. I wanted to do it but knew training was the key to success.
Since I look like a baby calf taking his first steps when I run, and since my biking skills are not great, we decided to make this a family event. I along with my two daughters would participate as a relay team this year- Reason #6 of “15 Reasons for Those 50 and Older to Do Triathlons”.
I would swim the 400m, my youngest daughter Lindsay (33) would bike the 14 miles, and my oldest daughter Katie (36) would run the 5K last leg of the race. At 60 years old and generally in good shape but certainly not being a fitness buff, tackling a Triathlon by myself was probably not a smart move.
Triathlons are something you prepare for over time. You enter a series of 5k runs to prepare and get comfortable with that distance. You train by biking longer distances on weekend mornings so a 14-mile race is achievable; you swim a lot at the local pool. With less than six months to train, all three of those things were obviously not going to happen, so we opted for the relay.
That is one of the beautiful things about TriZou; you can participate at many levels, so the barrier of entry for those who have not participated in this type of event goes away. In addition to the Sprint TriZou race (400m swim, 14 mile bike, 5K run), they offer relay teams (same distances as sprint), super sprints (100m Swim, 7 mile Bike, 1 mile Run), DuZou (1 mile run and no swimming, 7 mile bike, 1 mile run), and even divisions for those with extra pounds like my husband (Clydesdale for men and Athena class for the women).
My Triathlon Training
I joined our local YMCA about 4 months before the SlyZou – it was winter in St. Louis and I was going to have to get into a pool and log some serious miles if I wanted to complete this event. Nervously, I entered the 25 meter pool at the Y for the first time, and barely made it from one end to the other! I’ve been swimming my entire life, and we spent countless weekends at the lake, but I quickly realized floating on a noodle and swimming back to the boat for another cocktail is NOT swimming training.
I quickly realized floating on a noodle and swimming back to the boat for another cocktail is NOT swimming training.
25 meters later I had made it to the other end of the pool. I was out of breath and overwhelmed at the fact that I had to swim the equivalent of 16 laps of this pool, without stopping, to complete my leg of the race.
Applying job skills to training
I’m a regional Vice President for a large company that owns and operates Ambulatory Surgery Centers across the country. In our daily business operations, we tackle new goals and accomplish new tasks every day.
I assist my employees and help them accomplish these goals, but it always boils back down to the same basic strategy I was going to need to accomplish this SlyZou event – PREPARE, GET THE TOOLS AND PROCESSES IN PLACE THAT YOU NEED TO SUCCEED, ADDRESS THE ISSUE WITH THE CONFIDENCE THAT YOU CAN ACHIEVE IT, AND THEN EXECUTE THE WORK.
I knew I needed to prepare myself physically for this event the same way.
Getting a swim coach
I inquired about a swimming instructor at the Y. I felt I could improve significantly, but if I didn’t know where to improve, chances are slim I would.
I solicited the help of Stacy, my personal trainer for the next 4 months, and she was a gift from heaven. She analyzed my stroke, (I wonder what she was REALLY thinking the first day she saw me take a lap). She quickly established what my strong and weak points were, and what I needed to work on to finish this race.
We started off slow. I would commit to 3 Days/Week training, meet her at the pool, and we would work on a particular thing to improve my swimming skills. Maybe it was the stroke, or breathing, or my kick, whatever it happened to be that day or week or month, Stacy would work with me, improving my skills.
My endurance started to pick up. I still could not swim the entire 400 m without stopping, but I was getting stronger, and she would time me on my laps. She would discover that I hit a threshold, early in my swimming. I could be a couple of laps into my training, and things would slow down due to switching from anaerobic to aerobic. Then I would pick back up.
Stacy used this discovery to help me adjust as I jumped into the pool and started my laps. Things like this I would have NEVER discovered on my own, and her suggestions helped tremendously.
Preparing for Actual Race Conditions
One other item that we worked on was the actual race day condition. Stacy knew this was going to be a very emotional event for me since unlike many of the other participants, I was swimming for a cause.
But she also recognized I had NEVER participated in a race of any kind before, and helped me get through what to expect the day of the race. When to stretch, when to warm up outside the pool, what to expect – all those things were a great help if you have never been in a race in your 60 years of life.
She solicited other swimmer friends at the Y, who were there for a normal workout, and would have them swim in front of me. With this, I got used to people swimming by me, so I could see how I had to adjust my breathing for a very disturbed pool condition when you have 100 people in the water stirring it up lap by lap.
Finally, my last day of training had come. The race was this Sunday, ready or not, here I come. I felt I was ready, and could swim my portion of the race.
We traveled to Columbia the night before and got a hotel room since this event starts very early in the morning. Our girls and their families were there; after all, they were the rest of my Relay team.
We had 25 racers on “Team SlyZou” and equally as many supporters cheering them on. There were many husband and wives who participated, a few other relay teams in our group, and a few DuZou participants.
I was nervous, as expected, mainly because I really didn’t know what to expect. Even though my husband and I lived in Columbia for two years when he finished school, I had never even been in the pool complex at Mizzou – it was not built when we were there.
I walked into the complex, and to say I was overwhelmed was an understatement. First, the complex itself is amazing. On top of this, over 500 swimmers had packed into the complex, and I was staring at a beautiful eight-lane, 50m pool, one of the finest pools in the Midwest.
There is a lot going on, the organizer on the Public Address system is making announcements, the big screen TV’s on the wall are broadcasting the times, people all around me are laughing, preparing, doing all their own pre-race routines, and I’m standing there, scared to death of what I have signed up for.
The Relay teams swim AFTER all full TriZou participants, so I was very near the end of the line of people to jump in the pool. It was about two hours after the “Elite” participants started before I jumped in the pool. It occurred to me, the “Elite “racers are done with the entire event, the entire TriZou, and I have not even gotten into the pool yet.
It’s Time to Swim
You line up by time, to prevent running into a slower swimmer in front of you. As we crept forward toward the time where you cross the timer and jump into the pool, I had to keep telling myself to stay calm, you can do this, and it’s no different than the YMCA.
No different except I’ve got about 50 supporters in the stands, grandkids, my husband, friends who drove 100 miles to see this happen, even my Mom drove up there to watch me – SURE it’s no different – RIGHT.
The grandkids were yelling “go Mimi, we love you” as I jumped into the pool to start my 400m.
I finished my first 50 meters and actually felt pretty good, the pool was not cold, the fear of people tapping my feet to pass me didn’t exist, I could breathe just like in training, with the chop of the pool. I can do this.
After about 200 meters, I was starting to get tired. We trained for this, and I went to a back stroke for a lap to recover somewhat. I could see that I was keeping pace. I didn’t know my time, but I was not passing people and they weren’t passing me, so I assumed I was keeping my pace.
While mentally I was counting laps, 8, now only 7, now 6, somehow, when I got to my last 50m lap I thought I had three laps to go! We were swimming a zig-zag pattern, down the pool under the ropes, and back up the next lane, so when I saw the pool edge, I said: “I’m on my LAST lap, and I thought I had 150m to go”.
As I made my final turn, the supporters that had come to see us were all cheering me on. I knew I could make it.
I made it to the ladder at the end of my 400 meters and I was an emotional mess. After all, I was swimming this for my son Josh, and I am certain he helped me finish.
I climbed out of the pool, and now had about a 150 yard run to the transition point where I would pass off my ankle bracelet for timing (the timing chip) to my daughter. I came out of the Natatorium, to cheers from the supporters standing outside the doorway. I made it to the ladder at the end of my 400 meters and I was an emotional mess. After all, I was swimming for my son Josh.
I Made It!
The goal I set six months earlier has been accomplished; I finished the race my son loved so much. After passing off the timing chip to my daughter, I sat at the steps of the transition field and cried.
While only one leg of a Triathlon event, it was a major accomplishment for me.
I had been challenged physically before with work related “team building” events. I ran a half marathon as a work event; remember earlier I told you I can’t run well. I hiked the Grand Canyon Rim To Rim in one day, starting at 3am and climbing out the top at 5pm, as a team building exercise. The National Parks Department won’t even let you do that if you tell them your intentions.
Set your goals, it’s a challenge. I’m normally one of the oldest if not the oldest in our group when doing these events – so to me they are a big accomplishment. Finishing this 400m in honor of our son tops all of those challenges – by far.
My daughters finished their individual legs of the relay as expected with decent times, and we were all happy to finish the event.
Triathlon Lessons Learned
- Establish challenging yet obtainable goals, ESPECIALLY IF OVER 50 years old. If you want to finish a triathlon, maybe start out with a sprint, or a relay, or a DuZou, and work your way up to the main event. If you jump immediately into a Triathlon, you may during training find it un-obtainable and quit. You are better accomplishing a smaller task toward the ultimate goal, than quitting and never getting to the ultimate goal.
- TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN. Eat right, train as many days per week as needed, and get your body ready for the physical challenge you are about to put it through. This type of event challenges your body – so get it as prepared as possible to minimize the risks of a heart attack or stroke, or some other physical event like torn muscles, joint issues. When participating in events like that at age 50, or 60 in my case, you have to be prepared.
- Have a reason or goal for the event. In this case, I signed up and did this event in honor of my son Josh. Have a reason – a personal accomplishment, to show your spouse you care about your health (and theirs), to push your body and mind to be in better condition, whatever the reason, have a reason for participating.
I will be 61 when the next SlyZou comes around. I turned to my husband on the drive back to St. Louis after this event, and with tears in my eyes, said “After I finished, I said to our son, OK Josh, mission accomplished – I did your race”.
Will I race again next year? Only time will tell. Good luck to all those who read this and say want to participate next year.
My advice to those over 50: if you commit to the race, start your training now.
Team SlyZou 2016
LIVE LIKE JOSH – Work Hard / Play Hard / Help Others
The Josh Seidel Memorial Foundation is an organization created to continue the Legacy of Josh Seidel, whose life was tragically cut short in an industrial accident. The goal of this foundation is to honor the memory of Josh Seidel by assisting and inspiring young people to participate in programs or attend schools that build science, engineering and technical skills, encourage entrepreneurism and foster the connection of people for the greater good of our community. Through fundraising efforts, scholarships and financial assistance are given to students and schools. The foundation is a tax exempt 501 c 3 organization. For additional information, visit www.joshseidel.org.