My First Triathlon: Lessons from the Journey

25 Feb


Life Bucket List
One of the things on my bucket list was to complete a triathlon which is a race that consists of swimming, biking and running. I was in need of a new athletic challenge this year. I had completed two full 26.2 mile marathon races in my lifetime. But running was something I had been doing ever since I was in high school. Cycling I knew was doable since I’ve used it for cross training in the past and survived a spin class. Swimming however always scared me. I was never good at it. I was okay at backstroke but I always had trouble swimming freestyle and coordinating the breath with each stroke of the arm while keeping my body balanced at the same time.

So getting over the fear of swimming was one thing I had to work on. One of the ways I conquered this fear was by signing up for an indoor triathlon race at my local gym. While this seemed totally doable, I knew there would be challenges since these were three separate activities and you had to ease into transitions from one sport to another, otherwise you could potentially injure yourself.

Calendar Made it Real
I signed up so the race was on my calendar. Having an actual date and deadline was something I had to do to get motivated. It’s motivated me to get to the gym at least 5-6 days a week. When weight loss was not the end goal but just a bi-product of the process that I’m going through anyway for an upcoming race, hell yeah I’m gonna go to the gym!

Training Schedule
I looked at the training schedules online and chose to use the one on Athleta’s website.

Conquering Swimming
A lady at the gym had a daughter that completed the triathlon and had done a Total Immersion swimming program. She recommended the book and DVD. After a quick Google search, I found the Wiki helpful and also Tim Ferris’ old blog post. I’ve printed his notes and looked at the three videos included in the post. I felt watching the videos repeatedly helped my subconscious programming so that when I was in the pool, I tried to keep everything streamlined.

The Race Itself
Unfortunately, I trained solo for this even and did not have the benefit of a training group like I did for my marathons in the past. It was great to make friends with another newbie triathlete in the locker room. Her tip was to look at the race as a regular morning workout, which helped calm my nerves.

I noticed others had their cycling and running outfits laid out on the benches and empty lockers for the T1 transition so I followed suit and did the same. I already had my swimsuit on and was ready to go.

During the swim all I did was focus on the same things I did in practice, and that helped calm me down and conserve energy for the next two sports. If that meant stopping for water or Gatorade to keep hydrated, then that’s what I did. My plan was to run my own race, not worry about my competitors, go at my own pace, finish it and hopefully at the next tri event I could improve my time then.

Relieved the swim portion is over, we had 10 minutes to transition to bike. Unfortunately I was running late as the cycling was on the other end of the gym and the other tri newbie and I were catching our breaths and chatting. I also thought I’d have time to blowdry my hair. NOT! Anyway, we get to the cycling studio, we lost maybe one minute so not a big deal there. I was still breathless from the swim so started out really slow. Then by the end I sped up and was able to push myself more.
My quads hurt like hell, off we were to the track, 5 minutes transition. Fortunately the walk from the bike to track wasn’t far at all and was on the same floor.

I went slow the first couple laps, then got into a rhythm, then sprinted the end. I really pushed myself the last couple laps. As anticipated, running was my best sport out of the three.

What I Learned
Finishing the race brought a sense of life accomplishment. It also encouraged me to sign up for another race in the near future. Other takeaways included enjoying and savoring the moment of the experience despite the nerves and feeling rushed during transitions. I met some great people and we plan to be in touch for future races. Doing this race got me out of my comfort zone and made me think of other areas of my life that I could maybe improve and grow on. Another thing I learned is that from past experience, groups help me move forward faster so I’ll seek out tri groups in the future.

I was a little bummed I came in last for swimming, but couldn’t be too hard on myself since I basically learned freestyle from books, videos and the Googlesphere three months ago. Others probably swam for years. I look at those who did well as motivation for me to get better. Based on that, my husband and I decided to sign up for a live TI Workshop seminar in our area. We plan to improve and have fun with it!

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