Many years and many pounds ago I decided to participate in my first triathlon. I was 27 years old, weighed a svelte (for me) 155 pounds and was more active than I had ever been in my life. I was swimming, running, biking, hiking, camping, kayaking, whitewater rafting...traveling the world in my job as a flight attendant. The first race was scheduled for August 24, 1994 and I was READY. Unfortunately, the week before, I hurt my back on a plane and my hope of triathloning was long gone.
Sixteen years, 70 pounds and several surgeries later, I have once again decided to participate in my first triathlon. I am now a dumpy 43 year old weighing 225 pounds and have finally decided to get off the sofa and make some changes in my life. I've struggled with my weight my entire life but have never been this heavy or out of shape. I've always been a yo-yo dieter but it appears that the yo-yo string broke and I am stuck at my current weight. The great news is that I am happier now than I've ever been except for the weight issues.
I am getting married for the first time on October 30, 2010 to the greatest man on earth! Greg loves me and supports me and doesn't care about what I weigh as long as I am healthy and happy. So far this year, we have done a 10K and 5 K together, I've done a 5K alone and he's done a triathlon. As I approach my first triathlon, it is entirely possible that the entire race will be shut down and the spectators dispersed but all that matters to me is knowing that he will still be standing at that finish line waiting for me. What an amazing thing it is to have someone who accepts me as I am and yet encourages me to be the best I can be.
The difference between getting ready for a triathlon now and sixteen years ago is kind of like the difference between my Cannondale Hybrid bike and Greg's Bianchi racing/road bike. We could exert the same effort and yet his bike would take him twice the distance in half the time. My bike is wonderful to take on a picnic, it has a nice big rack on the back, it's comfortable to ride, I get to see the sights because I am upright and I feel in better control with the type of handlebars it has. The problem is that there's a big difference in picnic and a triathlon.
The reason for choosing my blog name is that it IS harder for a Big Girl to try do do a triathlon. Things that a "normal" sized woman takes for granted become monumental for a plus sized athlete. Let's look at a few examples of why:
The girls -- I've always had big ***** but big ***** when I was a size 10 meant 34F, big ***** on me as a size 20 means 40H. For those of you who measure your bra sizes in letters like A, B, C and D it might be hard to understand exactly what that means. I am lucky that I found a store in Atlanta called Intimacy where I've been able to find bras including sports bras that fit large breasted women. I am currently wearing a Freya sports bra that I purchased at Intimacy but will be looking into Enell sports bra as soon as I can afford it because the Freya still leaves room for some jiggling. As I work through the bra issue, I'll update the blog.
TriSuit -- Read comments from any plus sized triathlete and you will hear about how uncomfortable it is to ride with your jersey or top rolling up over your belly. For many of us, our tummies are our problem area and the last thing I want to do is hunch over on a bike and have this big roll of fat hanging over the top of our quite tight bike shorts. NOT a pretty sight. I have personally found that tri suit is not only more comfortable but also more flattering. The bra takes on a different issue when you put it on under a tight fitting tri suit. When looking for a tri suit, I needed one that was not cut in too much at the arms. My fiance has one that is a XXL Louis Girard and fits me okay and provides enough coverage of the bra that I don't end up totally hanging out. When I get my new bra, I am going to get one in black because it's easy to find tri suits in black and the parts that show won't be as noticable.
The extra weight percentage-- To increase the efficacy of their workouts, skinny people often wear wrist or ankle weights weighing anywhere from 2 - 10 pounds. This extra weight makes them have to exert more energy and burn more calories. I on the other hand carry the equivalent of a 7 - 10 year old child. My fiance and I weigh the same but that means he's 20 - 25 pounds over his ideal body weight. There's a big difference between carrying a toddler and an elementary schooler. If you don't have kids of you own, borrow some from your neighbors and offer to take them on a 45 minute piggy back ride. That'll give you an idea of what it's like to run with 35% extra weight on your body.
So here I am, off the sofa and 8 days away from my first race. So what if it's 16 years later than I expected it to be. I have found the flattest possible course I could find which is the Georgia Veterans Sprint Triathlon in Cordele, GA and I am confident that I will at least finish. And while it's true that it's harder for big girls to tri, I have finally come to realize that trying is more than most people will EVER do.