Signing up for anything that you have never done before can be intimidating. Whether it’s your first race, first marathon, or first triathlon, the thought “can I do it?” always crosses the mind. But, even with all the bumps along the way, there’s no better feeling than accomplishing your goal. The following is by Lori Brown who completed her first triathlon and came in first in her age group this past summer!
For years family and friends kept telling me I should do a triathlon. After competing in a team triathlon last year and doing the swim leg, I got the bug and finally decided to sign up for a sprint triathlon this past August.
I’ve been a swimmer since I was 11 years old. I started swimming before I started running. I did both track and swimming in Highschool, so when it came time to choose which I would pursue in college I decided on swimming. I can’t pinpoint an exact reason why I chose swimming, but seeing my sister pursue it and going on college visits to meeting the coach and potential teammates, I knew it was for me. When I graduated college, I also graduated from swimming. Mentally and physically I was done, and it was time to start running again. Knowing that I had what most would say the hardest part down; swimming, it made sense that I finally decided to give a triathlon a shot.
Since triathlon season is so short (I believe May through September) and it was a late decision to sign up for one, there weren’t many left to choose from. My sister and I wanted to do one together and finding a weekend we both had free was a challenge. We signed up for the Sprint TOBAY Triathlon located in Oyster Bay, Long Island, that would take place at the end of August 2018. We had only signed up a few months beforehand.
Lori (right) with her sister.
Well, I can honestly say I had no plan and not a ton of training was involved. After the Boston Marathon I knew I would need a rest from running, and I kept telling myself to sign up for the pool again (I swim at the Corona Park Aquatics Center). I needed to get back in swim shape, so I wouldn’t drown. I kept procrastinating and about a week after Boston I went for a run (more like a super light jog) and came down on my foot funny. Thinking nothing of it, while dealing with constant pain and swelling, 2 weeks later I decided to get it checked. The diagnosis, a sprained ligament in my ankle. What did this mean? Rest, ice, and physical therapy. That was my sign I needed to swim. I signed up for the pool and the indoor bike became my best friend. I did some light running and let it heal. About 4-5 weeks later the swelling was completely gone, so I started “training for the run.”
I don’t own a bike, so the stationary bike was my only option to get on one. A couple times when I was out in Hauppauge to see my parents, I used my mom’s hybrid bike to get outside and went on a few rides with my dad. That was the bike I would use for the race (not ideal). I never practiced any transitions, so on race day I hoped for the best.
There was just one more bump in the rode; a couple weeks or so before the triathlon I developed bad tendinitis in my left foot, I knew my only option was to get a cortisone shot (this wasn’t the first time). I made an appointment 3 days out and I was lucky that it was enough months since my last shot to get one. Unfortunately, it didn’t kick in as fast as it usually does, and the pain was there come race day (oh well, “I could survive a 5K” was my thinking).
A couple days before the race and after debating back and forth with myself I decided to buy a triathlon suit mainly because my sister bought one and I am super competitive (and wanted one myself). I was ready! Go big or go home right?
My parents, being as supportive as they are, woke up at 4:30am to drive my sister and I out to the race to cheer us on. Lucky for us the weather was perfect! We got there before sunrise and set up our transition area. I felt like a lost puppy. I had no idea what to do. With my sister’s help I got my area set up and I was ready.
Smiling through the run section of the triathlon.
A visual of what the transition area looked like: there were a ton of bike racks in rows, with limited space between each bike. You are assigned a number to where you would mount your bike and prepare your area. In my area I had a towel to wipe off my feet, my sneakers, socks, my Garmin watch, a water bottle, my helmet, and my race number for the run, all strategically placed.
My sister, also a swimmer, knew we could try to stay together for the swim. We stood in the water shivering just a bit waiting for the gun to go off. The gun goes off and I immediately lose my sister, the water being so dark made it difficult to see. The other people kicking me also didn’t help. (Really it was a great time)! Making sure the big orange buoys stayed to my left I passed a ton of people. When I got to the end and stood up out of the water, my sister was right in front of me. We were one of the first women out of the water. I ran out pulling off my cap and goggles, gave my parents a wave and transitioned to the bike. I wiped off my feet, put my sneakers, socks, watch and helmet on, dismounted my bike off the rack, and I was off.
I knew this section would be where I would lose ground. With the lack of a racing bike and not much practice I hopped on my bike and rode as fast as I could. The course involved some rolling hills. A few people zoomed past me. Toward the end of the bike section two girls in my age group (AG) passed me. I knew they were in my age group because each person has their gender and age marked on their arm and calf. In my head I knew I would catch them on the run. I made that a goal for myself. The bike ride came to an end, I hopped off ran with my bike back to the transition area, mounted my bike on the rail, took my helmet off, attached my bib, and transitioned to the run.
Making the 20 minute 5K run look like a breeze.
After re-tying my sneakers and losing some time, I shot off. I saw my parents again, gave them another wave and a smile, and passed my sister immediately. The first 1.6 miles was completely uphill (pure torture). I passed the first girl in my AG who had passed me going up and the second girl when I was coming down. I now knew I was first in my AG. I took advantage of the downhill and picked up the pace. I saw the finish and started sprinting as fast as I could (knowing that there was free beer at the end). With a huge smile on my face, knowing I was about done, I saw my parents one more time, gave them yet another wave and smile and crossed the finish line, placing first in my age group.
I did it! First triathlon complete! Off to the beer! It was an amazing experience. I had so much fun and right there I knew I wanted to do more triathlons. The goal next year in 2019 is to do both a sprint and an Olympic distance triathlon (longer than a sprint; a mile swim, a 25 mile bike ride, and a 10k run), giving myself more time to train.
Train for the swim section. The swim is really where you can gain or lose time. Get comfortable in the water. Swimming in a pool and swimming in open water are very different. If you have the ability to practice in open water, I would suggest that. Unfortunately, I was not able to do that. I would also recommend practicing transitions, mine were slow and I lost a good amount of time. I watched a couple of YouTube videos on transitions which I found helpful, and I would recommend watching those as well in preparation. I would also highly recommend getting a triathlon suit, it makes your transitions faster since you can complete the swim, bike ride, and run in it. I got mine off Amazon. My last piece of advice would be to just have fun doing it, and it is a great accomplishment!
Until next year!