#runchat #trichat #yesplease

Tonight I accidentally happened upon my first #runchat and #trichat on Twitter. Now that I’m getting more comfortable and confident in the rules of the social media world, I decided to jump in and give it a go. And I’m so glad I did!

For those unfamiliar, a #(whatever)chat is basically one huge conversation with whoever wants to participate, all at the same time and all at once, on Twitter. A moderator manages the chat and prompts people to participate with questions related to the predefined topic (for example, running), and they post a question every 5-10 minutes. Participants answer the question, initiate chatting with others about the question (reply to others’ posts), and just generally talk it up, all while including the proper hashtag marking in their tweet (#runchat or #trichat) so that posts show up in the feed as part of the greater conversation. Think of it as a pre-scheduled message board conversation but without the hassle of a trillion windows to expand and shrink in order to follow what’s happening.

Tonight’s #runchat and #trichat were a milestone in my foray into the social media world. I’m gaining confidence in my actual swimming, biking and running, but socially I still tend to feel like everyone on earth is more of an expert than I am. I’m getting faster, and I’m working hard, but I hesitate to share my opinions or thoughts with those outside my immediate circle (and anonymous Internet fans) because I’m still learning at a rapid pace and I’m never really sure when I’ll wake up one day and be certain that everything I’ve been doing up to that point is wrong! That’s an exaggeration, but with every training session, every workout, and every day I feel like I’m learning more and more and I’m hesitant to really weigh in until I feel like I have something significant and profound to contribute.

Twitter chats are the perfect venue and opportunity to measure what other athletes are doing and thinking, and to connect with people who have the same obsessive tendencies. I am insanely lucky to have a husband who will jump off the couch at 9:30 am on a Sunday to buy bike chain lubricant for my trainer ride (that’s to begin in 10 minutes) and who cheers me on always believing that I can do it, parents who believe more than I do that I can be as great as I want to be, and friends that started talking about ‘the trip to Penticton’ the moment I signed up for Ironman Canada. But I really only have a handful of people in my normal person everyday life that without words just understand, and would do the same thing.

By having a coach and attending team workouts I’ve expanded my circle of athletes that really get it, and most of the time that’s exactly what I need: just a few similar minds to help push each other, commiserate over injury, and inspire harder work. But sometimes the little things start adding up and you need someone to understand RIGHT NOW that having to run without your Garmin because it’s out of batteries REALLY IS THE END OF THE WORLD OKAY? I’M NOT BEING OVER-DRAMATIC, I JUST NEED IT UUURRRGGGHHH! DEATH! We all want to feel validated in whatever we do, and in my running and triathlon life the praise is overwhelmingly encouraging. But sometimes I don’t want anyone to be impressed; I’d trade impressed for quietly getting it and understanding. Twitter is the ultimate resource because at any moment there are plenty of folks tweeting about running (or anything!) so you can make a proclamation and know that others are sitting, reading, and nodding their heads, or you can quietly watch the conversation unfold if you only want to eavesdrop.

It feels dramatic to write, but I’ve found a lot of solace and positive reinforcement for what I do in social media land. Even though I’m only starting to reach out, just seeing that others feel the same, write the same, say the same, and do the same, and seeing that day after day, makes me feel in good company. I follow all the pro’s and eat up their tweets and blog posts like candy, but in this case I’m talking about the normal people who race, work, have lives, and have families, but still manage to make triathlon as important as they want it to be. And they’re good! I don’t have any doubt that I can do this, but it feels good to see that others are doing it too, with success.

I definitely plan to make a point to try to get in on the next #runchat and #trichat sessions. I think the next #runchat will be the evening after my next race, so hopefully I’ll have lots of good things to brag about share!

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