My First Triathlon: 2018 Tri the Village

My First Triathlon: 2018 Tri the Village

It's official - I've become a cliché: a lifetime, aging runner is taken out of the sport by an injury; she is told she can swim and cycle, so she buys a bike and learns to ride while recovering from her running injury; she decides she should continue to ride, as cross training has proven immensely helpful to her recovery; she can't resist signing up for her first triathlon, requiring her to learn to swim. Anyone know this story? Once again, never say never. 

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While training for my first duathlon, a couple of the friends with whom I run and ride began talking about Tri the Village, their first triathlon of the season; for some reason, I thought, "surely I could survive the swim. Right?" At the time, I wasn't swimming. I wasn't swimming at all. I was still holding my head above the water, like a turtle, because I'd never learned proper breathing technique. With about six weeks to make it happen, I started going to a local pool 2-3 times per week and managed to get in one open water swim.

  The race group that went along with my brilliant plan: John, Jonathan, me and Chris; not pictured, our amazing support crew - Anita (talented photographer and race manager - photos courtesy of this lady!) and Nikki (phenomenal cheerleader)! 

The race group that went along with my brilliant plan: John, Jonathan, me and Chris; not pictured, our amazing support crew - Anita (talented photographer and race manager - photos courtesy of this lady!) and Nikki (phenomenal cheerleader)! 

The duathlon proved to be great practice for my first triathlon; I knew what setting up a transition station looked like and I became familiar with the feel of the run after the bike. Unlike the duathlon, on triathlon race day we were magically gifted with a much cooler morning than I'd expected; it was 66F degrees at the lake just prior to the start and, thanks to the support of friends, I was feeling excited and ready to go. I'd decided that if I could survive the swim, and maybe even finish in under two hours, I'd be ecstatic. 

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The race had three waves of swim starts: males 39 and under, males 40 and over, and then all females and relay swimmers. I can promise you that I was one of the very last people into the water, by design. Mass starts are scary and I really didn't want to have a horrible experience during my first race; I took my time and hoped I could return to the exit point. 

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With several breaks to catch my breath because, as a newbie, I have trouble controlling my breathing, I managed to finish the 500 yard swim in 17:38; no backstroking, but there was a significant amount of breaststroking. Whatever it takes! 

I popped out of the lake and took off; Jonathan, who's really quick at transitioning, had already gone over the steps with me - get out of the water, get your legs underneath you, pull your goggles off and then your cap and just keep going. 

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Even though I've improved some since the duathlon, I've still got a lot of transition work to do; it took me over a minute longer (2:44 for T1) than the woman who bested me for first place in our age group to transition to the bike. It's going to get better, though, I just know it! 

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To say that the bike route is hilly would be a HUGE understatement; I'd been warned, but I'm not sure I could properly comprehend this course until I did it - GOOD GRIEF! Even though I said I wouldn't, I let seven surrounding cyclists get into my head and I walked my bike up the steepest incline; when I saw all of them walking and dismounting, I got nervous and followed suit. Nevertheless, I finished the bike (13.5 miles) in 56:14 with an average pace of 15mph and I'm happy with that! 

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Another way-too-slow transition to the run, I used up 2:04 during T2, but I got started on the 3.2 mile run course; the first half mile (at least!) consists of sand and trail and then we ended up in a paved residential area that felt like we were going straight up! After my experience at the duathlon, I decided that I would not look at my Garmin and I would focus on controlling my breathing and running by feel; this ended up working to my advantage, since I managed to negative split the run in 28:18 for an average pace of 8:51. 

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One of the most interesting (and exciting!) things about triathlon is that, as a sport, it's not about the individual events but how well they are managed together; how well can I handle a fast run after swimming and cycling? Not surprisingly, running is my strength; even though they all smoked me on the swim (except for the one dude I passed at the last buoy - was he lost?), I outran the majority of my competition and that's pretty rewarding to see. 

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Thanks to my friend Sarah (of Sarah's Book Shelves), who is a highly skilled swimmer and former swim coach, I have received some feedback on my technique (or lack of - ha!) and I have been watching swim videos like a maniac. I've got my second triathlon coming up in just over a week and, while I may not be able to swim any faster, I think I'm going to be better prepared (thank you, Sarah!). 

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Before I jump ahead, I'm going to celebrate this accomplishment; I completed my first sprint triathlon in 1:46:58, earned the second place spot in my age group, and when I crossed that finish line I felt good. Who knew that cross training would not only help me recover, but also bring me such joy? Back to the cliché, I wish I'd started this a long time ago and I'm looking forward to so much more fun! 

 

 

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