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Looking Back: My First Triathlon

by Meghann on July 10, 2013

I’m 10 days out from my first triathlon. I’ve been SOO excited during all of my training and have really enjoyed it. Now that race day is almost here I am starting to panic! How did you harness all of your nerves before your first tri? – Kathleen, Facebook

On Monday I put a post up on Facebook asking if anyone had any requests for blog posts this week and Kathleen left the comment above. Since I’m in the process of training for my first Ironman, I thought it would be fun to talk about my first triathlon.

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I still have no idea why I registered for my first triathlon. I think it just seemed like the next logical step with racing. I’d already done a half marathon, was in the process of training for my first marathon, and thought it would be fun to throw a triathlon in the mix. Never mind I didn’t have a bike or even a clue of what I was getting myself into. I don’t put a lot of thought in things before I do them, I just do them.

I talked my sister (who was at college in Tallahassee at the time) into registering for the Moss Park Triathlon with me. The March(!) race happened to fall on the same weekend as her spring break so it worked out perfectly.

The first thing I did was buy a bike. I knew NOTHING about bikes at the time and ended up buying “Blue” out of someone’s garage off of Craigslist.

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My “training” was non-existent. I like to joke I trained for my first triathlon in a weekend because, well, I did. The weekend before the race, my sister and I drove to Lucky’s Lake for our one and only swim. For some reason it didn’t occur to us that the water would be cold. We were the only ones without a wetsuit, we also didn’t have (or own) any swim caps.

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Looking back, I really had no idea what I was getting into at Lucky’s Lake. I had zero open water swim experience, but had it in my mind I could swim 500 meters to one side of the lake, then 500 meters back. I was nervous, but I knew I wasn’t going to back out. I just jumped in and did it.

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My sister and I also did a bike ride and run together that weekend. We were both feeling good about the upcoming race. Not really nervous, just excited to do it.

Then it all changed.

The day after our swim together, I got the one call that no one ever wants to get. My sister was hit by a car on her bike and was being air lifted to the nearest trauma center. All thoughts about the race were out of my head and all I cared about was my sister.

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Kelly was a miracle. She walked out of the hospital that night with just some scrapes and bruises – no broken bones and no permanent damage. Heck, even her bike was okay!

So the week before the race all of my nerves and energy were geared toward my sister. My sister made a full recovery, but unfortunately had to back out of the triathlon. Instead of toeing the starting line together, it was just me, with Kelly cheering from the sidelines. There wasn’t a question of whether or not I would do this race or finish it, I had do this race, I had to cross the finish line.. for my sister.

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The race was definitely an experience.

After swimming in the cold water the weekend before, my mom bought me a shorty wet suit at Costco. At the time I had no idea there was a difference between a triathlon wetsuit and a surfer one. I didn’t really have a problem wearing it, but it’s funny to look back at.

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I was one of the last ones out of the water and one of the last one’s back on the bike. Did I care? Nope. I was just happy to be out there!

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I did make up some ground in the run. The run portion is – and will always remain – my favorite part. This was when I learned that A LOT of people walk on the run. I was so happy to not be in the water or on the bike, that I was happy to keep the run going.

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You can read the full recap of my first triathlon HERE.

My best advice when it comes to ringing in your nerves before your first triathlon is to not think about. You’re going to be GREAT. I can promise you that you won’t be the only newbie out there and it’s okay not to know exactly what you’re doing. You’ll be surprised how naturally it comes on race day. Good luck!

Do you have any advice for first time triathletes?

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alice July 11, 2013 at 1:32 am

One weekend training! That was quick ๐Ÿ˜‰ can you recommend a triathlon training manual you might have heard of?

Alice

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2 Meghann July 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Check out beginnertriathlete.com. They have a lot of great plans on there.

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3 Andrea R. @ Morning Runner Girl July 11, 2013 at 6:20 am

I am dong my first Olympic Distance in just a few weeks… and I have no idea what to wear!! I think it will be warm enough without a wet suite, but do I wear a 1 piece? 2 piece? Do I try and wear bike shorts on the bike portion then switch to running shorts before the run??

I am at a loss!! Any help or direction to a website would be much appreciated!!!! Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚
Andrea R. @ Morning Runner Girl recently posted..Worn Out and Afraid.

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4 Jessica July 12, 2013 at 7:37 am

I got a two-piece tri-suit from Danskin (or any other company, really), which is a tank top with built in bra and shorts with a soft chamois in the crotch. You do the whole race in that, and honest to God, you’re comfortable the whole time. It doesn’t billow on the swim, it dries on the bike and the padding is adequate (for an Oly), and it’s fine on the run. It’s not necessarily cheap, but if you’re going to do more than one triathlon, it’s a good investment and allows you to think of other things during your race other than “What am I wearing next?”

I think some people feel more comfortable throwing on a pair of bike shorts over top their tri-suit for the bike, so that’s fine. It just adds time to your transitions!

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5 mary @ minutes per mile July 11, 2013 at 6:21 am

wow, what a story! it’s funny to look back and think of all the things i didn’t know for my first marathon as well. live and learn!
mary @ minutes per mile recently posted..high temps & good friends

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6 Sara @ LovingOnTheRun July 11, 2013 at 7:49 am

What a great post! You learn so much from every race, but that first race will always stick in your head! There is something to learn from every circumstance! I am amazed at how far you have come!
Sara @ LovingOnTheRun recently posted..Easy Run and Form Drills

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7 Molly @ RDexposed July 11, 2013 at 8:33 am

Love all your athletic-related posts! Keep these coming! ๐Ÿ™‚

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8 egb July 11, 2013 at 8:57 am

I’ve never done a tri, but its always been something I want to do. Thanks for sharing your first time experience!
egb recently posted..The challenges of trail Running

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9 Tori July 11, 2013 at 9:10 am

I did my first sprint tri in October of last year, and have done 3 more since then, 1 half iron and two more sprints. The first sprint I did on a 30 year old road bike from my parents garage. I have since picked up a newer bike on craigslist and done some serious training. My biggest advice would be just ask questions at the race and use google. I was embarrassed by my newbie status and bike at the first race, but triathletes are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I found beginnertriathlete.com and used their plan to finish the half iron. It will definitely get you there.
Enjoy it! I think it is the most fun hobby out there, even in July in Florida.

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10 Caitlin July 11, 2013 at 10:25 am

I haven’t done a tri but would like to maybe next season, but I think a good mind set going into it would be just for the experience of doing a tri and seeing what they’re all about it- from the open water swim to the transitions and seeing how you feel post-bike and having to run. There are SO many variables in a tri, compared to just running a race and the experience alone is beneficial, regardless of how you place.

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11 Christine, Random Hangers blog July 11, 2013 at 11:12 am

OMG! I never realized this, but you and I did our first tri together, apaprently. I just read your original post (don’t think I knew about your blog in 2009) and thought that the location looked eerily familiar, then read the date and realized I was there too. I pulled up the results and it looks like I finished just under a minute after you. Such a small world!

You, of course, have gone on to do fabulous, more hard-core things (I’ve done one half, one full marathon and one sprint tri and am done done done, lol) and it’s so much fun to read about your ongoing adventures/training. Keep up the great work and I’ll applaud from the sidelines. ๐Ÿ™‚

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12 Meghann July 12, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Ha! Such a small world! Congrats on your achievements as well ๐Ÿ™‚

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13 Shannon @ Mon Amour July 11, 2013 at 11:32 am

It’s amazing to look back and see how far we’ve come from our first races. I look back and laugh at all the things I did “wrong” at my first triathlon last year.
Shannon @ Mon Amour recently posted..Progress In the Pool

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14 Annette @FitnessPerks July 11, 2013 at 11:58 am

That IS quite the story!

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15 Sara July 11, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Oh my! Glad to hear your sister was okay, Good job completing your first tri! that is one of my goals!

Sara ๐Ÿ™‚
Sara recently posted..Vacation

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16 Nina July 11, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Thanks for sharing! I am doing my first triathlon this Sunday, and even though I have been in a triathlon club since last September, I haven’t really trained at all due to the training for my first marathon. It’s hard to fit it all in together, and riding my bike has definitly come short.

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17 Sallie July 11, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Nice story…Glad to hear you had a successful 1st tri. Keep up the good work!
Sallie recently posted..New Blance Minimus Trail Review

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18 Katie July 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I’ve read the post about Kelly before (and still get nervous every time I read it!) but I’m wondering…I’m trying to decide between doing my first triathlon (I have 6 weeks to prep) or if I should do the Irongirl Bloomington Duathlon? I’m nervous that since its the biggest in the nation as a rookie I’ll get in the way of more serious people….any help you can provide would be super appreciated!!
Katie recently posted..Stuck in a Rut

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19 Meghann July 12, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Don’t be nervous!!! Even in the biggest races there’s always a good chunk of newbies that are just as nervous to be there as you are. Trust me!

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20 Katie July 14, 2013 at 11:55 am

Thank you!!! I took the plunge and registered! And then took my second spin class ever in hopes that would make me feel a little more confident. Thank you so much for encouraging newbies as you become more experienced!
Katie recently posted..The Results are In!

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21 Amanda - TooTallFritz July 11, 2013 at 3:38 pm

There are some who do triathlon seriously but I think this is one event that brings out a lot of people who are in it for fun and fitness. Everyone is so nice and helpful. And a lot of people walk the run. Like don’t take one single running step. I haven’t done a full iron but have done up to the half distance and even there, I just cruise along on the run, not fast but not walking, and I always see people walking, laughing, totally chilling out and not planning to run at all. It seems strange but you will see a lot of walkers in triathlon. Just keep moving!
Amanda – TooTallFritz recently posted..CrossFit โ€ฆ. Day 6 โ€ฆ. Filthy Fifty

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22 Colleen @ CSmith Run July 11, 2013 at 6:41 pm

I didn’t train for my first triathlon either! Or my second or third…well, I trained for the running, but have never really swam or biked. I just trusted that I was in shape enough to do it but boy were those segments hard! Just like you, the run will always be my best!

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23 Shannon July 11, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Great post! So glad to hear your sister was okay! I don’t think I would be smiling as much as you after dealing with all of that. Such a inspiration!

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24 Victoria @ Reluctantly Skinny July 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I’m impressed that you even signed up! The swimming portion would terrify me! Good for you for keeping up with all of this and training for your first Ironman!
Victoria @ Reluctantly Skinny recently posted..Italian Summer Pasta Salad

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25 joelle (on a pink typewriter) July 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Oh, I remember your posts about your first tri! I feel like you and Caitlin (HTP) started doing them around the same time… I used to read both your blogs one after the other. ๐Ÿ˜‰
joelle (on a pink typewriter) recently posted..Adjusting the Training Schedule

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26 Kristen @ The Concrete Runner July 14, 2013 at 9:17 am

This made me feel so much better about doing my first Tri in 3 weeks! I feel like I should know what I’m doing but I honestly have no idea! Ha! I still don’t even know what I’m going to wear and will be riding my mom’s mountain bike! Yup, true newbie here!

I’ve been LOVING reading about your ironman training! You are going to be awesome!
Kristen @ The Concrete Runner recently posted..how to survive a road trip with a toddler

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27 Nora July 14, 2013 at 5:26 pm

I loved this post. I recently signed up for my first sprint tri- it’s in 2 weeks! I ran a half-marathon today so my legs’ll need a little time to recover, but I’m going to try to cram in as much swimming and biking as I can since I’m not much of a swimmer. But I’m excited to just go out there and have fun =)

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