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First Triathlon Story

Ken Hsu

I finished my first triathlon three months ago. It was a standard distance triathlon at Dongshan River in Yilan, Taiwan. I have been in a few road races before and I have done lake swims too, but the combination and transition of the three sports required a lot more logistical preparation. It added a lot of excitement as well. I was lucky enough to have done it with three good friends and a cheering squad at the finish line.

I decided to register 3 months before the race day. I had been thinking about it for a couple of years now, but it's not really concrete until you actually register for the event.

I have been running consistently for three years now, and playing soccer most of my life, so I figured an Olympic distance race would be a good distance for me to start out. I drew out a training plan with the help and experience of a friend mixing swimming, biking, and running training into my soccer schedule. It was so very time consuming. My life was eat, train, sleep. And work. But work was a bit of an afterthought because the triathlon was all I was ever thinking about.

How fast can I finish? Can I make the split time limits? What am I going to wear? Is my bike good enough? Should I get sunglasses? They're a bit expensive maybe I should do without them. What about a trisuit? Would that be practical? Will I participate in triathlons after this? All these question swirled in my mind. I prepared for most of the issues, but because I had never actually done them before, I continued to rethink and replan them over and over.

My training was mostly focused on swimming. I wanted to improve my swimming technique, increase my swimming stamina, and become more comfortable in the water. For biking, I tried to become more familiar with the equipment. My friend taught me how to change a flat. I did a few runs to keep my legs active and threw in a few bricks. Training was good. Training was fun. But most of all training was about staying healthy and getting enough rest to train the next day. I missed a few workouts, but I let them slide. I'd make up for them, but only if I felt fresh enough to train. I adjusted my schedule quite a lot, often retroactively, but simply keeping a schedule was a good reminder and marker of my progress.

My friends and I were doing this on a budget. We didn't have the best equipment, or even the standard triathlon equipment. I found the cheapest lodging I could find. The seven of us set out for the trip.

On the day of the race, I was full of excitement. We biked there the day before, however, the organization told us there would be no checking of the bikes, so we had to bike there again the morning of the race. I set up my bike laid out my things and rethought the process an hour before the start.

How was I going to transition? What would I need for the swim? How much should I eat? Should I have another bite? Visualize. Goddamit. Visualize. Oh and also check out the other triathletes. Nice bike you got there. Damn, that guy's fit.

I started with the swim. I waited in the back of the heap and slowly passed people. The water was extremely murky. I couldn't see my hands in front of me. But what took me by surprise was that, in the water, people are not nice. They pushed and shoved, sometimes for no apparent reason. I think one guy did it deliberately, out of spite. I have to take some of the blame too. I am not a straight swimmer. I constantly adjusted my course, coming up every 20 meters to realign my swim. After zigzagging the whole way, I came out at 41 minutes.

The bike was more fun. People seemed a lot nicer. You could catch your breath or push the pace. There's a lot more control. The scenery is also nice. I pedaled pretty hard, even on the hills, where I should probably have eased up. I finished the bike leg in 70.

Transition to the running was not as bad as I anticipated. However, very quickly I discovered that I had pressed too hard in the bike and my thighs were letting up. I had to stop a couple of times to stretch and ease.

The heat was really picking up now. My fellow runners and I took big gulps at every water station, but the heat was unrelenting. I finished the run in 57 minutes.

Race day was a blast! I was smiling the whole way. Okay, swimming was not that great. I need to learn how to swim straight, but it was challenging nonetheless, and challenging is fun! I thoroughly enjoyed the entire journey from the training and preparation to the trip to the day of the race. I got to speak to some veterans. And I was with good friends the entire time.

Ken from Taiwan, R.O.C.

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