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|First Triathlon Story
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Well. I did it. And that is an accomplishment I can be proud of. I completed my first Sprint Triathlon and while parts of it were not pretty, the medal that reads "FINISHER" is very pretty indeed.
First off, major props to CGI Racing and the organizers of the NJ State Triathlon because they put on a spectacular race and I'm glad that I chose this one as my very first tri. I chose this race as my goal way back in December of 2010 and started getting my body in shape to take it on. Training, as it turns out, is the easy part.
As the date grew closer, I began the training program in earnest and put in all the necessary time I thought would help get me through it. I'm a city boy so swimming was not and never has been my forte. I can "swim" but I've never swum competitively in any way, shape or form so this was going to be a new challenge all around.
I didn't own a road bike so I worked with the bike I had, a hybrid mountain bike with knobby tires. Every resource I looked up said to go with what you have if it's your first tri … so that's what i did.
As for running, I'd already run one NYC Marathon so I wasn't too worried about that part but I put in the time nonetheless.
I did my swim training at my local YMCA in a heated pool with straight lanes and a ground that I could touch easily anytime I needed to rest. (Hint: foreshadowing) When I first started, I could swim a length of the pool … and that was it. By the end of training, I was able to swim 500 yards straight with very tiny little breaks sprinkled throughout. Swimming made me discover muscles that I didn't realize I had. And apparently I was going to need ALL of them.
I biked all over my town and the next … and the next … and if I wasn't biking it, I was running it.
Finally, race day came and I was as prepared as I could be. I loaded up all my gear and took the trip down to the hotel where my family and I would be staying to avoid having to drive back and forth to the race. We arrived in town at about 4:00pm and stopped to grab some dinner. Afterwards, when we got back to the car, I noticed that my rear bike tire was flat. Seriously flat. It was now nearly 6:30 pm … 13 hours before the race and my tire was super-flat. A quick iPhone search turned up some local bike shops and Jay's Cycles in Princeton was nearby but was closing at 7:00pm. We raced over there and the guy who helped me replaced my inner tube in 10 minutes and sent me on my way with a working bike. I can't thank those guys enough because without them, I don't race.
A good night's sleep and an early rise and then it was race time. I felt great. i felt ready.
That is, until I actually had to swim 500 yards. Being in the lake was nothing at all like being in the pool. Even though the lake was a brisk 88F at race time, it was dark, murky and much deeper than the YMCA pool. But the race started and I wisely settled WAY in the back and began my swim in good rhythm. All the bodies ahead of me stayed ahead of me and gradually faded away from me while I adopted the slow and steady method. I made it 200 yards without any issues … and then … I hit the wall. And all of a sudden I felt like I had nothing left. I just felt tired … and the mental panic began creeping in. I wanted to put my feet down and rest for a second but there was no "down" put my feet onto. So I paddled to the first kayak I saw and took a breather. The lifeguard checked me over and after a bit of a rest, I was on my way again. Another 100 yards before I had to stop yet again. Another swimmer with black goggles, had also stopped with me but a lifeguard who had been tracking him called out to our lifeguard, "The guy with the black, if he stops again, take him. He's done." I felt terrible for the guy. But I swore there that I was NOT going to get pulled out of the water. From there out it was swim and rest wherever possible. After another 150 yards, and two more kayak stops, the finish line was in sight. I made one more quick stop to a lifeguard with a buoy who checked me over and urged me on. She offered to start pulling me in to shore and I said, "No. Thanks, but I have to finish this." And off I went … swimming with whatever I had left to make it … not to shore … but just to solid ground so I could walk if I had to. I swam in as far as I could and eventually my feet hit sand. I'm not ashamed to say that I stood up as quickly as I could and walked my way in to shore. But I made it to shore.
I was wiped out. Exhausted. I hobbled to the transition area where my bike was the last one on my rack and recouped as much as I could. And that's when the second wind hit me. I got my bike out to the course and hopped on and from there out, it was a cakewalk. I had a great bike ride and in the 98F heat, I was able to run a decent time … not walk … I was able to run every step.
I had hoped to finish between 1:30:00 and 1:45:00 for my first tri but I had to settle for 1:48:55. Of course, I have already vowed to return next year to get to my target time. Thanks Triathanewbie for being a part of it the whole way.
Jeof from New Jersey
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