You may or may not remember that one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2012 was to complete my first triathlon. Last August, I had the opportunity to compete with a relay team in a triathlon, and that’s where I got the bug. I determined that the following year, I’d do the whole thing. Then, I got adventurous, thought a sprint triathlon would not be enough of a challenge and decided to do an olympic distance tri instead. This past week, I must admit, the “what exactly did I think was so ‘un-hard’ about a sprint triathlon?” thought crossed my mind–more than once. Alas, here I sit, blogging about my experience, realizing I live to tell about it! That’s right! 1500 Meters of swimming, about 25 miles of biking, and a 10K run later, I’m officially a triathlete, and it feels so good!!
One of the biggest motivators for me to complete this triathlon was that it felt very foreign to me. Swimming especially was quite the humbling experience! I had to take swimming lessons and the whole nine yards–literally starting at square one here! It was a good experience for a personal trainer go through. When we are constantly asking our clients to do hard things for the first time, sometimes they need to know that we’re willing to do the same.
While my final, overall time was about where I expected/hoped to be (3:04:22), my place in the field was not quite what I had hoped for. First of all, women in Colorado aged 25-29 are in ridiculous shape (end of excuses). But instead of make excuses or feel sorry for how I finished, I decided to be proud of this “virgin triathlon” effort. I even made a list of all the things I know I did right on this first time around…
10 Things I Did Right in my First Triathlon:
1. I married Matthew. Or, rather, he married me. Seriously, sorry to start off super sappy, but that race day encouragement meant the world. Not everyone has a hubby who leaves the house at 6 in the morning on a Saturday after working probably 60 or so hours at work that week to come cheer you on before he leaves for his next business trip. AND, he did it all with a smile. I know he would have liked nothing more than to just sleep in and rest up before the next onslaught of work, but instead, he came and cheered for me for three whole hours. Seriously, if you know my Hubs, and you see him, give him an extra pat on the back for being exceptional. Knowing I would see him after each leg of the race and hear him cheering for me, meant so much and got me through.
2. I didn’t let the other racers in their fancy gear fool me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the world of road racing and triathlon it’s that the nicest gear does not automatically give you the win. In fact, lots of people (especially in Colorado, it seems) have the money to dump into their hobby. They may spend 10 grand on a super swanky, aerodynamic triathlon bike, have the coolest triathlon suit and wetsuit ever, and they might still be slow. Sorry, but it’s true. Now, there are certainly some very fast people with all the fancy gear that will legitimately whoop your butt in a race, but there are far more people who look the part than actually play it. I don’t let it intimidate me.
3. I didn’t buy a bunch of fancy triathlon gear. Now, this being said, it’s not that I wouldn’t like to have all the fancy gear, it’s just that I decided this would not be a race winner for me. The most important thing for me to do was improve my swimming and biking. At this point, the learning curve is still steep enough for me that the fancy gear would not make as big of a difference in my overall time as just pure training would do. So I opted out of buying a bunch of stuff and focused on what was important. Definitely a good call.
4. I took swimming lessons. Yes, I know, I know. You’re supposed to take swimming lessons as a kid. Don’t worry, I did. (Insert shudder as I think about that horrificly freezing cold pool at 8 a.m. in June.) Now, I can “swim” just fine, meaning, you can throw me in a pool, and I won’t drown. However, I didn’t exactly have a good freestyle stroke that would get me through a 1,500 Meter swim. So, I got a referral for a private swim instructor, and I took lessons! I should probably take more, but at least I took enough to get me started.
5. I wore a wetsuit. Now, I know I just said that I was proud of myself for not spending a bunch of money on gear, but this was definitely $20 well spent. For one, they pipe the water for this particular reservoir in from the mountains. (Read: it’s cold…even in August!) But, a triathlon wetsuit makes you much more buoyant in the water. I felt like I was just floating along in the water, and since this leg of the race is the most intimidating to me, I found this buoyancy to be quite a comfort. In fact, I had fun doing the swim! Additionally, opting to rent a wetsuit rather than fork over a few hundred dollars to buy one was a great way to find out whether or not I would like it.
6. I ate right and hydrated well. I watched my nutrition carefully in the week leading up to the race (and, of course I try to be fairly careful all the time regarding what I put into my body to fuel me). I didn’t go crazy “carbo loading” which is triathlete/road racer code for “pigging out.” That is a ridiculous concept and not nearly as effective as people tend to think. However, my pre-race dinner is always pizza. I make it myself, so it’s not super greasy at all and made with a good, whole grain thin crust and served with a big, green salad. It sits well for me, and gives me a healthy version of the traditional pasta carb dinner. I also drank a lot of water since dehydration can often be a race day problem for me. For breakfast the morning of the race, I ate a multigrain bagel that had some extra protein in it served with natural peanut butter and a little black espresso. Next time, I may opt out of the espresso. Even a little caffeine combined with race day jitters was not ideal, but I don’t think it harmed my performance at all. I also ate a gel during the bike leg and tried to drink a good bit of water as well. I don’t like eating at all when I’m racing, so I have to force myself, knowing that my body can really utilize the sugar in a three hour event.
7. I didn’t change clothes during my transitions. Now, originally, I was planning to change outfits completely in between events, and I am SO glad that I didn’t. For one, no one else did. They mostly just wear triathlon suits underneath their wetsuits to cut down on time. Secondly, there was absolutely no place to change clothes in privacy! Yikes! It would have been bad had I needed to completely change. I wanted to be comfortable during this first experience, but it turned out that I was just fine without changing. I just wore my bike shorts and a sports bra under the wetsuit then threw on a racing top when I got back to my transition area. Yes, that meant, I had to run around in my bra after the wetsuit “strippers” took my suit off for me. Oh well… Definitely better than my original plan!
8. I did my research. Since this was my first triathlon, I bought two books on the subject that I read in the months leading up to the race. They were very helpful on more than one occasion. I still have plenty more to learn, but at least I got some expert advice before diving in (pun intended?) to my first one.
9. I took advice. When I was at a gym working as a trainer, several of the members of my running club where triathletes. Even though I was supposed to be the “expert” of the group, I took advice from the members of the group as to what I should and shouldn’t do in my first tri. Additionally, the super nice and helpful lady next to me in the transition area offered me lots of advice on the morning of race day that kept me feel calm and confident as well.
10. I had fun. My husband claims that it is much more fun to come to my races post-college as I’m not so tightly wound on race morning. I even caught myself dancing in my wetsuit before the start of the race just because I knew how ridiculous I must look and wanted to make him laugh. It worked. 🙂 Perhaps I should have had more fun while racing competitively in college, but it’s an altogether different mindset when you are the one paying someone else for the opportunity to compete than when someone is paying you to compete. Now, I can make as much or as little as I want out of each and every race, and that makes it fun. Endurance sports are my hobby, and I’m okay with it always only being a hobby for the rest of my life. Might as well have fun with it.
So there you have it–the ten things I did right in my first triathlon. Of course, I’ve got my own list of things I’d change for next time which include longer bike rides, more time perfecting my swim stroke, and a caffeine-free gel for the race, but all in all, I’m pleased with this first time around.
So what’s next? Well, I plan to try to get a little extra rest this week, as I feel quite sleepy post-race! I’ll back off on my workouts this week, and then, well, I may or may not have looked up Fall half-marathons in the area already. 🙂 One race seems to just get me psyched up for the next one these days.