One of the goals I set for myself this summer was to learn how to change a flat on my bike.
Pretty basic stuff, but I’m not really much of a cyclist. My biking consists of doing the minimum amount of training I need each summer to get from zero to being able to finish the bike portion of a triathlon.
So I was pretty excited when an email showed up in my inbox last month announcing Champaign Cycle’s Women’s Night on June 30. Among the topics were how to change a bike flat. I was hoping the event, and learning how to change a flat, would give me a bit more confidence.
A couple of the shop’s mechanics explained what to do, then we all had hands-on practice changing a flat. It was easier than I expected — although I’m afraid if I ever had to change a flat during a triathlon, I’d be sitting on the side of the road wrestling with the tire until after the race was finished and everyone had gone home.
Likewise, Kinetta Johnson of Champaign was at the bike workshop to gain some confidence and motivation in her training for the upcoming Champaign Park District mini-triathlon.
Kinetta, the mother of four children ages 5 and under, had been pretty sedentary since her first pregnancy. But for her 33rd birthday in February, she gave herself the gift of swim lessons. Since then, she’s gone from the dog paddle to the breast stroke, and she’s working on her freestyle.
“I really needed a goal to keep improving,” Kinetta said. “I felt like the mini-tri was very attainable for me. It seems fun. I’d like to say I did this.
“It’s an opportunity to do something challenging enough to have to work for it, but not so hard I’ll fail at it,” she added.
She also wants to encourage other women, particularly mothers of young children, and show them it is possible to find time to be active, even with kids.
Kinetta started biking again, something she’d done regularly before she had children. And she’s gone from running once a week when she started earlier this spring to three to five times a week now, sometimes on a treadmill and sometimes pushing her three youngest in a triple stroller while her oldest rides her bike alongside.
She is not yet up to swimming the entire 400-meter distance for the mini-tri, but her goal is to swim at least three-quarters of it, with some walking in the pool.
“I know I can complete (the triathlon). I’d just like to complete it well,” she said.
My advice — don’t skip an activity or event that you really want to do, just because you don’t think you’ve trained perfectly or because you’re not quite as fit as you’d like to be.
That’s what I’ve been telling myself.
I’d wanted to do a triathlon in Decatur — the Lakeside Triathlon — since it debuted in 2007. I started to train that summer, and again the next. But come mid-June, I’d find myself stressed out because I hadn’t found the time to put in quite as many miles on the bike or laps in the pool as I’d like. Both years, I decided not to sign up because I felt I wasn’t properly prepared and wouldn’t perform as well as I wanted.
In 2009, I decided my only goal was to finish. (Well, I didn’t want to completely embarrass myself either.) But I wasn’t going to worry about my turtle-like pace on the bike. I’d do my best and be happy with the experience.
That’s what I did, and I’m happy to say I finished the triathlon and had a blast.
This year, I’m taking on an Olympic distance tri, longer than any I’ve done in the past. The bike portion still makes me nervous, but I’m not so worried about how I’ll finish — just that I’ll have fun and learn from the experience.
Kinetta says her training was hard at first — she wasn’t sure she had the extra energy to devote to it. But as she’s become more fit again, she’s found she has more energy throughout the day and she’s less stressed.
She and her husband, who is also doing the mini-tri, want to have a family that swims, bikes and hikes together. They hope their examples will encourage their children to be active as well.
“I’m just so glad to be active again,” Kinetta said. “It’s fun to play.”
Photos: Top, Jen Barto works on fixing a flat bicycle tire at Champaign Cycle. Photo by Robert K. O'Daniell. Bottom, Kinetta Johnson pushes Zoe, 3, Isaiah, 10 months, and Alexandria, 3, in the stroller, while Isabella, 5, rides her bike. Photo by Robin Scholz.