Yesterday I completed my first triathlon! And it was a lot of fun.
Before going into the triathlon, I had a lot of questions and it helped to read other people’s experience to understand what to expect. So I’d like to do the same in case this helps someone else one day.
Where I live, Seattle, the water is still pretty cold in a month like August, 66 degrees, so I opted to wear a wetsuit. I practiced in Lake Washington where we were swimming and other lakes closer to home which were similar temperatures and choppiness. I also practiced in Puget Sound which was way too cold for me in a sleeveless wetsuit, at 59 degrees. I also practiced in the pool doing 36 lengths which is equivalent to the 1/2 mile swim. I still think though this wasn’t in open water it was great training that allowed me to keep swimming without stopping in the lake. I also swam breast stroke and back stroke. I was worried race day I wouldn’t be able to swim back stroke without being able to see but it went fine. I feel personally like I get more power in but at the same time rest up for breast stroke doing back stroke. Wearing the wetsuit makes a huge difference too, it keeps you warm so the initial jumping in does not bother you and it keeps you afloat so if you panic or get water down the wrong pipe you can easy just tread water for a couple minutes. It also drastically helps your time. My experience with it, I highly recommend it if you’re swimming in below 72-74 temperatures. I also highly recommend swimming with a friend. It takes a whole lot of stress off of you because you know someone is nearby you can trust to keep you focused if something goes wrong. I got lucky and got a bright pink cap so she could see me through the entire swim. If you can, wear something that makes you stand out from the sea of swimmers if you’re swimming with a partner.
The big question I had before the race was around the transition from the swim to bike. We racked our bikes the day before the race, but you don’t bring any of the stuff you need for the transition until the next morning before the race. I forgot a towel, not that you really need one. There’s no real place to change so I opted to strip off my wetsuit and just throw running pants and a dry fit t-shirt over my wet swim suit. This worked fine but I wish I thought of this like everyone else: wear a sports bra under your suit! I wished I had one for the run later. Though I’m small chested, it still would have been more comfortable. Another thing I noticed that would have been nice – all the experienced triathletes had a bucket. This would have been great to throw your wetsuit into. I ended up having to throw mine on the grass/hay and later put it in my backpack which it soaked through.
The ride had a lot of hills which I think I was pretty prepared for. I biked to and from work which is a big hill all the way home. I also did a couple long rides, 21 and 42 miles with some friends on weekends. My helmet is pretty goofy, bright polka dots all over it. I must have gotten 8 compliments on the ride with people telling me how happy my helmet made them feel. This made the ride a lot more fun. I also biked at the same pace as 4 other bikers and we’d joke how they’d pass me on the hills but they’d see me later cos I gain a lot of speed not on the hills. I highly recommend being friendly with your fellow competitors. It makes the experience a whole lot more fun and encouraging!
My friend I did the triathlon with said her hardest part was going from the swim to bike. For me it was going from the bike to run. I’m a runner. Second up I think I’m a decent swimmer – I can swim hard for quite a bit. I’m not a strong biker but I do it. Biking seems to always wreck certain muscles in my legs that probably aren’t strong from running. I was also training for a marathon at the same time which means I cut out strength training to fit in all my running and triathlon training. My legs went to jello between the bike ride and the run. It was like being disabled or something. My heart was also feeling a little weird going from swimming to biking. I started jogging and was moving slow as molasses but my breathing was like I was running a 6 min mile. It took me about .5 miles to a mile to feel normal again, then jogging became easy and then just before 2 miles I was running like normal again. During the run, volunteers and participants were high fiving each other and calling out encouraging things. This made a huge difference and rubbed off on me that I was smiling and high fiving strangers too. Next time though I want to practice the transition from biking to running more often. I did a lot of swimming to running, but not biking to running. And when I did I had too much rest time in between to really know what it would be like.
Another thing that made this day so special was my boyfriend came with me to the event and I saw him in every transition. He took tons of pictures of me and my friends that will be great memories for years to come. It meant the world to me to have him there rooting me on. I felt like a very special girl indeed.
After doing this sprint triathlon, I would certainly do one again and am even thinking about doing an Olympic triathlon and a 1/2 iron man in the future. But, my next goal is the marathon in October. 🙂