As I mentioned some time back, I’ve been training for a triathlon.  This was something that I’ve wanted to do for several years, but hadn’t quite worked up the nerve to sign-up for.  All that changed last fall in a conversation with my good friend Brett Ciancanelli (Chick) when, in a conversation after an early morning run, realized that we were both interested in competing in a triathlon.  So, we set about looking for information on triathlons and while I was in Ukraine for the adoption of my youngest son, I received an e-mail from Chick mentioning the Granite Falls Triathlon in Rolesville.  We signed up for it just after the first of the year and began our training plan, which led us to yesterday’s big event.

I packed my bags and assembled my gear on Friday evening and got a good amount of sleep.  But, when my alarms (yes, I set two of them so I wouldn’t accidentally oversleep!) went off, I was up and ready to roll.  I was headed out the door at 5:45 to meet Chick, load the bike onto the carrier and head over to the race site.

Jon Parks Triathlon Bike Area

Me with my bike in the transition area before the race.

It was chilly when we arrived and I was a little concerned about the conditions, especially after we came running out of the pool and into the cool air.  However, I had several things on my mind and didn’t want to get bogged down by something I couldn’t control.  So, I focused on setting up my transition area, getting my bike and run gear ready and talking with a few fellow contestants.  I learned that there were several first timers in the field and that made me feel a little more comfortable (it can be intimidating when you see people unloading triathlon bikes that easily cost more than a month’s house payment!) about the event.  I got a look at the pool and found out that it was a saline pool (my training pool is a chlorine pool and the difference was remarkable!) and quite warm.  Then, I fueled up with a homemade cliff bar, courtesy of my lovely wife!

As the start time drew near, I wanted to focus on simply running my race.  I knew there would be competitors that would be a lot faster than me, but I wasn’t there to beat them.  In fact, I wasn’t there to beat anyone– I simply wanted to finish.  With that said, I did have a target time in mind that I wanted to finish within– 1 hour and 40 minutes.  That was based on a combination of my various training times for the three events with some generous padding for the transition areas.

Soon, the time came for me to start the pool swim.  The competitor in front of me didn’t show, so instead of the usual 15 seconds between me and the person in front of me, I had 30 seconds.  Well, as it turned out, I was able to pass 3 or 4 of the people in front of me.  While that was nice, I believe I expended more energy than I had planned on and I was a little zapped coming out of the pool.  But, I felt good and was on to the transition area.

I felt great on the bike.  I rode the course the weekend before and was caught off-guard by a fairly significant hill on the back half of the ride.  Well, I was prepared this time and I attacked it in a smart way that focused on keeping my legs moving.  By the time I made the turn into the last 3 miles of the 10 mile bike ride, I felt good.  And, thanks to a good friend at church, I learned a lot about how to use the gears to my advantage and I was able to really kick it for the last portion of the ride.

Jon Parks Triathlon Run

Running up the final hill towards the finish line.

I found the run to be the most difficult part of the race.  My feet and shins were stiff from the bike ride and it took a lot of the first mile of the 5K to get moving.  I had to walk a few times just to get my feet adjusted to no longer being on the bike.  However, after that first mile, I was able to find a good groove.  Again, like with the bike, my focus was to simply keep putting one foot in front of the other.  The most interesting part of the run was the 1/2 mile jaunt down an off-road trail into the woods.  We passed a few old houses and if it hadn’t been for the trail markings, I would have sworn that we were no longer on the course.  But, I made it and came into the home stretch.  As I made the turn out of the neighborhood where the run was held and headed back for the Granite Falls Athletic Club, I heard some familiar voices.  My wife, 3 children and my mom were there complete with signs ready to cheer me on!  I felt a nice little burst and kicked it up the hill and into the chute towards the finish line!  I finished strong and felt a tremendous amount of satisfaction after crossing the line!  I did it– I completed a triathlon!

Jon Parks and Brett Ciancanelli after the triathlon

Me and and my good friend Brett Ciancanelli after the race.

There was a lot of excitement before, during and after the race.  However, there’s a larger story at play here.  This was all something that God put in my heart, and I’ve found that when God puts something in your heart, you have no option except to go for it!  And what’s most amazing here is that I just started running again last September after an absence of a few years.  When I went for that first run last September, I couldn’t even run 1/2 a mile without stopping to get my breath.  But, gradually, step-by-step and day-by-day, I kept pushing ahead and got a little better to the point that when I crossed that finish line, I became a triathlete!

So, in the end, I didn’t finish first and I didn’t finish last, but I did beat that goal.  I completed the triathlon in 1 hour and 26 minutes!  It was a sweet personal victory and I’m now officially hooked on triathlons because I’m already looking forward to the next one!