My husband and I spent eleven weeks training, only to wake up at 3:10 a.m. one July morning for our first triathlon. A million questions ran through my bleary, nervous mind. But most pressing were these: Did we do enough? Would we cross the finish line?
There was an undercurrent of excitement in me that morning, a buoyant joy to be setting off on such an adventure. The adrenaline started pumping early.
We arrived with the sun, full of uncertainty. Am I putting the numbers on the right part of my bike? Does the sticker go on the front or the back of the helmet?
There was a short safety meeting before the race officially started. The swim, which comes first, is staggered from fastest athletes to slowest. Being on the slower end, we got to watch the elite athletes swim. I admired how skillfully they cut through the water; it left the rest of us looking like uncoordinated thrashers.
Just before 8 a.m., however, we took our place in the winding line around the pool. A little nervous chatter, a little baited breath… And then, we were off!
The swim was by far the worst leg of the race, to my surprise. I had really enjoyed the swim workouts during training, as they were a refreshing change from biking and running.
But I also taught myself to swim only two years ago, using drills I found at the Enjoy Swimming website. So I’m not necessarily a confident swimmer, because I haven’t been doing it for long. And swimming with a hoard of hasty triathletes is an altogether different beast from getting in laps after work.
It was the choppy water that did me in, undercutting the plan in my head and replacing it with panic. I imagined some amount of choppiness, but expectation and reality are not the same thing. If I could do one thing different in training, it would be to swim several times in choppy water. As it was, I took bellyfuls of pool water and completely lost control over the pace of my stroke and breathing.
I was relieved to exit the water.
I trotted to the transition area barefoot, the pavement not yet hot. I wasn’t in much of a hustle, preferring to get all my gear straight rather than make good time. I wheeled my bike out after throwing on a shirt and shorts and buckling my helmet, but not before tossing a smile toward my husband, who was also getting ready.
The bike course was not nearly as tough as I expected. We drove the course twice before the race and found some worrying hills. But on this day, I flew up the initial hills and turned out onto the road with ease and confidence.
The route was mostly flat and took us through lovely greenery–even some farmland. It was halfway through this bike course that I realized I was going to finish the triathlon. I felt it in my bones–I could do this. The pride that accompanied that feeling was immense and felt as good as the sun on my skin that morning.
There was a set of hills toward the end of the ride, but I powered through by dumping my gears and peddling through the pain.
The bike route brought us back to the transition area. I racked and rolled out at a trot.
The run–a 5k (or 3.1 miles)–was exactly as tough as I expected. Based on my training, I had hoped to run at a 13:30 pace. But at the same time, I knew the best thing I could do for myself was take the race as it came.
With this mindset, I decided to walk up the hills and run down them–and if I could run more than that, good on me!
It turned out I was capable of running more than I expected. When I crossed the finish line, it was a full minute faster than anticipated.
My race results:
Ultimately, I raced to finish. This is my new person best, because it is my first. I’m so proud of myself and my husband for meeting the challenge. As I said on our way home, “We did it! We’re triathletes!”