Friday, May 30, 2014

My First Triathlon

I forget when I first came across this graphic, but it’s always made a lot of sense to me. For a long time, I was afraid of getting outside of my comfort zone because I was afraid of failure. But failure happens anyway, and doing things that scare me sometimes turn out really well.


So this year, I made a goal to complete an Olympic-distance triathlon (1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run). Even though I’m a strong swimmer, swimming in open water terrifies me. Cycling is sometimes fun and sometimes scary. But I can run! Not to mention the logistics and gear and training for three sports instead of just one. On the way to this goal, I signed up for a super-sprint triathlon at Cedars of Lebanon state park, which was a 200 yd (pool!) swim, 10 mile bike, and 2 mile run. I figured it would help me get my feet wet, literally.


True to form, May weather in Tennessee is notoriously unpredictable. In this case, a cold front moved through so race morning was in the high 40s. The water temperature was 71 degrees, not too bad, but I was more concerned with getting onto the bike wet. And waiting for the start was a little chilly. Fortunately, my friend Kelly kept me company and helped me set up my transition area as well as lending me a race belt.

Despite the individual start, I quickly started passing people in the swim. For someone used to the order of a competitive swim meet, this was entirely different. The whole swim portion went by very quickly, and I was out of the water and into the first transition.


I threw on my jacket, helmet, sunglasses, and bike shoes. I must’ve looked a little out of it because a bike rack mate asked me if I was okay, though really it was a thrilled look. This was fun! It took me a few miles to feel comfortable on the bike. I’d forgotten that the jacket I grabbed was tight in the shoulders, so I felt constricted at first. Since the course was two five-mile loops, I got to hear my parents cheering for me as I came around both times. I definitely was passed more than I passed, but I tried to keep calm and do my own race. I ended up biking faster than I anticipated anyway!

Into the second transition, I stripped off the jacket and ditched the helmet and sunglasses but had to sit to put on my shoes (quick laces next time!) before I headed out on the run. I quickly realized I couldn’t feel my feet because they were so cold. I also felt like I was running through molasses even though I passed some people who had blown by me towards the end of the bike. The out-and-back run course meant I got to see Kelly heading towards the finish and cheer for another friend I’d made at the start. The run finished up a long steep hill with people non-ironically cheering at the top that we were almost there. (Side note: It is not funny to tell a marathoner at the 10 mile mark that they’re almost there.) Ran through the finish line and received a medal, which I felt weird about. Final time: 1:04:17. Since my goal was to come under 1:15, I was happy about that.


Triathlete! The more I analyzed the race, the more I came to the conclusion that everything went about as well as I could’ve hoped, even despite the colder-than-usual weather. I felt strong and capable from the swim to the run and finished 8th out of 29 in my age group, higher than I usually finish in run-only events. Next up is a slightly longer sprint before my scheduled Olympic in August!