How a Triathlon Prepared Me to Thru Hike

I won’t sit on a bike for six months, I’ll only swim for the fun of it, and hopefully won’t be running from anything, but I have still learned a few important lessons from racing in my sport of choice over the past few years.

There’s nothing forcing me to do any of this.

There is literally no repercussion in the grand scheme of life if I decide to sleep in instead of going for that 6 AM run.  But will it kick me in the butt at mile 11 of my race if I don’t?  Absolutely.  Will anyone care after a few weeks if  I call it quits when I’m being feasted on by mosquitoes and haven’t been dry in five days?  No one except me.

I’m pretty shameless about my eating habits.

Because swimming, biking, running, and strength training for 10-15 hours a week works up an appetite.  I’m really curious how my body is going to handle hiking 8+ hours a day.  On a race day or long training day I’ll still be hungry after eating 3000+ calories.  In an effort to recruit new members for my college tri team, I rode a stationary bike for two hours and ate a cheeseburger partway through.  I frequently devour oreos by the sleeve during bike rides.  Don’t believe for a second that endurance athletes are saints when it comes to healthy eating.

Weather is irrelevant.

I have gotten into the ocean when the air temperature was 35 degrees and started a run when it’s almost 100.  Pouring rain? Great way to rinse off that lake sludge off before hopping on your bike!

Nothing says fun like people dropping out of Collegiate Nationals from hypothermia!

I’ve learned the importance of Body Glide.

That little deodorant shaped tube is a miracle worker for preventing blisters and soothing those that have already formed.  I will not race without it and I will not hike without it.  To this day I still haven’t lost a toenail,  but we’ll see if that stays true when my hike is finished.

DFL trumps DNF.  DNF trumps DNS.

Because being Dead Effing Last means you still finished, and starting and being unable to finish is better than not starting at all.  You can go as slow or fast as you want and still be a successful thru hiker.

I’m used to people questioning my sanity.

Dedicating 6 months of  life to training just to say I swam 1.2 miles, biked 56 miles, and ran 13.1 miles in an hour less than the first time I tried to do so isn’t most people’s brand of fun.  Neither is walking for six months and living out of a backpack.

Quitting is not an option.

Once I commit to a race, I’m completing it.  If I’ve managed to make it to the start line, there is nothing barring drowning, crashing my bike, or fainting that will cause me to give up. I have committed 110% to hiking the entire Appalachian Trail this year and serious physical injury or illness are the only ways I’d let myself quit.  Serious injury and illness are also my two biggest fears for my hike.

At the end, I’m left with my proudest achievements and greatest memories.

If I feel like a badass for completing a 70.3 mile race, I can’t imagine how amazing I’ll feel for summiting Katahdin!

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Comments 1

  • Nicki W : Feb 7th

    You are a strong woman. Believe! Achieve!


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