Itsy Bitsy Spider: Climbed up the water spout

By Sheila Howard

Editor’s note: this is the first of a series by Sheila about starting in triathlons, an accident and coming back to the sport.

If you’re like me, you haven’t thought of the Itsy Bitsy Spider in decades!

The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout.
Down came the rain, and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun, and dried up all the rain.
And the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.

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The more I reflect on my past couple of years, the more I relate to and admire the Itsy Bitsy Spider.  The simple childhood rhyme — usually sung with hand motions — of an apparent unlucky, yet determined little spider, sums up my triathlon story so far.

UP THE WATER SPOUT…..

The first line of the story is one we all know and love.  At some point, we do our first triathlon and catch the swim-bike-run bug! I was an endurance late bloomer with no background in swim, bike, run or anything slow twitch. I was a fast twitch, gym-loving, team sport girl.

Late summer 2008, and already in my forties, a friend asked me to do a sprint triathlon with her. I didn’t even know what order you did what in, but I was all-in for the challenge! If it involves hanging out with a friend and perceived fun, I’ll probably give it a try at least once.  We did two races, and the following year, I did a couple more and repeated the process the next year.

I didn’t train in the off-season or ride my bike in the cold! I mostly avoided swimming, and my goal was to have fun and be fit. 

Enter Coach Laura Sophiea, in June 2011, as I began my third full season of triathlon. Good thing I was ready to work harder than I’d ever imagined and venture far outside my comfort zone!

That summer was a turning point, and I discovered my original pursuit of fun would have to make way for tough workouts and time in the “hurt locker” if I was going to improve and reach the next level. That’s the summer I began getting regular massages (the painful variety), discovered foam rollers, learned an ice bath can be your best friend and generally collapsed into bed at night. Swim, bike, run started to become a lifestyle, and I was hooked.  The real fun had only just begun. All the training and races that season were part of a bigger picture, preparing me and setting the stage for a great 2012 season.  In November 2011, I signed up for Ironman Florida 2012, my first full Ironman.

 When April 2012 rolled around, I knew it was time to ramp up the training! Laura said to let her know when I was ready. Mid May, I mentally “pulled the trigger!” She started my training schedules full on, and I had lots of work ahead!  

 After two weeks of training, I headed to North Georgia on a Saturday morning for an early lake swim and to ride a route in the mountains called Three Gaps with friends. The day was going great, and I was a mile or so from the rock pile, where my car was parked.  I’m not a quick descender, but I’d gotten better at it riding the Gaps so much the summer before.