Triathlon 101: My First Race

In a couple weeks, I will be giving a demo session called “Triathlon 101” to athletes young and old, to introduce them to the sport of triathlon. I will be bringing lots of gear and hope to encourage a lot of sign-ups for this racing season!

I thought now would be a good time to share some knowledge here as well. While doing my Cyclocross 101 series, I brought in some experts to weigh in. I will be doing that here as well when I get into the nitty-gritty details.

So let’s get started!

Triathlon sounds like a lot harder than it is. The name alone sounds scary. And then thinking about swim-bike-run? I immediately thought about drowning, brain-eating amoeba in the lake, wrecking my bike, and about 20 other terrible scenarios.

I can tell you, none of those have happened to me. (I have fallen on my bike, but that happens to everyone while learning to clip in and out. Really! It wasn’t that bad!)

I was hanging out at the protein shake bar at the local gym when the guy who runs the parks and recreation department started talking about the new triathlon they were putting on. My ears perked up. I am a running… No way I could do that, right? But then they told me it was just a short swim. IN A POOL! And a 10 mile bike. And a 5K. Hey – I can do that!

I started hitting the Baldwin City pool in the morning during free lap swim. That happens early in the morning and was mostly attended by senior citizens walking up and down the lanes. Not such a scary audience to practice in front of.


Ready to ride over to my race!

I quickly figured out that I didn’t REALLY know how to swim. I hadn’t had lessons, so my swimming was all head-above-the-water Tarzan-style. So I starting Googling and You Tubing, reading up on breathing and rotation and flip turns. I only had a few weeks to learn, so I focused on just getting the breathing down.
Then I realized I needed a trisuit, cap, and goggles. I ordered some clearance gear online and at least LOOKED like I knew what I was doing in the water. When you are just getting started, fancy gear isn’t a necessity. A trisuit was just a nice-to-have, since many just swim in a swimsuit and throw on a tshirt and shorts for the rest of the race.


Waiting in line to swim and making a weird face.

My next step was digging my bicycle out of the garage. I had a nearly 20-year-old hybrid bicycle that I had been riding on rail trails. It wasn’t cool or fast, but it was functional. My husband helped me tear it apart, then we sent it to a friend to be sandblasted and powdercoated flat motorcycle black. We spray painted the wheels fluorescent pink and I was ready to go. I bought a retro helmet to match since I had never worn a helmet riding before.


Before I knew it, it was race day and I pedaled over to the pool, with a small backpack of gear, to do my first triathlon. I learned a lot that day. (To be honest, I learn something new at every triathlon). But that race was such an ideal start for me. A pool swim is a lot less daunting that open water. I was out on a course with top-of-the-line triathlon bikes, road bikes, hybrids, and even some mountain bikes.

I survived the swim. I dropped my chain on the bike course 3 or 4 times and learned to fix my own bike on-the-fly. I was smiling from ear to ear on the run. (The course ran by my house that year and my kids were cheering for me!)


I was one spot away from 6th place, which would have earned a medal… (I blame my bike chain for that). But I was definitely hooked and started training.

So that is my triathlon beginning. I hope to inspire more to start the sport! Stay tuned for the series of posts!


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