What I Learned From My First Triathlon

Here goes:

1. It’s emotionally challenging to continue training after successfully completing a race. If I hadn’t already been registered for another sprint tri, I may probably would have immediately wanted to sign up for another one. Who knows. All I know is that the day after, I really did not want to continue training for three sports. I gave myself a rest day and on Tuesday it was back into the pool and my running shoes. Each day this week has been better than the last and I’m back in the groove. Still, I know that after California Sprint Tri, I’ll be ready to switch mental gears. I plan to swim twice and cycle at least once a week during marathon training in case I want to do another tri this season. I enjoy swimming and cycling and I think they’ll provide a nice relief from alllll the running. What I need is emotional closure to this training cycle.

*** In the future: I’m not sure how I will schedule my race calendar next season. I’m still learning as I go but I imagine I will give myself more time between events and have clearer expectations for each one. I intended for Mermaid Tri to be a “practice” race for California Sprint but since it was my first one, I couldn’t help but have a lot of investment in the outcome.

2. Detailed preparation and practice is absolutely worth it. So much of triathlon is out of your control. You can’t anticipate someone kicking you in the eye, getting a flat (thank Jeebus I didn’t) or the performance of the people around you. You can control your own training and preparation. Every article I read, every time I practiced transitioning in my living room like a total nerd, every annoying interaction in the pool prepared me for race day. And you know what? I still forgot my helmet. I can’t even imagine what a shitshow it would have been had I not taken the time to visualize and practice every aspect of my race experience.

*** In the future: I will not leave T1 without my helmet. Naturally. I will continue to practice all aspects of racing so they become second nature. I will learn to change a flat because I got incredibly lucky not to have one and I think racing again without that skill is really tempting fate.

3. I lack swimming fitness. This is not news but with every gasping breath, every other stroke, I was reminded of how unfit I am as a swimmer. I need a lot more practice swimming in open water. There are so many elements (other people, sighting, gunky sea gunk) that distract me from good swimming technique. During the swim, it occurred to me that I would have to swim twice that distance in a few weeks and all I could think was “I can’t do that.” Shit.

*** In the future: The solution to this is two-fold: become a much stronger swimmer so that technique is second nature and practice swimming in open water. Swim a lot more. Continue to enjoy the fact that I really like being in open water and that the only thing holding me back from being a BEAST on the swim is my swimming. No problem!

4. I have potential in this sport. I had this thought on the bike leg. As I passed lady after lady on my platform pedals, HR in zone 2, I smiled knowing that this is only the beginning for me. I have no illusions that I will ever be an elite athlete but I know that I can be a much stronger swimmer, a faster runner, and most ironically, I think I could be a powerful cyclist.

*** In the future: Longer, faster, harder, smarter, stronger….

Hills, track workouts, swimming toys, clipless pedals, training buddies, nutrition strategy, HR training, OWS…

5. Photos shouldn’t be taken from below.

Could you please stand up, sir?

Could you please stand up, sir?

*** In the future: continue to seek out the photographer and smile at them. Also continue to bring a loved one to races who can get amazing photos and videos like Tim did. STANDING.

6. I need contacts and sunglasses. I look like an idiot in my glasses.

*** In the future: get contacts and sunglasses. Don’t look like an idiot.

7. Don’t get caught up in the details and forget about the work. While I was generally happy with my preparation and visualization, I realized as I was getting tired on the bike that it was hard! I hadn’t fully appreciated what it would feel like to “race” these events back to back. I wasn’t considerably faster in the race than I was in training but I definitely came to play. And on legs that had run a 5k PR the day before. I didn’t push myself nearly as hard as I could have out of fear of blowing up and it was still more tiring than I think I expected!

*** In the future: train harder and get even more comfortable with being uncomfortable. As I continue to get more confident with my handling skills, I can really start pushing my pace on the bike. (Clipping in will make a significant difference and as soon as funds allow, I’ll get myself some shoes and new pedals.) I know what it feels like to run hard but I still have a lot of opportunity for growth there too. Ideally, I would be able to do speed-work before race week (!) and future work will reflect that.

8. Triathletes are lovely and cool. Everyone I struck up conversation with was super nice. Since I was racing alone, those pleasant interactions made the whole experience so much more enjoyable. I walk a very weird line between introversion and extroversion. I love meeting new people but it makes me very nervous to put myself out there. Facing so many other fears in this process has made the social stuff a lot easier and I’m so glad.

*** In the future: take a risk and try to turn those pleasant interactions into friendships and training buddies! If I’m gonna ride 50 miles, I’m gonna need friends to do it with!

9. Triathlon is amazing. It’s intense. It’s hard. I’m overwhelmed and intrigued by it. I think I’m really, really into it.

*** In the future:

Wouldn’t you like to know?


3 thoughts on “What I Learned From My First Triathlon

  1. Curious what your swim training was prior to this week (e.g. how many weeks, time per week, etc). Trying to understand how long it might take to go from zero (my first session was today) to a sprint distance in the swim.

    • Shauna says:

      Hey John-

      I aimed to swim three times a week but I ended up doing two swims most weeks. The swim distances of my tri plan felt way to short so I incorporated Ruth Kazez’s 0-1650 plan. I highly recommend you check that out. I did it back in January and it totally works. In retrospect, I wish I had just done that plan from the start and followed it to the letter. It will get you to a mile in 6 weeks, assuming you are at least comfortable in the water. I had no experience swimming freestyle when I started it!

  2. tks – i’ll check it out

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