My First Triathlon

My first triathlon ever took place this past Sunday on a rainy day in Wisconsin. It was a sprint consisting of a 500-yard swim (indoors), 13.7 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run.

I’m getting a little concerned when I arrive because I am not sure what gear goes where. The rain certainly didn’t help because I didn’t want to leave my clothes by the bike and have everything soaked. I have also received bib #1 for race day, meaning I will be the first in the water and likely the first on the bike. So it will be like the blind leading the un-blind…making me feel even very anxious and uncomfortable.

There are 15 minutes before the swim. I am in the first lane with two other people, bibs #2 & #3. These guys have done this before. They are in their branded tri-suits with their game faces on. A little intimidated, I decide to strip down to my swim brief and jump in the pool to warm-up. The tension and anxiety of the morning melted away as soon as I hit the water. It felt peaceful and comfortable. This water was my element, and I started to gain some confidence.

The race whistle sounded at 9am sharp, and I was off like a bullet. The swim was easy, but much too short. I hopped out grabbed my clothes and headed for the bike. Of course I forget my rain jacket so I have to back-track a bit and lose time.

Now I have never biked in a race before, and have probably ridden my new tri-bike a total of 12 miles on the road, so I don’t know what I’m doing (it takes me about 200 yards to get clipped in). #2 & #3 have already passed me, so I am left to follow along by myself. The road is clearly marked but I am nervous again. What is a good pace for the bike? How fast should I be going? How fast are other people going? I wish I had my Tempo Trainer for this.

As I go riding along, I realize that I am terrible at uphill climbs. My tempo goes from great to horrible as soon as I hit an incline, and I begin to quickly notice that most people pass me during these sections of the course. Finally, after only one wrong turn, I come back to the transition area to start my run.

The running route is actually a trail run, and I find it very fun to run on. The grass is good for my knees and the scenery keeps my interest. The trail is a bit muddy and slippery but I enjoy finding routes around the puddles. What made it even more fun was that I was bib #1. The fans along the course seemed enthusiastic to cheer for “#1”. That or they were surprised that that I was so far behind #2, and they were giving me pity cheers.

I finally come out of one last field, and I see the finish line. I’m actually going to make it! I turn back and a lady is slowly tracking me down. I pick up the pace a bit and start to push my legs more. No way is she going to catch me. I maintain my distance and cross the finish line. I did not win the swim, I did not win my age-group, I did not win anything really, but I did finish. That was the goal and I accomplished it. I was happy and exhausted.

To reward my efforts, my friends and I went to McDonald’s to grab some greasy food for the trip home. I rarely eat McD’s, but that double-quarter pounder tasted amazing. I wouldn’t say I am now ‘hooked’ on triathlons. I haven’t done enough to feel as comfortable and confident as I do when I’m in the pool, but maybe I will get there. I have dreams of finishing an Iron Man one day, and I have to start someday… perhaps that day was this past Sunday.

- Mark