So, anyone who knows me knows that I am now a full-fledged runner. The running is in my blood and I have no plans of stopping. In order to support my running, I started lifting weights, practicing yoga, and lap swimming. All of these things are done in an effort to improve my strength and recovery and ultimately make me a better runner. I find that the swimming helps flesh out the junk in my muscles from all of the running and it has the added bonus of making me feel like a mermaid, and what girl doesn’t love that feeling? So, over several months, my Instagram account has begun sharing a little of its focus on swimming in addition to my running. I have been fortunate enough to forge connections with triathletes in my area and all around the world. I am always open about the admiration I have for them. The notion of doing three sports in a row in a race setting is mind blowing to me. Because of my swimming and running many have asked me the question, “are you considering a triathlon?” I always reply, “well, I am always kind of flirting with the idea of trying one, but no, I don’t think I’ll be doing one any time soon.” Well, I just completed my first sprint triathlon and I am kind of freaking out over here!
So, I’ll back up. I was able to meet three local triathletes through social media. One of them I met in person for the fist time recently as we volunteered at the Texas Ironman race. He and I have had several poignant online conversations regarding juggling our spouses, family, work, and pursuing our passions. it truly is a juggling act, and it’s nice to have a friend that can relate. The other two social media friends I had met in person prior to our volunteering at the Texas Ironman race. Bryan serves as a Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador with me, and Rachel serves as a Nuun Hydration team member with me. I met Bryan in person for the first time at last year’s Chevron Houston Marathon, and then again at our 2017 ambassador meeting. Rachel and I were both selected to run for Team Nuun at the Ragnar Trail Atlanta Relay Race, so we actually got to spend a weekend together. All four of us volunteered at Ironman Texas and it was decided that I needed to participate in a local sprint triathlon. It was settled. I would borrow Rachel’s extra road bike. I would tackle the race. Yikes! I don’t have any real biking experience! I had never been swimming in open water with a bunch of other people in a race situation. How was I going to pull this off? Could I really do it? I told them I’d think it over. I told them to let me go do some lap swimming right before a spin class at my gym and see how well it would go for me. I told them I wasn’t sure I could do it.
Over the course of a few days I tried to visualize myself completing the triathlon, but I still had so much worry about it. The truth is, I was scared about falling flat on my face. I was scared that I would be really bad at this triathlon. Doing something different is uncomfortable, but along with that fear of the unknown, comes the undeniable thrill of taking a risk. So, I vowed to give this the old college try. I went to my gym and swam a 500, then attended an hour long spin class. The swim was nice, short, and felt great. The spin class was challenging, but I felt in control the whole time. I realized that I am fit. I am capable of doing so many athletic things since I am fit. This feeling is so empowering for me.
The next step was to borrow the bike and trainer from Rachel, lower the seat (Rachel is a little leg-gier than me, much to my chagrin 😉), purchase clip-in shoes, and a helmet. My next course of action was to put the bike on the trainer, don my shoes, and practice clipping in and out of the pedals a million times. Next, my aforementioned friend Bryan hooked me up with a group in my area I could ride with. I rode with them one Saturday morning and I was keenly aware that two of the six guys were sacrificing their rides by hanging back with me. I felt pretty bad about that and told them so a half dozen times. They assured me that they had a race the following day and weren’t interested in a super hard ride, so that made me feel much better. I was so very nervous as we pulled out of the driveway, that I fell and skinned my knee right there on the driveway. It was quite embarrassing, but also quite expected, so I shook it off and we set out on our ride.
I learned a lot on that ride. I learned how to ride in a pack and how to clip and unclip from my pedals with much more ease than I had while practicing on the trainer. I was intensely aware of how vulnerable I was there riding along that feeder of a major freeway. I was honked at while riding under an overpass with my group, and the horns echoed so loud there under that overpass. I realized that if every driver were to brave that very road by bike they would behave differently when driving. Riding a bike amongst drivers makes a person incredibly vulnerable. Once you’ve experienced that kind of vulnerability, you are much more sensitive to others in that same situation. I thought a lot about this on my twenty something mile ride averaging 15-17 miles per hour.
Next, I needed to practice the open water swim. I’ve swam laps in a swimming pool countless times, but I had never swam in open water with a pack of people. My newfound biker friends hooked me up with a ladies group that rides and swims in open water together. So, I met up with the ladies group for a bike, swim, bike. This was a great experiment leading up to my first sprint triathlon. The bike to the lake was 20 miles, and while I certainly was riding in the back, I wasn’t hurting too terribly bad. Next it was time to swim. I had never tried to swim in open water, so this was a first, for sure. The first thing I noticed was that the stairs leading into the water were slimy and this creeped me out just a little. Once I started swimming, I felt pretty good. I wouldn’t say I’m a fast swimmer, but I am definitely a strong swimmer. Needless to say, I swam back to the steps faster than I’d gone out and got the heck out of that lake! At this point I had to ride the bike for 20 miles to get back to my car. The bike back was very difficult for me. I learned that I hadn’t taken in enough calories and I spent that afternoon a little sick once I was back home.
So, I’d practiced everything, and now it was time to prepare for the race. I had never felt as unprepared for a race as I did for that triathlon. The bike portion is what mostly worried me. Before I knew it, it was the night before the race. I packed all of my gear and I went to bed, waking every couple of hours nervous with anticipation. On race morning I arrived early, got my bike in its slip, and met up with my biker friends. Everyone was so lovely. They offered me well wishes and tons of advice and I could tell that they genuinely meant it. I always say that runners are the most positive, encouraging people, but I learned on race day that triathletes are just as positive and encouraging. I guess all athletes are positive and encouraging.
As for the actual race. I did well in the swim, getting eighth place out of 23. The run was amazing and I got fourth out of 23. The bike, well, let’s just say I wasn’t last place. I was 22nd out of 23. Clearly, I need to work on the bike. But I also learned that the world is a truly beautiful place filled with beautiful people. Every time an athlete signs up for a race, trains, and shows up to toe the line, they are better. They are inspiring. Athletes build each other up with good vibes because they are paying forward what some athlete did for them once upon a time. We genuinely want others to succeed because it’s an amazing thing to see others going after their goals and it inspires us to continue to do the same.
Let’s all go out there and crush our goals! Who’s with me?