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|First Triathlon Story - Just Do It!
I participated in my first triathlon this morning (a sprint: 500 yd swim; 14 mi bike; 5K run) and had a great time!
I didn't really know how to feel the morning of. I was confident I could do it but my competitive side worried about my abilities to achieve my time goals. I came up with all sorts of possible disasters (alligator attacks, tire blowouts...) to be nervous about.
I arrived and got to the body marking area where I got confused about what age I was supposed to give and ended up a year older according to my leg. It was nice to have something laughable go wrong to help with the jitters over more major things.
I set up my transition and jogged around a bit, did some stretches, and chatted with my friends who came to support me. Soon, it was time to swim.
I had been very worried about water temperature. It was 72* but since the air was chillier the water felt totally fine. I did struggle to maintain a steady breathing pattern which probably cost me some time on the swim (I drank a LOT of lake water). I got stuck behind a group who zig-zagged a lot, making it too hard to pass them, and some faster swimmers from the heat after mine came through us pretty aggressively. I stood up too early and was pretty sure I already killed my legs getting out of the water, but I fought through and headed to T1.
T1 was simple: squirt feet with fresh water, fight with socks, get shoes on, helmet on, grab bike, go! I borrowed a friend's road bike last minute so I was nervous but once I mounted and was off the bike leg was so much fun; I finally understood why people enjoy cycling. No real problems to speak of aside from some wind from distant Hurricane Sandy and a bit of traffic, some inconsiderate.
T2 was also simple: bike racked, helmet off, belt on, go! My belt wasn't adjusted tightly enough and I kept having to push it down over my hips to stop the bouncing. I popped three sport beans in the first mile and got a gulp of water at the mile marker. After that I just ran; there was a sandy patch that was tough but the trail run was a lot of fun. I was very surprised at my ultimate run time given that I'd already swam and biked.
I blew my "public" goal out of the water and even managed to beat my personal one that I was afraid to share with people. Despite all of the fears and hesitations, I had a great time today and am so happy that I can now call myself a triathlete.
Advice? Just do it. Also, the bicycle makes all the difference in the world; if you are on a hybrid or mountain bike, realize that if the competition was based on amount of effort, you'd probably blow almost everyone else away (I rode the course on a hybrid a week before the race and wasn't sure I was going to make it; my time on race day was faster by 20 minutes or so). If people come plowing over you during the swim, don't be afraid to physically push them away--safety is paramount.
If a race near you offers pre-race clinics, it's a sign that it will be a GREAT first-timer's race. I had done a shortened version of the swim and the entire bike and run courses before race day which made me way more comfortable.
Also, don't freak out about transitions. It'll all probably come relatively naturally.
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