Triathlon Before Thirty - My First and Last Triathlon

8:00 PM

Goals are different for everyone, but they are so important.

Setting a goal gives you something positive to aim for amid the crazy and busy lives we all lead. I read once that a goal without a plan is just a dream and I think that is true. Creating goals means picking an end game and focusing on how you will get there. 

Some people have goals to save up enough money to buy a house or go on a big trip. Others are writing a novel or recording music in hopes of making it big. There are people who have a million tiny goals that all lead to just having a more content and happy life. No matter what the actual goal may be, it gives us something to look forward to. 

I had a goal to finish a triathlon before I turned 30, and what do you know. I completed it. But let me tell you... it was not easy. 

After finishing my first few half marathons I toyed with the idea of a triathlon but honestly the whole thing seemed very overwhelming to me. To run in a race, you need a pair of sneakers and maybe a good sports bra. Everything else is just extra and you can finish the race with or without it. 

For a triathlon, you need a LOT of different stuff. For the swim you need a pair of goggles at the least. Then you can choose what you swim in - a bathing suit, a wet suit, a trisuit, tri shorts and a sports bra, the list goes on and on. Once you're out of the water and onto the biking portion of the race you need a towels to dry off, quick moisture wicking socks, a bike, a helmet, your biking shoes (or sneakers!), a change of clothes depending on what you wore in the swim. After biking you need to leave your bike (and change your shoes if necessary), take off your helmet and get running. 

Completely. Over. Whelming. 

However, after years of thinking about doing it, I received an email saying there was a Tri "great for first timers" and it was exactly one month out from my 30th birthday. So, I threw caution to the wind and I signed up for the damn thing because, guess what?

If you don't put yourself out there and try things that scare you and overcome your fears and push your limits what is the point of even having 30 years on this planet? I understand that everyone has different goals in life, but this was one of mine. So I knew I had to sign up or I'd kick myself for not at least giving it a try. 

Well, I gave it my best and I completed it but I have no intention of doing another triathlon again! While I know I am partly to blame for doing a very bare minimum of training, I think I also underestimated just how intense the triathlon is on your body. 

This sprint triathlon consisted of the following:
  1. .35 Mile Swim
  2. 9 Mile Bike
  3. 3.2 Mile Run
My training consisted of going to spin class for a few months, followed by one 10 mile bike ride, and a few 2-4 mile bike rides here and there. For swimming, I floated around my pool and did a few laps here and there and got winded pretty easily and just kinda gave up and hoped I wouldn't need to be saved during the swim. Running I wrote off as being "only a 5k" even though the event is advertised as "Conquer the Hill" because there was apparently a pretty rough hill at the start of the race. I my usual few miles here and there and thought I'd easily be able to finish up the 5k at the end of the event. 


This was physically and mentally one of the hardest things I've had to push through to finish. When I'm running a long distance race and I get tired I can take a breather and walk it out, stretch my calves and then do a slow jog again til the finish. Do you know what you can't do in the middle of a pond? TAKE A BREATHER. 

I'll break the whole day down for you. 

I got all my equipment in order, and wow was there a lot. After checking many pinterest pins, websites and blogs regarding triathlons, I had a pretty good idea of everything I was going to need. This included NUUN for energy and electrolytes, a few water bottles, my goggles, a swim cap,  Tri Shorts, sports bra, a top for the swim, a different top for the bike/run, my sneakers, socks, plastic bags for the transition area, sunglasses, a hat, and a peanut butter sandwich. I was also armed with a 15 year old men's mountain bike and my little brother's bike helmet. 

The day before, my husband and father-in-law hooked a bike rack to one of our cars so I was set in the morning. The race started at 7 and the transition areas opened at 5, so I planned to leave my house around 4:30AM since I live about an hour away. I showered and braided my hair before I went to sleep and hoped for the best for the next day. 

I woke up at 3:50am and got changed into my swim outfit. Once I triple checked that everything I needed on my list was packed and loaded into the car, I headed out. After reaching the race destination and parking my car, I went to get out of the car and noticed one of my water bottles, the one I was to use to wash my feet before getting on my socks and sneakers for the bike portion, hadn't been closed all the way and leaked all over my other gear. Luckily, my hat was the only casualty, The rest of the items I had put into plastic bags for safety because it was forecasted to rain and thunderstorm. I got all my gear out, checked in, and set up my transition area. Then the nerves set in. As people began arriving I settled myself and began talking to others who were amateurs just like me! I felt much better and was ready for the race to just begin already. 

The sky held out from rain which was great. The pond water was very warm which was also great! However, I highly underestimated the swim. Once I got about half way around the pond, I couldn't catch a full breath which totally put me into panic mode. There were plenty of lifeguards on kayaks should I become distressed, but being the hard-headed person that I am, I kept telling them I was fine and just going slowly. I ended up doing a sort of doggy paddle/frog swim hybrid that took me back to sure after being passed by many, many people. But ya know what? I finished. I didn't hang on to any kayaks (except one to remove my foggy goggles) and I left the pond feeling exhausted but ready to tackle the bike. 

I headed over to the transition area where I fought for a full 5 minutes to change my gear, put on my socks and shoes, and tighten my helmet. Most people spent less than 2 minutes in this transition, and here I was at over 5!!!! What a rookie.

Weeks before the tri, I emailed the organizers of the event to ensure I could in fact use a 15 year old men's mountain bike for this portion of the race. Yes, they told me, it will just be a slower time. Perfect! I thought. I'm not in this for the glory of the win, I'm in it to finish. 

Welp. Let me tell you a little something about using a 15 year old mountain bike in an event where most everyone else has the thinnest, sleekest road bikes. I swear I was peddling 15x harder and faster than the 100 people (I'm estimating here lol) that passed me as I rode the 9 mile course. It was like a cartoon. If I wasn't so tired, I would have found it hysterically funny. Though I practiced changing gears on my training rides, getting out there on the course just threw me for a bit of a loop. Having people continuously pass me while I was working SO HARD to get this bike to move quickly was a downer. By the end of the bike portion, I felt pretty defeated. But I made it around the second loop and back to the transition space and hopped off the bike. 

And almost fell. 

Thank God the bike was there to support me because my legs were completely jelly. 

But I felt slightly confident because my event was next. I know I can run a 5k easily, so I told myself to take a deep breath, walk a bit to get my legs feeling stronger, and take it easy. I took off my helmet, put on my favorite Monsters University hat (which had mostly dried from early said spill) and headed to "Conquer the Hill". 

And then I broke. 

I immediately started to wonder what the fuck I had gotten myself into. My eyes welled up with tears. Luckily, since I'd done everything else so slowly, I was virtually all alone at this point. I thought about stopping and going back to get my stuff and just leaving. I felt like throwing myself to the pavement and sobbing because my legs were jelly and my knee hurt and my arms were tired and I was soggy and I was - nope. I was stronger than this. I've been through worse things than a little triathlon that would be over soon enough as I put my big girl pants back on, sucked it up, and pushed through this temporary pain to finish. I pulled my tears back in and stood up straight and came upon a great volunteer who told me to walk as much as I needed, I'd finish it one way or another. And he was right. 

The first full mile of this 5k was basically up a very steep hill. I didn't have my phone on me (SHOCKER!) so I wasn't able to take pictures, but yeah, it was steep. Every corner I turned for a fill mile was another steep hill after another steep hill. But, what goes up must come down! After the first brutal mile, the descent began. There was a water stop so I hydrated and then shuffled on my merry way. I ran most of the last two miles at a slow and steady pace. There were a few places where people had gathered to cheer the racers on and I couldn't have been more thankful for their enthusiasm. It was much needed. 

I finally made it to the finish line and could not have been more proud of myself. There were so many unknowns coming into this event - from the gear to each portion itself, I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into. But no matter what happened, I pushed myself to keep it together and push to the end. 

This will be an event I'll not soon forget. If you have ever thought of doing a triathlon, I say DO IT but make sure you realize it will test your limits! I also encourage you to train better than I did and perhaps see if you can borrow or invest in a good bike. 

I'm glad to cross this goal off my list and say I am a Triathlete - but never have to do another Tri again!

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