So I’m competing in my first triathlon tomorrow, and I’ve kept the whole thing kind of quiet here on the blog. At first, I was afraid I’d chicken out or get injured. Then writing about it made me just a little extra nervous. But now, I wish I ‘d written about the training. I’ve been searching around looking for other people’s first time accounts, and there just aren’t enough beginner triathlon stories out there. So here are some brief thoughts on this training cycle, and also a few things I’m totally freaked out about before the race.
At first, I thought I’d just start swimming again and see if completing a 400m swim in 2 months was even a possibility. When I say “again” I mean, “get in the pool for the first time since I took swim lessons two years ago.” I’m not a swimmer, and didn’t really swim as a kid either, so getting over the swim was going to be my biggest hurdle.
The first time I went to the pool eight weeks ago, I could swim one length of the pool, and after those 25 yards I’d be clinging to the side, gasping for breath. Turns out most new swimmers, like new runners, tend to sprint as fast as possible and burn themselves out. Guilty.
I slowed down, and started swimming four times a week. The Berkeley public pools offer a stroke technique clinic that I went to several times, and the instructors gave me some useful advice and some good drills. I also read a ton and watched many YouTube videos, as though I could learn to swim while sitting on dry land. After swimming my first consecutive 200 yds, I bit the bullet and registered for the Mermaid Series Alameda Sprint Triathlon.
Suddenly things felt alarmingly real. This sprint is a 400m swim, a 12 mile bike, and a 2.5 mile run. I knew the bike and run distances would be no problem, though admittedly, stringing everything together was going to be a new experience. I didn’t follow any particular training plan, and this actually seemed to work really well for me. I swam 4 days a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday), went to spin class on Monday and biked on Thursday and Sunday. I also ran on Wednesdays and Saturdays with the occasional Tuesday or Thursday run thrown in. Add a lot of yoga and some strength training to the mix, and that brought me to today. Every time I biked, I made sure to bike more than 12 miles. I was also training for this half marathon during this sprint tri training cycle, so I didn’t bother worrying about the running.
A dear friend sold me her old wetsuit at a super discount, and another friend braved the bay with me for an open water swim. I was expecting to be terrified and to panic, but somehow I never did. The Bay was shockingly warm, almost so warm I didn’t need a wetsuit. (the water is supposed to be 62 degrees tomorrow) When I put my face in the water and didn’t see my hand, I still didn’t freak out. The Bay is dirty too, unfortunately, but we swam back and forth, parallel to shore for nearly 30 minutes with nary a panic attack. I had to learn to time my breathing with the waves, and I practiced spotting my friend’s swim cap. All in all, it was a highly successful open water swimming experience. I didn’t panic or freak out, and I left feeling a little more confident.
Since then I’ve successfully swum as much as 600 yds consecutively in the pool. I bought a new bike (part of a longer term plan but definitely well timed!)
My 12 mile time trials got a whole lot faster when I went from clunky mountain bike to sleek road bike. I biked the 12 mile course in about 47 minutes when I went down to Alameda to scope things out. As for running 2.5 miles, I at least feel confident about that!
So I’ve got my stuff all packed up, my Garmin is charging, and I’m just waiting for J to come home so we can go grab some dinner.
So, some thoughts on this training cycle:
- I actually kind of like swimming. It’s peaceful, occasionally Zen-like (depending on who else is in your lane!) and a great workout.
- Also, swimming wipes me out like nothing else. I’ll come back form a weekend swim, sit on the couch and wake up 3 hours later without even knowing I was tired.
- I love my bike! and clipping in and out is not actually as scary as I thought it would be. I’ve only wiped out once.
- Not having a set plan worked surprisingly well. Since I was just training to have a successful race and not to place or have a particular time, I could just wake up and decide what I wanted to do that day. I liked this a lot.
Some things I’m freaked out about:
- The floating mass start. Thank goodness the wet suit will give me some extra buoyancy. Otherwise I wouldn’t be surprised if I burned al my energy frantically treading water before we even start.
- We walk off a rocky jetty into the bay and hop in the water. Something about this just freaks me out.
- I’m worried I’m going to forget something critical. There’s just so much more STUFF in triathlon.
- I’m anxious about transition. I’ve practiced, but it just seems like so much to do in 90 seconds!
- I’m grateful for my wetsuit, but trying to run while peeling it off? This sounds like an extraordinary feat of coordination.
- The bike course is very windy being so close to the water, and I don’t have a lot of practice biking around other people. Guess I’ll be practicing those bike handling skills!
So I’m nervous, but mostly excited. I’m just doing this race to finish, and hopefully have a good experience. The Mermaid Series races are always fantastic, so I know it will be well organized and a welcoming atmosphere. J will be there along with a few friends who are competing in the triathlon with me or in the 5k fun run that’s also on the island. With any luck by tomorrow afternoon I’ll be able to say that I successfully completed my first triathlon and had a blast! Wish me luck!