I am not a “runner”. I “ran” track in high school, but excelled more at the social aspect. I am not a “swimmer”. I have always known how to swim, was a lifeguard and still casually swim, but never competitively. I am not a “biker” (in any sense of the word). I loved biking as a kid and still do if I’m in the right mood, but competitively? No.
So obviously, a triathlon sounds like it would be right up my alley!
At the time (2009), I was living in Chicago and my boss Catherine encouraged me to join her triathlon training group. At first, it was an easy, hell no. Then I found myself more and more inspired by the people around me. I had friends running marathons, which was not (and still isn’t) appealing to me. At that point I had already run a half marathon and that was 13.1 miles too long.
However, something about the sprint triathlon interested me. The race started with 1/2 mile lake swim, followed by a 12 mile bike ride and ending with 3.1 mile run. Even more intriguing to me, this particular sprint triathlon was women only. I made the decision to sign-up and join a training group with my boss called Together We Tri.
Looking back, the hardest part was the 3 months of training. We met every Wednesday evening and every Saturday morning as a team and were expected to train on our own all other days. In the beginning, we’d do something different each session: one only swimming, the next running, then biking, then back to swimming and so on. The variety definitely help break up the monotony of training.
As the race got closer, we started to move the workouts outside and have brick sessions (meaning we would combine 2 activities). Let me tell you, my first swim in Lake Michigan was the closest I got to calling it quits and I do not quit what I’ve started. It was challenging and honestly, a little scary. Looking down into a pool is one thing, looking down into a massive lake is an entirely different monster (pretty sure I saw 1 or 2).
Training was quite the experience. Late nights, early mornings. Skinned knees and falls while I learned to clip in on my bike, freezing swims in Lake Michigan, chaotic runs and rides along the lakefront and many days where I didn’t think I could go another minute. But I did. With the encouragement from my training team and my stubbornness, I pushed myself more than I ever had before.
When the day of the race finally came, I was excited but mostly very nervous. My parents had come to cheer me on, because, of course they did. They are amazing. I’m an extremely competitive person, but this race for me was solely about completing it no matter how long it took.
When the swim started, I stayed back a moment and let the arms and legs fly. Once I got started, my mind was clear and I was focused. I could do this. I was doing this. I believe 90% of the swim is mental. It would be easy to panic in the middle of a lake, especially when you can’t even see a few feet down.
Once the swim once complete, I was on a high — I had done it! Had to remind myself I had 2 more stages. I learned after the race that I had cut off almost 4 minutes from my fastest training swim. The bike was challenging, but a beautiful ride. By the time I got to the run, my short little legs were struggling.
But, I made it through, crossed the finish line and completed my first triathlon! I remember being so happy in that moment, tears of pride running down my cheeks (and exhaustion) as I hugged my parents. I was so proud of myself for doing something I never thought I could or would do.