A few weeks ago I did my first sprint triathlon! Okay, technically it was my second triathlon. I did a sprint triathlon on a whim 11 years ago after I retired from swimming. I used a mountain bike with road tires…so if that’s any indication how it went, lets just call it “exercise”and save ourselves the debate.

Going into this race I felt prepared physically, but mentally I was drained. Life took a detour the past couple weeks and has definitely played with my mind a bit. But it wasn’t going to stop me from racing!

For the past year I’ve been working with a coach and trainers/physical therapists in building my endurance and muscles in all disciplines, while also keeping my hip safe post FAI surgery. Although I came to them with lofty goals, those have been put on the back burner while a more controlled and analytical approach has been taken. While not what I wanted to hear, it’s important to have someone thinking objectively and realistically for me. It has been a slow process. After taking what felt like 2 steps forward, 1 step back for the longest time, everything has really been forward moving in the last couple months and physically, I felt ready and prepared for this race. My goals were simple…

  1. Don’t get eaten by a gator during the swim
  2. Don’t fall on my face during the bike portion
  3. Finish the run

For a multitude of reasons I didn’t sleep much the night before the race. In true type A fashion, everything was laid out, checked off the list and triple checked. Google became my best friend that night when I was trying to figure out all the silly first timer questions. Do you wear your run bib on the bike too? What is the distance for passing on the bike? Do the buoys have a line to shore to follow? What’s the water temp going to be? Which way do you rack your bike? (I did it wrong by the way…oops!) How do you know when you can hop on your bike from bike out? Do you wear socks for the bike and run? Should you stand up on the bike during hills or put it in a low gear and stay seated? My mind was racing! (no pun intended)

4:00 am came quickly and it was go time! Not only was this my first triathlon, it had been awhile since I’d gone through my race morning routine. By 4:45 am I was out the door and headed to Clermont to race. I wasn’t sure what the parking situation would be so I gave myself plenty of time knowing the transition area opened at 5:45 am. Naturally I was way too early and paced around in all my nervous energy before making my way to the water for a warm-up swim.

I am happy I chose a small, local race for my first triathlon. It made getting marked with my numbers (is that the correct terminology?), racking my bike, setting my stuff out, going for a quick warm-up swim more relaxed, despite how nervous I was feeling.

SWIM: 440 yards/6:08
The swim is definitely my strongest area. Although I’m never going to be the division 1 swimmer I use to be, I’ve accepted I don’t need to be in the sport of triathlon, I just need to be better than everyone else. Clearly, my competitive brain is still working fine :) Where I’m usually a calm and composed swimmer, I was a little panicky during this race. Open water swimming in Florida entails some scaly creatures called alligators. While I didn’t see one on the course or anywhere in the vicinity, and contrary to local news recently gators don’t normally attack humans, I’ve seen plenty around bodies of water in Florida and so I wasn’t necessarily as calm and relaxed as I usually am when swimming. I was in the first wave of women. The course was a rectangle. Straight out, turn left, swim a bit, turn left again, swim straight back in to the swim out. I pushed myself from the beginning to break away from the pack in the hopes of finding my own rhythm and pace, but unfortunately that was short-lived as I caught the wave in front of me. At one point I hit a guy and definitely said out loud “sorry” before continuing to swim. Apparently that’s not done in triathlon :) Before I knew it, I was running out of the water towards my bike. A much longer run than I realized!

As I mentioned, I didn’t set my bike up quite right with my gear on the ground to allow for a smooth transition. But with my bike shoes on (minus socks), helmet and sunglasses, I was off!

BIKE: 10.4 miles/37:33
The bike is my weakest link. Even with a new carbon road bike (which is really nice by the way), I was still being passed left and right by other triathletes. I just reminded myself to stay in my own race and push myself. As soon as you leave the bike out and can hop on your bike, you are immediately sent up a hill. I was feeling fine and had great momentum until the gentleman in front of me decided to stop right in the middle of the road to reclip his shoes. I felt for him, but it really through me off and I had to unclip to keep from falling and then regain my composure and start-up again. The course ended up being very hilly for someone who’s spent the majority of her time on a trainer. When you’re the first woman out of the water, it’s really frustrating to watch all the women pass you by on the bike. While I felt strong and am happy with how it went, I know it’s an area I can improve upon. I will say, my dismount was perfect! I got my feet out of my shoes and was peddling with my feet on top of my shoes, dismounted (on a downhill!) without stubbing my toes and was into transition!

Although I’d secured the perfect spot for my bike and run out, coming in meant I had a longer distance to go. It took me a second to rack my bike, but my new bungee cord shoe laces worked like a breeze as I slipped my Hoka’s on and grabbed by bib belt and visor.

RUN: 3.1 miles/26.42
Despite some really good brick workouts, my legs felt like jello! I think it was a combination of the hills and nerves. Although I never went into full on panic mode, I never really relaxed during this race either. My heart rate was much higher than usual. The run was strong, but I know I can run faster. It’s an out and back course, with minimal and mostly, no shade. By this point it was well over 90* F and the humidity was high! I settled in and just got comfortable. Maybe a bit too comfortable. Although I’ve been practicing getting comfortable with the uncomfortable again, I just couldn’t quite reach that during this race. I’m most proud though that I never quit though. There were a lot of people out there walking because of the heat and I just found my pace and kept moving forward.

I don’t know how to describe what I was feeling when I finished.

Elation, happiness, accomplishment, sadness, nervousness.

Mostly happy and excited for the opportunity to race again, I’ve got the tri bug! There was also a hint of sadness though knowing how long it’s taken me to get to this point and knowing what my goals were before surgery and immediately after. I’m reminding myself that I had to start somewhere. This was it and I did it accomplishing all 3 of my goals (no matter how silly they were), in a time faster than I thought and most importantly, my hip didn’t hurt. It didn’t hurt in the days following either. And that is the biggest accomplishment right there. There is only room to get better now and I’m looking forward to that next opportunity. I know I’m not even close to reaching my full potential yet and look forward to the journey, wherever it takes me.

FINAL TIME: 1:14:02

Thanks Sommer Sports for making my first triathlon a memorable one!

GEAR: Speedo Women’s Vanquisher 2.0 Mirrored GoggleCoeur Sports Tri Kit, Coeur Sport Sports BraCoeur Sports Visor, Oakley Sunglasses, Hoka One One Clifton 2, Trek Émonda, Garmin 920XT, Garmin HRM-Tri

NUTRITION: Bonk Breaker Salted Caramel (pre-race), Osmo Nutrition (during bike)