I remember my first race like it was yesterday. The summer after my freshman year in college, my teammate asked me to do the swim part of the Great Lakes Triathlon in Ann Arbor, MI, with her cycling and running friend. I swam the 1/2 mile, no wetsuit, as fast as I could because I could not see anything and was a little anxious about being in a large body of water. The following year I completed the 1/2 mile swim, 12 mile bike and 4.5 mile run solo.
It went something like this:
Swim: I wore a speedo, no wetsuit, exited the water with a good size lead.
Transition 1: I had a bath of water to rinse the sand off my feet. I pulled a large LaLa Palazzo cotton T shirt and cotton spandex shorts over my swimsuit. I sat down in a lawn chair to put my socks and running shoes on before I mounted my mountain bike.
Bike: I rode a $200 mountain bike that I commuted on campus with and wore my mom’s gigantic helmet. I got passed by someone every mile along the 12-mile course.
Transition 2: I had my clothes and running shoes on, my bib number was pined to my T-shirt. Transition to the run was quick after I re-racked my bike.
Finish: First in my age group, age 19, 14th overall
Now, 28 year later, competing in triathlon goes something like this.
Swim: I wear a “tri kit” padded shorts and tank top underneath a wetsuit or swim skin. I believe the tri kits came out in late 90’s. Up to that point, I just wore my speedo swim suit for the entire race. I recall relying on my finish time after the event, never taking splits. Now I use a GPS watch to track my racing splits. Most of the races I still exit the water first in my age group.
T1: I am usually within 1-3 minute split depending how long the run is from the lake to the transition area. The first time I remember focusing on transition speed was went I lost a race by 12 seconds. Now I run as fast as I can to my bike. While running I start to peel off my wetsuit/swim-skin to my waist. When I get to my bike I remain standing and give one big pull down from my waist to ankles, step on it to get it off my feet. I quickly put on my glasses, helmet, socks and cycling shoes, then run to the mount line with my bike.
Bike: I only raced on a mountain bike for one season, then various road bikes for another 15 years. I started racing on a triathlon bike in 2009. Cycling is my favorite part of triathlon, although compared to my competitors, my weakness. I still get passed on the bike, not as frequently.
T2: Dismount at the line, run my bike and re-rack, take of helmet and cycling shoes, slip on running shoes, grab my racing belt, visor and run.
Run: While running out of t2 I wrap my racing belt around my waist and situate my visor. Depending on the distance of the triathlon I am competing in, sometimes I have fantastic runs, other times I struggle. It is just part of the learning curve and the challenge is what keeps me going.
Finish: Depending on the event and who shows up to race, I can still come across the finish line top 5, sometimes first Overall. No matter what placing I get, I always finish with a smile and gratitude for the ability to train and compete 28 years later.
For longevity in the sport, set a goal, train consistently and enjoy each experience. Do what you love, love what you do.
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