A few Sunday’s ago Nate and I headed to Norman to do our first triathlon. There are some things in my life that I look back on like my first 5K race. I’m glad I did it, but I have a lot more negative than good feelings for it. Thankfully this tri was not like that.
Saturday I gathered up all my gear and laid it out. I was pretty nervous so it was nice to plan out what was going on my person when I left in the morning, and how I would set up my transition area. I tried to go to bed early that night, but that didn’t go so well and I ended up laying in bed for a couple of hours just thinking of things to remember to do while I raced.
The next day we arrived in Norman around 5:45 a.m., checked our bikes into the transition area (where you change your gear from swim/bike and bike/run) and then checked ourselves in, got our timing bands, and got our numbers and age marked on our bodies. Everyone I talked to and asked for tips from the entire morning was super nice. I stopped a couple of people who looked like seasoned triathletes and asked if people wore their flip-flops to the pool or just went barefoot. (No one wears their flip-flops to the pool.)
They offered a swim warm up from 6-7 a.m. before the pre-race meeting at 7:15. I originally didn’t plan to warm up because I don’t do a big swim warm up and I didn’t want to be wet and cold. But one of the lifeguards made a comment, “Aren’t you going to warm up?”, and I decided why not. However when I had to hop out and wait 45 minutes to start my race in a cold gym I wished I’d skipped the warm up. I’ll remember for next time.
This race included a snake swim in a pool (up and down the lane, cross under the rope, up and down the lane, etc.), and they’d start a racer every 15 seconds. When you register they ask for your expected swim time so they can line you up accordingly and hopefully minimize passing. I had been wondering all along how they’d get us all in line according to our swim time. Turns out your race number is what number you are in line to start! Number 87 worked out just fine for me (Nate was 111). I was pretty nervous at my start, and on the recommendation of a lady in line next to me tried to make a shallow entry into the water so time wasn’t wasted swimming back up to the surface, but I ended up nearly belly flopping. I swam pretty smoothly though passing two people (nearly passed a third on the last lap), and no one passed me. The timing mat you had to cross to stop your swim time was down the hall and out the door, so my swim time was longer on paper, but pretty spot on for what I hoped.
My first transition (taking off cap and goggles, putting on race number, shoes, gloves, helmet, and hopping on my bike) I was a little slow on. I see why people practice changing between things! Thankfully I didn’t forget anything and headed out.
The bike course aside from a few hills, one GIANT hill, and some wind was great. They had lots of volunteers directing you which way to go, and they were even smiling and cheering participants on which always motivates me. When the wind was at my back (or anyway other than straight on really) I felt awesome and pedaled hard. Nate and I crossed paths when he was probably 1/2 a mile from the turn around and I was 1/2 a mile past it. I just gave him a thumbs up. I had a few people pass me on the bike, but thanks to the age markings on their calves I know they were all old (40-60), so I was OK with that and impressed with them! The other part I remember best from the bike was going back up the GIANT hill. It was awesome coming down, and I even tried to make myself aerodynamic like the pros do to gain a little, but going up was rough. When I was nearly to the top there were a few spectators and one goes, “You’re almost to the top, and it’s flat when you get there!” Thanks guy that was some good motivation!
Coming back into the transition from the bike is an insane feeling on your legs. I’d heard that it was, so several times after a bike workout at the gym I’d hop on the treadmill and run a mile or so. At the gym it was never a big deal, so I know I was pushing harder on the bike that day. When I got off and tried to jog my legs were like jello, and I decided walking for a bit was probably a good idea. I changed shoes, abandoned my bike gear, and jogged out of the transition as Nate wheeled his bike in.The weather was absolutely fantastic that day and I really hoped the adrenaline and everything would push me to a slightly faster run time than I’d been pounding out at the gym every week. But it was not to be. I’m much better at running than I was 4 months ago, but I’ve still got plenty of room to improve. The run was tough. Nate caught up to me 1/2 a K in, and I ran with him for a bit, but slowed down to a walk again pretty quickly. People of all ages passed me, and I let them and just focused on getting myself to the finish. I walked a whole lot more than I’d hoped to, but in the end my run split was right on with my training times, so I can’t be too upset. The best part was coming around that last corner. I looked up and saw the finish line and just knew that I had to give it everything I had left. There were some volunteers that saw me pick up my pace and cheered at me to pass the guy I was gaining on. I passed him and cheered him on. Right after I passed him I got a little concerned that I couldn’t hold my pace to the finish line, but I somehow managed to and crossed the line. I even remembered to give a little smile for the camera!
And that was that! I finished in just under an hour and 39 minutes (Nate finished in 1:23:25). I was happy and really tired. Surprisingly my muscles only felt tired and never got sore in the days following. I still feel incredibly proud of myself for being prepared enough to finish a triathlon! It’s been a goal for a while, but I didn’t seriously know if I’d ever be able to check it off the list. Now I’m looking forward to doing another one. I’ll definitely consider the Tie-Dye Tri again because it was very well-organized (zero complaints) and a great tri for a first timer.
Swim: 9:47 Swim place: 21
T1: 3:27 T1 place: 84
Bike: 48:18 Bike place: 53
T2: 2:11 T2 place: 78
Run: 35:08 Run place: 65
Tips if you’re going to do a tri:
- Practice the going under the ropes part of the snake swim.
- Invest in a tri suit or something that you can swim, bike and run in without changing. I found one for $25 on steepandcheap.com. Some people wore their swim suits the whole time, but I’ve run in mine before and knew that wouldn’t be comfortable for me. Once you get your race outfit try it out before the race to make sure it’s comfortable to compete in.
- Have a good pair of running shoes.
- Practice at least doing the full bike and run distances all in one go before the race. If you’re not a strong swimmer you might go ahead and practice all three.
- Time your swim, so you have an accurate time for the registration. I worried that people would fib and I’d get stuck behind people who exaggerated their swim time, but at least for this race the people around me did a good job.
- I was also worried about passing people on the swim, but it wasn’t too crowded, and I didn’t have a problem. I’d tap them on the foot as we got close to the wall, and then flip turn off the wall ahead of the person I was passing.
- If you have concerns or questions do some research. There are tons of tips for beginning triathletes lists and forums where someone has probably already asked your question. My big awkward question was, do I wear underwear? People in forums overwhelmingly say no.
- A smaller tri might be a good fit for your first. The Tie-Dye Tri was capped at 300 participants. It wasn’t too crowded, and I didn’t have to worry about things like having trouble finding my bike in the transition.
Things for me to remember for next time:
- Bring a throw away water bottle to have before the swim.
- Race number belt. They make a belt that holds your race number so you can clip it to your body after the swim rather than trying to pin your number on with shaking hands.
- Take it easy on the gummy energy. They’re probably entirely unnecessary for a sprint tri, but the ones I had tasted good. However you’re supposed to drink a lot of water while eating them, and by the end of the race I’d had a couple too many gummies and not enough water which caused a bit of a tummy ache.
- Skip the swim warmup.