Why you should try a Tri
An Emily Ley Giveaway
It was the most physically challenging thing I have ever done. Let me take you back to the beginning to explain how I got from not being able to run one half of a mile, to doing this sprint triathalon.
*a sprint triathalon means it’s shorter than a more typical tri. It was a 250 yard swim, 12.5 mile bike, and 2 mile run.
So, it’s summer. My husband is deep into P90X. He’s lookin’ good. He’s getting fit. In fact, he lost about 15 lbs and he wasn’t overweight to begin with! He went from a no-pack to a 6-pack. He was in, what we like to call, “Beast-Mode”.
So while he’s getting all healthy and eating better, I’m sitting around doing the same old same old. I have never had a particularly healthy diet. I can take in a ton of sugar. I also would never book a “lunch” time at the studio so it was pretty common for me to chug a coke and cram some goldfish in my mouth for lunch.
I was inspired by my husbands new healthy lifestyle but not remotely interested in P90X. So while sitting in Midway airport retuning to Raleigh from a week at home, my sister and I started talking about mini-triathalons. Long story short, we found one in Knightdale (which is only 10-15 minutes away) and talked seriously about doing it.
I told my husband about it and he jumped right on board, which he always does! My sister decided to wait a little bit, so it ended up just being Justin and I. We asked Chris and Mary if they were interested, both of them being runners, and they were–so it turned into the four of us.
My athletic P90X-ed husband asked me if I wanted to join him on a two mile run one Sunday afternoon in July. We had already decided to do the Tri, so I thought, “Well sure. I’ve got to start somewhere!”.
So we went out, at 1:00 in 105 degrees and ran. I lasted about 6 minutes. (I’m aware that these are not ideal conditions for a first run, but just go with me here)
I quickly learned that I was wildly out of shape and had to get into gear for this Tri.
So I started training, seriously, for it in August. We joined a gym with a pool, and I started going 4-5 days a week. I didn’t have a schedule, but I just started at what I was worst at and worked up from there. I wanted to get running down since that was my biggest struggle.
I would get on the treadmill, set it for 20 minutes, and start my training. I would run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute, until I got to 20 minutes. And slowly increase from there. Eventually, I could run 20 minutes confidently without walking.
While I was getting into running shape, I was also biking (mostly indoor) and swimming. I had to learn how to properly swim for this Tri. I could doggy paddle, but that’s about it!
My husband taught me how to swim, and we would train together on Saturday mornings. I loved that time with him. We would go bright and early, either run or bike to start, and then head to the pool to swim. For a lot of our training the outdoor pool was open so we would be outside swimming laps at 8:00a. It was so peaceful outside, but such a tough workout in the pool.
Swimming is no joke.
So, from August to October I would train in all three areas. I spent most of my time running and swimming, but in hind sight I wish I would have biked more.
The day before the Tri, Chris, Mary, Justin and I went to pick up our packets and bibs. I wasn’t feeling very nervous about it, but after we left the info session, I was nervous. It became real.
We “drove” the bike route to get a feel for it and it was looooooooong. Oh man, this bike was going to be tough. There was an abundance of hills.
We returned home that evening and got our stuff ready for an early start the next morning. We had to be at the location at 6:00am!
Justin and I both bought triathalon outfits/uniform/whatever at a local store that was going out of business–how perfect. So we tried those on one more time, grabbed our towels, goggles, sun glasses, extra socks, shoes and I added a long sleeve shirt that I thought I may want during the 50 degree bike ride. We load the bikes in the car, and make our peanut butter sandwiches for the morning.
So, if you are new to triathlons, you wear the same thing during each leg of the race. It’s basically spandex (you will see in the photos) and could not be less flattering. So my slogan for race day was “The worst I’ve ever looked, but the best I’ve ever felt”, in a jovial tone.
Neither of us slept well that night, of course, and had to be up at 4:30a.
We arrive at the race location when it was still dark and freezing. I think the temperature was 45 degrees. Justin points out that our fingers are going to absolutely freeze during the bike ride. I wish I packed gloves!
We get checked in, get our numbers written on us in permanent marker, attach our chips to our ankles, and wait for the start. The four of us are excited, nervous, and anxious. Of the 300 people in attendance, there was a huge variety of skill levels, which helped me relax a little. The serious triathletes were at the front. They were skinny, already walking around barefoot, and confident. Then as the numbers grew, the variety of people and skill levels increased. A lot of people were beginners like the four of us.
Justin and Chris were seeded earlier than Mary and I since they were faster swimmers. They were called into the pool area and Mary and I crammed our way through the crowd to watch them. I was most nervous about the swim so I thought watching it would help me, and it did. But it also affirmed my greatest fear–the swim was chaos. Somewhat organized, but a little chaotic.
You didn’t swim up and down the same lane, you weaved through the lanes like a maze. This was the most efficient way to get 300 people through. The hard part was not knowing how to space the swimmers and either passing people or being passed. There were plenty of times where 4-5 swimmers were in the same lane swimming opposite directions. It was a little crazy.
Justin and Chris got through it, and both did well. When Mary and I got in the pool, two of the tallest women competing got in right behind us. We should have had them go first, but we didn’t. Sure enough, only 1 lap into my swim, they both passed me–which was completely fine, but it sort of gets you out of rhythm.
Swimming up and down the lanes went fine, it was the turns that caused a little trouble. But all in all, it was the quickest part of the triathalon and in some ways the easiest.
I climbed out of the pool and was blasted by the cold air. I jogged to the transition area where my bike was racked. I toweled off as best as I could, threw my helmet on, and tried to dry my feet. I pulled my socks and shoes on and when I stood back up to pull on my long sleeve shirt, I could feel water dripping from my outfit down into my shoes. My feet were soaked. But, I had to go.
I hop on my bike and ride. And about 1 minute in I realize I forgot my sunglasses.
As it turns out, my soaking wet feet was much more uncomfortable than my freezing hands. I was cold! And already out of breath. I tried to shift gears but my thumbs were so cold I could barely muster the strength.
The worst hill of the bike ride was right at the beginning. I really wanted to pedal through it but it was just too steep. I followed the several people in front of me and hopped off to walk it up the hill. It took forever. It was great to get past that and get into a good groove.
The most challenging part of the bike ride, other than the frequent hills, was the isolation. There was a lot of time where I was by myself. I could see a person way in front, and was occasionally passed by another biker, but it was pretty quiet out there. That was the most mentally exhausting.
Upon my return from the longest bike ride of my life, I saw Mary who had just started her run. I knew I was close to the next transition, and I also knew Justin and Chris were finished.
I pulled in from my bike ride, and there was my wonderful husband cheering me on. He was so excited and proud of me, it was so sweet. I got off my bike and he said, “Your legs will feel better”. I’m thinking,”well, they are kind of tired but they aren’t that bad. . .I don’t know what he’s talking about”. I give him a high-five and head out on my run.
Oh. That’s what he was talking about. Running, or attempting to run, after a brutal bike ride, is nearly impossible. Your legs are like rubber. I felt like I just got off a horse!
I pushed through it, and was able to run almost all of the 2 miles. I grabbed a cup of water from the water girls and threw it on my face just like they do in the movies. 🙂
The run, since I was well-prepared for it, was challenging but not as hard as I thought.
As I came back around, I saw Justin, Chris and Mary waiting for me by the finish. Justin came and ran next to me for the last 30 feet, and was cheering me on.
I ran through the final shute and had completed my first sprint triathlon.
I was so proud. And so proud of my husband and my friends. And so glad it was over!
We all shared stories over orange slices and water about our experiences on each leg of the race. It was really great to hear we all had a successful race and finished in about the time we thought we would.
Justin and Chris finished in 1 hour, 13 minutes, with Justin only 38 seconds behind Chris. Mary finished in 1 hour, 33 minutes, and I finished in 1 hour, 43 minutes.
I anticipated, based on my training beforehand, that it would take about an hour and a half (without transitions), so I was glad to be near that time!
Okay, now it’s time for pictures of my hot husband and pictures that capture the essence of an exhausted semi-atheltic triathlete (me), Chris on his bike, and Mary–the runner–who posed for the camera–because why not? She’s just running? Psshhhttt. easy. 🙂