Project Poker | Risk and reward off the table

I am a long-distance runner and have in fact run several marathons before. In fact this year I ran a marathon for the eighth consecutive year; one was in Paris and the other seven have been in Barcelona. I’ve run a lot of half-marathons around the world, too. But right now I’ve given myself a new challenge. I’m training for my first triathlon, which involves running, swimming, and bicycling.
I love endurance sports. In fact, I have a long-term goal to do an Iron Man, which is the “ultra”-version of the triathlon. But to get there I need to get more comfortable with riding the bike. For the last three years I’ve been doing half-Iron Mans but in a team format, which means I’ve been doing the swimming and running, but a teammate has been riding the bike.
It’s not that I cannot ride well or even make the distance, but my comfort level is affected because of the cars on the road. It kind of annoys me a little, because I know I’m mentally ready to ride and also that I have the ability to train myself physically to do so. But the fact is, I can’t really ride if I am scared.
To accomplish my goal of doing a triathlon, I’m going to have to gather the courage to train on the bike out on the roads. Unfortunately in Spain the statistics regarding bicyclists and accidents are quite bad. There doesn’t really exist a “share the road” culture like in other places, and thus it can be dangerous out on the roads for cyclists.
When it comes to the actual triathlon, the riding is pretty safe because they always block off streets for the entire route. The problem is practicing for the race, which requires you to get out on the roads and thus you have to contend with the traffic. I really can’t just train on the stationary bike at the gym and then go out and do 180 km (the distance for the Iron Man) on the roads – it’s just not the same.
It’s a little bit like in poker where you wouldn’t recommend to someone just starting out to go play the WSOP Main Event for their first tournament. But then again, even if you play a lot of poker, no tournament is really quite like the Main Event. So it’s hard actually to practice for the Main Event in particular, which is a little like my situation where it is hard to practice specifically for the challenge of riding the bike on the roads in a triathlon.
It’s also like poker in that I don’t want to “play scared” (so to speak). You can’t play your best game in poker if you aren’t confident and fear your opponents. The same goes for being out on the roads with the bike, where it also doesn’t serve you very well to be scared.
I have a couple of these events coming up soon where I’m doing two triathlons, including one Iron Man, but both in a team in which I’m doing the swimming and running only and someone else is riding the bike. But hopefully soon I’ll be able to find a way to do all three – including the cycling– by myself.  Leo Margets

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