What it feels like to be a triathlete

This year has been a lot of ups and downs for me.

I started off with an injury. That kiboshed my spring marathon plans. But I healed well and I came back with a spring half-marathon PR. In the summer, my family moved to Bangor. And with that, I lost the drive & focus to do my early summer and fall marathons. I gained 10 pounds. Other priorities have pushed athletic goals out of the way for 2013, and I wondered if I should even keep writing this blog, because I hate starting every post off like an apology for not being a great healthy role model.

But today — I got to cross another thing off the list. I completed my first triathlon. :)

It was a spontaneous decision, really.  I signed up for the Black Bear Triathlon at UMaine Campus Rec on Thursday. Minimal tri-sport training went into this.  I’ve been running 3-4 miles a day 5 days a week for the past two months and that’s mostly what I’ve been doing to keep fit. I probably got wet or rode my bike less than a dozen times this summer.

But I felt pretty confident. (Even if I question my fitness to run a half-marathon right now.)

Gettin’ my gear together before the race

So I did finish. I didn’t even do that badly!

The race was a sprint — 600 yard swim, 12.8 mile bike and 5K run. My final time was 1:31:26. It wasn’t chip-timed, so I have no idea what the splits and transitions were, other than that I got out of the water at 12 minutes and I passed the UCU clock at about mile 11 of the bike course at 58 minutes.

I had no idea what to expect, and with that high bar set (/sarcasm) I had a great time. I don’t know if I’d ever run a marathon again, because triathlons go by so much faster.

The swim

Was an in-pool start. I got a lane to myself at the end of the pool. I focused on relaxing and having a really efficient stroke because I had no idea what to expect at the end of this. The girl in the lane next to me was pretty fast, so I had the fear that I would be the last one out of the pool, which made me hurry it up. (But when I got out that wasn’t the case.)

As I was swimming I thought, “I like this and I’m kinda OK at it. I should swim more.”

The bike

I was the fifth person into transition for my wave but  the fourth out of transition. I have a feeling that of these three sports, cycling is the one I am least skilled at. That is to say, after 3+ years of running and a lifetime of swimming it is my fitness that matters in those sports more than my technique. In cycling, I still have a lot to learn.

This was a small race — maybe 40 people? — and there were 15 women in my wave. I barely saw anyone on the bike course, except at the turn-around points.

I felt really good, and I wondered how I would feel on the run, because I haven’t done very many brick workouts. So I didn’t push very hard. I remember thinking at the half way point that this felt like it was going by so much faster than a half-marathon.

The run

I had hopes that perhaps I could catch one of the three women ahead of me on the run, but I never saw them. When I got off my bike I understood why it was called a “brick” workout. I especially felt tired in my hamstrings and sore in my knees. But it also felt really good to wear warm sneakers after the bike cleats!

One of the men from the heat behind me passed me on the run. And that was the only competitor during the whole race that I saw on the same part of the course as myself.

In the end 

It was a gorgeous day and a flat course and I’m glad to say I did it. I am sure it won’t be my last triathlon.

I get why so many Type A people like to do these. It takes so much more logistics than a road race. I had to show up with three bags of stuff for three sports and despite a careful checklist, I forgot my race number belt at home. (At least that was it!)

I think I have potential doing this. I’m not really great at any of these sports but I think I can get pretty good at most of them. And it was a lot more … eventful … than just running for 120-ish minutes.

Pattie Reaves

About Pattie Reaves

I'm the User Experience and Audience Manager for the Bangor Daily News. I live in Bangor with my husband, Tony, and our two pugs, Georgia and Scoop.