I Tried A Tri (and I Liked It!)

I Tried A Tri - Oswegoland Park District Triathlon

On Sunday August 7th I competed in my first triathlon and absolutely loved it! But in order to really understand my motivation behind signing up we have to go back to almost a year ago.

In December of 2010, Jeff & I went to a tweet-up in Wrigleyville hosted by Ev Bogue and Colin Wright where we met a bunch of amazing bloggers. Two people, among those awesome folks we met, were Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. These amazing guys write essays about minimalism and living a meaningful life on their blog over at The Minimalists. They’ve helped to fuel our motivation to get rid of the unnecessary clutter around our house over the course of the last few months.

After chatting with Joshua for a while, we also spent some time talking with Joel Runyon. Joel inspires people to do the impossible over on his Blog of Impossible Things. The goal he was working on at that time was the 100 Push-up Challenge but in addition to that Joel & I got into talking about triathlons.

Completing a triathlon was always something on my list of things I wanted to accomplish but it was one of those things that just sat in the back of my mind, waiting, as something I told myself I would eventually do. After talking to Joel for a little while he sparked my interest A LOT and by the time we left he had turned that “hmmm I’d like to do that someday” thought into a “I can totally do this RIGHT NOW, what am I waiting for” thought. And this past weekend Joel completed his 8th triathlon at the 2011 Life Time Chicago Triathlon, which Jeff and I were able to attend and help cheer him on. We’ve posted some shots from the event here.

Fast forward a few months to a few days after SXSXi and Joel tweeted something talking about how he was all signed up for his second triathlon. He was sending those motivational vibes to me again and may not have even known it. That tweet kicked my ass into gear, he was already doing his second one and I hadn’t even registered for my first! I immediately enrolled in the tri I had been eyeballing over the course of the last four months well actually it was three years and I set my goal to complete the I Tried A Tri event with the Oswegoland Park District in the beginning of August.

Fast forward a few months again and that brings us to the weekend of Sunday August 7th when I competed in (and completely rocked! from my perspective) my first triathlon.

I can’t say that I did a lot of training. I mean I got a pool pass for the summer at our local pool. I started swimming regularly ran a 5K in the beginning of June with my little sister, ran a 4 mile race on the 4th of July with my friend Chrissy, made biking around town my go-to for most of my transportation and completed a 25 mile bike ride through downtown Chicago with Jeff at the L.A.T.E ride, just for fun. All of this, I believe, helped me prepare for the triathlon.

Which brings us to the actual event day. Jeff & I were one of the first five people to arrive around 6:15am Sunday morning. (I know, early for us right?!) I wanted to get there early so I could see how everything was organized and positioned and not have to rush. I should have taken a walk, run or ride around the actual path (more on this later) but decided to just hang out and relax. Our friend Alan arrived right at 7am so we chatted with him for a while. Around 7:30am everyone met up for an information meeting to explain how the event was going to work and then everyone got into their numerical order and the first swimmer jumped in the pool at 8 o’clock sharp.

Segment 1: The 200 meter Swim

This event was created for the newbie triathloner, meaning the distances are not your regular sprint, olympic or ironman distances and the swim segment happens in a pool, which is exactly what I wanted, so this was a perfect event for me. The way it was organized was the pool had all the lap lanes separated by the lane lines and each swimmer would jump in 30 seconds apart, swim down and back then go under the lane line, down and back again, etc. for a total of 200 meters.

Alan’s number was farther ahead of me so I was able to talk to him all the way up until he jumped in. I was able to cheer him on throughout his swim and then I was left to wait. When it was my turn to get in I was so excited! I wound up lapping a person in every lane – if you see the picture below, that meant that at some point there were three (or more) people swimming across the lane – ya, kinda crazy…but totally fun.

Transition 1

A week prior to the event I was looking into buying some new Vibram Five Finger shoes and came across the Flow. I remember reading about the transitions Joel had done with his triathlon and tried to read up as much as I could and brainstorm the best way to go about not loosing time during the transitions. What I came up with was the idea to wear my Flow shoes in the water as I swam, since they were made to go in water and on the road, then when I got out of the pool I wouldn’t have to waste time changing shoes and could just throw on my shorts & helmet and take off. That is exactly what I did and my transition time was almost non-existant.

Segment 2: The 6.5 mile Bike

After I hopped on the bike I started cruising. I felt really good after completing that swim and felt really motivated after having passed a few people and I knew the bike portion was going to be my golden spot. I mean, yes, we did ride 38 miles to get to this event the day before so that just meant 6.5 miles was going to be cake! As I was going, I was passing more and more people and feeling better and better about the entire event. I followed the arrows and the people standing at each intersection and as I got closer to the finish line I could hear all the people screaming. When I saw the finish line as I rounded the bend I also was able to see Jeff, his parents, my cousin Linda and Alan with his family all screaming for me and that just pumped me up even more. As I was pulling closer to the finish line I was afraid I was going to roll over the guys there to take my bike but they were screaming to slow down so I did and I felt great going into the run, which just so happen to be the part I was dreading the most. I mean who came up with this order (swim, bike, run) in the first place? And why would they put the most strenuous activity at the end of the event?

Transition 2

I don’t know how it works for any other triathlons but once I hopped off my bike the guys at the finish line took it and my helmet and I took off running. My transition time was literally no time what-so-ever. There was no need to change my shoes or do anything else so I took off.

Segment 3: The 2.1 mile Run

At first I was a little confused when I took off because there wasn’t anyone around after I dropped my bike and helmet but there was another guy starting his run so I followed along. I had passed so many people on my bike ride that we were the only two people around. I remember what they said in the paperwork since I read it so many times: “follow the arrows with traffic for the bike ride and the arrows against traffic for the run” so I found the arrows on the ground and took off following them until I came to an intersection where the arrows turned right. The guy who I had started running with had already gotten ahead of me and was continuing straight.

I decided to follow my gut and turn, I was following the arrows on the ground like they said to do and figured he must have been the one who was wrong. Now imagine running around in one of those maze of a sub-division where streets connect to other streets and you get lost like a rat following the scent of cheese. That was me, following the yellow arrows until they just disappeared. I turned onto a street because I heard cheering so I started to kick it up a notch until I realized what I was running towards was the back end of the finish line! In other words it was where I had ended my bike portion and started the run…and I had just ran an additional 1.2-1.8 miles more than I needed to and had come out on the wrong side of the finish line. THE WRONG SIDE!

That’s when I realized, I HAD BEEN THE ONE WHO WENT THE WRONG WAY even though I was following the arrows like they said to do. :( There was nothing else I could do but start over. This was a timed event and I had done so well passing people on the swim and the bike segments that I was hoping my run was not going to hold me back too much. After running those additional miles I decided to pump it and try to run faster than I would normally. I wanted to pass all the people who had obviously just passed me and was doing good until I hit a hill and had to slow down. Before I knew it I heard those cheers again and decided to sprint as fast as I could for the finish.

The Aftermath

After I crossed the finish line, caught my breath, got some fruit and water from the stand I met up with the group of “fans” I had with me. :) It was time for the big reveal, I had to tell them about my little mishap. Jeff was wondering why it had taken me longer than he expected and I was kinda pissed at the extra time that had to be added for no reason. My cousin Linda was adamant that I mention something to someone and the organizer just happened to be walking past at that very moment. She stopped and asked what was wrong, I explained my situation and she gave the answer I was expecting “well I’m sorry that happened but there’s nothing we can do about that now”. It didn’t make it any easier but just knowing someone actually knew what happened made me feel a little better.

Final Standing

In the end we waited to hear the results before we left and here’s how I placed:

  • 4th place on the swim segment
  • 1st place on the bike segment
  • 16th place on the run segment

Final standing: I placed 10th out of 16 in the Womens 20-29 age group which I think was a damn fine job, especially considering I ran almost double the distance I needed to for the entire event!

On the way home I was searching for the next one and setting my next triathlon goal. Eventually I’d really love to do the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon, but I’ll definitely have to work my way up to that one.

The next triathlon I do will be a sprint distance for sure and I’ll absolutely do the Oswegoland event again next year, but follow the correct path this time. :) I’ve already told Alan to plan on signing up. Overall I’m really excited to do another tri and am so glad Joel was there to push me to actually pull the trigger to sign up!

What have you done lately where you’ve decided to just go for it? Have you done a triathlon? Let’s do one together. :)