Triathlons will not make you pretty
Triathlons will give you scars from bike wrecks, bruises from running, and tattoos that no one understands. Fried hair from chlorine, more freckles than anyone deserves from hours on the trail, deep tan lines that never quite fade, and we don’t even talk about what it does to toenails.
You may absolutely kill those skinny jeans now (two sizes larger, thanks to your new hamstrings and glutes), but getting them on is harder than the last two days training combined and your arms are so tired. The longer the distance, the more muscle you need, and when did my midsection get that wide? Your arms get big, your butt even so much bigger.
You stop wearing heels because, hell, I don’t need those to stomp on the world, I can do that barefoot. You gain 15 pounds, cut 18 inches off your hair, and forget what nail polish even is because you never have all 10 toenails at once. You will be dirty, sweaty, sunburned, and have the hairstyle of “I swam then put on a bike helmet” a lot of the time.
Triathlon is not a pretty sport, not the training or the competition, and it forces you to let go of that supposed measure of your worth. No amount of masks or facades or meeting societal expectations will bring you to the finish, only your true self will take you there.
So you terrorize your hair and your skin, you live in gym clothes or pajama pants, get another tattoo that no one understands, and wear nothing but tennis shoes. You move further and further away from cultural definitions of "Woman" and "Pretty" and "Ladylike". Then one day it dawns on you as you’re training for your second Ironman race…
You don’t care.
In the countless hours you’ve spent alone with yourself out on the trail you have learned who you are, intimately and with brutal honesty. You know your worth as a fellow human. What you look like is so far down on the list of things that actually do really matter that you barely even remember it.
Triathlon has not made me pretty.
What it has made me is fierce, brave, strong, genuine, healthy, empathetic, lovely, true, focused, passionate, driven, willing, happy, assured, radiant, independent, and honest. -Rachel Wall