Last weekend I took part in a local triathlon, the UNC Wellness Center Supersprint, with a lot of friends from CrossFit Carrboro and from my public health program. For many of them this was their first ever triathlon!
In lieu of my normal long-winded race recap, I decided to ask a few of my first timer friends to give a little bit of their feedback about their first time doing a triathlon! Enjoy!
Preparing for the race (or not preparing for the race) — Having signed up on Monday to do the race the following Sunday, I was fabulously underprepared for this race. My lifetime biking experience was about equivalent to the week’s biking experience, which consisted of about an hour an a half total, with only 20 minutes of that being spent on the bike I used in the race. I learned how to shift gears Sunday. Not ideal. Swimming, I felt more prepared for overall since I’m comfortable swimming laps, but I hadn’t really had many sessions swimming laps this summer… so I prepared by swimming for ~20-30 minutes on Thursday. Running was the only thing I felt comfortably prepared for. I’d been averaging 30-35mpw for the past 6-8 weeks, and had about 27 miles for the week leading into the race. I also “prepared” for the race by gathering all my stuff and eating a lot of cookie dough the night before.Nervousness pre-race — Having raced a lot for running, I’m used to pre-race jitters. It’s inevitable, no matter the distance of the race. I always get super nervous and anxious, but I combat those feelings by reminding myself to trust my training. This race? THERE WAS NO TRAINING TO TRUST. My nervousness was completely and entirely justified, and it was terrifying.Expectations versus reality — I expected a disaster on the bike. Reality was a disaster on the bike.
Details of during the race — I hopped in the pool and got started, and it all felt really surreal. It was about halfway through the swim when it hit me that I was really doing this triathlon thing. I got out of the pool and ran to the transition area and was only thinking about the bike leg. Got my stuff on, did an awkward jog/push with the bike to the mount time, and hopped on. Turned the corner, started up a hill, and immediately wanted the bike segment to be over. Then I started getting passed. I think I got passed by 8-10 people during the span of the bike segment. I just wanted to be finished – my butt hurt, my legs hurt, and I had no concept of distance or time or speed. I felt like I was crawling. I still couldn’t figure out the gears. At one point I dismounted my bike because I got a bit wobbly while shifting in frustration… got a pity cheer of “keep pushing, you’re doing great” by some lady passing me who witnessed my dismount/remount. Had no idea where I was going because I didn’t bother looking at the course map – I knew I was gonna be slow and it’s not like I could change the course and that it would be marked well, so I figured I’d wing it. I don’t think i have ever been as happy as I was to get to that dismount line! Back to transition, get rid of that horrendous bike (just kidding, the biker is horrendous but the bike itself is lovely, thank you for lending it to me, Lizzie!) and take off my helmet and sunglasses, and run out of transition. HOLY COW my legs felt like jelly, I could’ve sworn I was running in quicksand or something, I felt like I was going absolutely nowhere. In the span of 15 seconds, I went from “YAY RUNNING, I GOT THIS” to “OMGOMGOMG I CAN’T MOVE, THIS IS GONNA BE THE WORST 5K OF MY LIFE.” I heard Lizzie shout and cheer for me as I headed out on the course, and all I could do was shout back that my legs felt dead. She yelled that I should get my legs back in half a mile. Really? That felt like a lie, but whatever, she’s the expert so I turned my focus back to the course and kept going! I had been wearing my Garmin GPS watch for the race to keep tabs on the bike leg (which I forgot to start it for, whoops) and the run leg (remembered, yay!) so I glanced down to check out my pacing. For some reason, it was projecting my time for the first mile to be 8:15. “No no no” I thought, “this is false.” There’s no way I was running an 8:15 mile. A 12:15, I would believe, but my legs were like lead and I felt like I was dragging. I figured it was just still calibrating and that it would increase shortly after, but it stayed solid. Like clockwork, around the half mile point, I noticed that my legs were feeling back to normal, and that I was actually going at a pretty decent pace. I saw people in front of me, and decided to start chasing. Accelerated on the downhills, pushed on the uphills, adjusted on the flats. Hit the turnaround, accelerated to pass a guy who had something on him that was making a jingling noise, and soon heard my watch beep to tell me I had gone 2 miles. I realized that I was still maintaining an 8:15-8:20 pace… meaning that I actually had a chance to PR my (standalone) 5k time! What?! And then I thought that maybe I should slow down because my legs might realize that this pace was too fast and then completely call it quits because they were still angry about the biking. But I am competitive with myself, so I didn’t. I just kept running and telling myself that I have run this distance a million times before, and the sooner I finished, the sooner I could make the official decision to never get on a bike again. I got to some awful uphills towards the end, and was motivated by the fact that I had passed people during the run (almost as many as I got passed by during the bike!) and hadn’t gotten passed, and I wanted to keep it that way. Realized I was close and got to the downhill and just started cranking my legs to get to the finish and make up for any seconds I lost on the uphill. Turned the corner, came into sight, heard friends cheer, saw the finish, and just pushed to the end. Ended up with an average pace of 8:17 for the run, which was on track to PR the 5k, had the course been the full 3.1 miles.
How unstoppable you feel now — honestly, I am most pumped about the run segment… what can I say, I’m a runner!! I was really pleased with my performance overall, especially considering the lack of preparation and training. Really proud of myself for pushing through the biking difficulties – at one point, all I could think was “this is how my life ends. I’ll be out here for forever.” That whole bike-to-run thing was definitely a weird feeling for my legs, but the fact that I was still able to maintain a fast pace in the run segment makes me extremely excited to find a 5k to race in the fall and see what I can do and how much I’ve improved from last December’s PR. I definitely would consider another triathlon in the future, but definitely not until I’m significantly more comfortable with biking!!!! Sunday’s tri was a great way to kick off my fall marathon training cycle, which started on Monday… so once the fall racing season is over and I cut back on running, I might venture more into biking territory and start preparing for my next tri season 😉
I signed up for the Meadowmont Tri on a whim. I had always wanted to try a tri, but didn’t want one with a really long running part. When a few people from Crossfit Carrboro said they were signing up for the Meadowmont one, it seemed a good one to try. I had the best intentions of training somewhat but the summer got away from me and I didn’t do any tri-specific training. I did a handful of runs and bike rides this summer and went to CrossFit 4 times/week. I also decided to do a 31 mile hike 3 days before, which in retrospect wasn’t the best idea since my feet were destroyed and covered in blisters.
I have done a handful of timed runs before but never felt particularly nervous. I was surprised at how nervous I felt at this event! I think it was mostly the waiting around part and the fact that it was stagger started. As soon as I got in the pool my nerves subsided when I realized that no one was paying any attention to me and I could just do my thing!
I didn’t feel that great after the swim. I felt like I could have pushed a bit harder but it was kind of hard given the set up with the lane lines. I also really couldn’t judge how fast I was going since we all started at a unique time. I quickly realized after the swim that the part I really should have “practiced” was the transition! I lost so much time fumbling around putting clothes and socks and shoes on. And pinning my number on which apparently I hadn’t done beforehand. As soon as I mounted my bike I felt at home. Although my speed gauge on my bike wasn’t working right, I knew I was going pretty quickly and passed a lot of people during the bike part. I knew that this was the part I could really make up time in. Next time I will definitely make sure my gauge is working because I never knew how many miles I had left so it was difficult to know when to push myself. After the bike, the start of the run felt really slow. My feet were definitely sore but I just kept telling myself that I had less than 30 minutes to go. The run was way hillier than I expected but it made it more interesting and kept my mind off my feet. I didn’t really like how spread out everyone was on the run. Half the time I felt like I was running alone!Overall, it was a great experience and I can now check the “triathlon” box off of my fitness bucket list. I felt that my training or lack there of was adequate for this length of race. Although I don’t typically run, bike, and swim that often, I really think that the fitness base I have built up from doing CrossFit has served me well. I felt the same way after completing a half marathon last year. I was pleased with placing 24/92 women overall and I definitely think I could do better if I practiced the transitions and spent a little more time in the pool. That being said, I don’t think triathlons are my thing. I like CrossFit competitions and runs where everyone is working out together and encouraging one another. This race felt a bit too isolating.
And finally we hear from Chen who completed his first tri along with his partner Sally, and who I challenged to write a triathlon haiku:
Wet start in the pool
Steel steed crushing the pavement
Foot race for the win
Ever since I got my bike two years ago it’s been a goal of mine to compete in (not win) a race combining swimming, biking, and running. Yesterday last week a few weeks ago, I finally realized this goal. Having not trained at all, it seemed quite a task I had on my hand to even finish 250m swim, 14k bike, and 5k run. When I finally rounded the corner to the finish line, I felt so ecstatic, even more so when my partner finished a few minutes later. I’ve heard triathlons can be quite addicting and I look forward to competing in another, longer, race in the near future.
And here’s Chen running into the finish!
And a pic of some of the CrossFit Carrboro Crew!