Just 2 years ago, I wrote “Why I Don’t Tri” with an adamant anti-triathlon tone. Sunday, I completed my first real triathlon and I have to admit…I liked it. I did dabble a couple of times in the past year – a sprint tri with a pool swim, an indoor version and a “newbie” tri with a clinic just a week ago to test my open-water abilities, but Sunday was a real-life, honest-to-goodness, people-who-swim-wicked-fast in a reservoir kind-of tri. The Boulder Sprint Triathlon featured a 750-meter swim, 15-mile bike (trimmed from 17 due to construction) and a 5K-run. I set very mild goals:
1) don’t drown
2) don’t panic going downhill on the bike
3) bust out the run
I achieved two of the three. The fact that I’m writing this race report lets you know I achieved goal #1. Much to my surprise, I also achieved #2. And, #3 turns out to be one of my lessons. In fact, I learned many things, but the top five are:
- People will panic in the water. Try not to be one of them. Luckily, I was not – but this triathlon started with a rolling swim start. You lined up in your best 100 yard time and started with other supposedly equal-ability swimmers. I lined up at the back of the novices, otherwise known as people who had never swam in open water and were certain they were going to drown group. Gasping, all-out yelling, full-on panic attacks – careful, these can be contagious and at the very least extremely distracting — occurred. I managed to get past these folks and didn’t experience my own, but apparently, panic attacks can happen to the best of triathletes (oh joy, something to look forward to). You can work to minimize them by training, training, training in the water, the open water. I need more open water training.
- Triathlon suits are convenient – for short races. I loved my tri suit during the race. During port-o-potty stops, not so much. Luckily, a sprint distance is short enough that I didn’t have to stop DURING the race, but if I had, it would have taken a good chunk of time to dis- and reassemble. For longer races, separates are the way to go.
- Don’t let the fast people intimidate you. In fact, you don’t have to worry about the fast people intimidating you – they are long gone before you even get in the water.
- Triathletes come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Since your age is plastered on your calf, you know just how old everyone is. Remind yourself, this is ultimately a race against yourself so when the 64-year-old passes you on the bike, don’t let it phase you…too much. There are some darned fast people in Boulder, at least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
- The run is not a slam dunk. You’ll hear it, you know it, but running on legs that have just cycled is a unique experience. I’ll be working on the bike-run transition…not sure how yet, but I will be. The 5K was flat and “fast,” but not for me. (Fishing alert) Advice welcome.
The most important thing I learned, however, is that the voices in my head that say I can’t do something are not reality. I trained for this, I completed this and I actually had fun. I was the only one holding me back from doing this sooner.
I’m working toward the Boulder Peak, an Olympic distance of 1,500 meters swimming, 40K biking and a 10K, in just a scant 3.5 weeks and the Boulder Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 miles on the bike and a half marathon) less than 45 days from now. I’ll keep working and working and swimming and biking and running so I can share more snippets of wisdom along the way. If I can overcome my swimming and downhill aversions, you can overcome too– whether it is in completing a triathlon, a running race or just getting off the couch. You can change your life, if you try.