It has been two years since I started doing triathlons. At the same time I’m both impressed and dissappointed in what I’ve accomplished. I went from having never run over a mile in my life, having never ridden a road bike, and having not swam much since age 10, to completing the Oceanside Ironman 70.3–all within about 8 months. I fully expected that within the next 8 months I would run a full marathon and do a full Ironman. Fast forward 14 months and I’ve only participated in one event–a half marathon. The main culprits have been personal finances and injuries.
I’m a business owner. I run a web design and search engine marketing firm and have run it since 1999. In 2003 I tried to take some “bold” (or arguably “foolish”) steps with the business and I ended up going into debt–a LOT of debt–to cover office space and employee salaries. Although my business has been doing quite well the last few years, I still find myself with a big number I have to pay off. Even though I was mired in debt, I still somehow justified spending all sorts of money I didn’t have in order to do my half-Ironman. But soon after I discovered Dave Ramsey, the financial management talk show host, and took his plan to heart, which meant I sold my bike and any other gear I could and canceled my gym membership. My wife and I got on a strict budget that gives me a $15/month personal spending budget–hardly enough to support a triathlon habit.
Then, in December of last year I started feeling pain in my left leg which I later discovered was a disc injury. I had decided the only thing I could afford to continue doing was to run, but this injury happened just as I was about to start training for a full marathon. $500 worth of physical therapy later I still didn’t feel as good as I did in November before the injury, and I was two months behind on my marathon training with no way to catch up, which is why I ended up doing a half-marathon instead.
But it didn’t end there. Two weeks before the half-marathon I went out for a 12-mile run in the snow, or perhaps I should call it sleet. It was wet snow that melted the second it hit the ground, and within two minutes my shoes were soaking wet. Plus I was just about up to 250 miles in these shoes, and as the Cleveland Clinic states “Running shoes lose 30 to 50% of their shock absorption ability after about 250 miles. Shock absorption is greatly reduced when running in wet shoes.” I didn’t notice anything during my run, but that evening my left foot started to hurt quite a bit. I took a day off of running, and when I went back to running a few days later it seemed fine…at least on my short runs.
I did the half-marathon and during the event my foot didn’t hurt so much as to cause me to slow down or stop, but I could feel that something wasn’t right. The same level of pain has never returned, but even after taking two weeks off of running, a two mile hike was enough to aggravate it and let me know it was still injured. So I stopped running altogether.
It has now been almost two months since the half-marathon and I’ve run a total of one mile during that time. I haven’t biked in about a year. I haven’t swam in about a year. I sometimes wonder whether stopping the biking and swimming contributed to my injuries. My physical therapist seems to think so and claims that doing a cross-training activity like biking would greatly reduce my chances for injury and would make a 100% difference in my running.
I feel like I’m ready to dive back into everything. I can make the time. I’m ready to get more scientific with my training. I’ve got the will power. What I lack is the cash. My wife and I came to an agreement that if I pay off certain amounts of debt then I get incentives. For example, if I pay off $60K in debt then I can buy myself a new bike, but it may take me a little while to pay off that much business debt. And then there are all the other expenses for food, gear, event entry fees, gym membership, etc. The way I figure it, after your up-front expenses like a bike and gear you need to have a monthly triathlon budget of $100-150 to cover the gym, food, and everything else you need on a regular basis.
I’ve had lots of ideas on how to make this work without having to come up with the cash. Maybe I can find someone who needs a website or some SEO work done on an existing site and who happens to have a nice bike we can work out a trade deal for. Maybe I can get a large percentage of my 856 Facebook friends to pitch in $5 apiece. Maybe I can do a trade deal with a bike or triathlon store. Maybe I can get a tri store to sponsor this blog if I post a little more often. But maybe I just need to be patient and focus on my business, the real money-maker, until I’ve paid my debts off. But if you’ve been bitten by the triathlon bug and then had to sit around doing nothing due to an injury or budgetary constraints, you know how frustrating waiting can be.