My Starting Line

Author David Allasio


“You should do one too–it’s great!” It was August 2009, and my “old” 50-year-old friend had just completed his first triathlon. I wasn’t turning 50 until February 2010, and he assured me that I would have plenty of time to improve my fitness by the start of next year’s triathlon season. I had been a decent runner for 35 years, and heck, anyone can ride a bicycle, right?

“Only one problem,” I answered, knowing I was about to give an excuse that had no rational comeback, “I don’t know how to swim.” In fact, I reduced my friend to only one word. “Learn,” he said, with complete matter-of-factness.

Something about his challenge and my need to do multiple things at once to appease my short attention span stuck with me. On Memorial Day of 2010, I entered the much-colder-than-anticipated Detroit River at the Belle Isle Beach and began the process of learning to swim. After three sessions in the river, I was able to swim 25 feet. That kind of progress was not going to get me swimming 800 yards in open water by late August.

On June 7, I took the next largest step: I bought a book on swimming. Then, I read, studied and memorized that book. I returned again and again to Belle Isle to practice. I learned that goggles really do help you see in water and that nose plugs keep duck junk out of your sinuses. During the summer, the seaweed grew higher and higher in the river, and I learned how fast the current could be. But I kept practicing. Then, I injured my right shoulder, and was sent to physical therapy and Dr. Karageanes at the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan. For me, physical therapy turned out to be the path to the Fountain of Youth, and I was able to continue on my quest.

Three weeks before my triathlon, my garage was broken into and my $80 bicycle, along with some other possessions, was stolen. Further down the street, two other bicycles lay by the curb, presumably left by the thieves. I put up signs and tried to find the real owners, but with no luck. I became a proud rider on a women’s Specialized bicycle.

At 7:30 a.m. on August 22, 2010, I entered the Island Lake Sprint Triathlon. I needed two rest breaks on foam noodles, but I was able to complete the 800-yard swim and the triathlon in 2 hours and 4 minutes. I had actually completed a triathlon! I called my friend with great pride and thanked him for his encouragement.

In April 2011, I went back for more physical therapy, and my therapist told me I had a weak core. I disagreed. “I don’t have a core!” I assured her. However, after four weeks of painful exercises and going to bed with groans from the soreness, I had the true beginnings of a core.

I completed my second triathlon at Island Lake in August of 2011 and that time it was an evening race. I was much more awake for that race, in better shape and I was able to finish with a better time: 1 hour and 45 minutes.

This year my goal is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

As with most sports, both the training and the race itself take more mental strength than physical. Disciplining, pushing and encouraging oneself are just as important as building up muscle and endurance. I have translated this newfound, sports-related tenacity into other aspects of my life, for it’s those risks in life we don’t take that we regret, not the risks we choose to face head-on.

By: David Allasio

From the April 2012 Outdoor Athlete in response to Jeff Herron’s October 2011 Fitness Other, “Starting Lines.”


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