Monday, December 19, 2011

How I got into triathlon

As part of an effort to encourage applicants for the new spot on Team Evotri, it's current members each wrote about how he or she got into triathlon. They consolidated all their stories here.  

They also encouraged others to write about their own triathlon story if they felt so inspired.  Apparently I have been inspired to do so, because here is my story:  

I've been a runner as long as I can remember. I've never been fast. Middle-of-the-pack when I'm well-trained, back-of-the-pack when I'm not.

I remember the first time I ever saw a triathlon was in high school, watching the Kona Ironman on television. I thought, "I think I could do that. Someday I will."   And that was all the more I thought about it for a long time. It would pop into my head now and again, but the resounding thought was "someday I will".  Emphasis on the "someday". 

Fast forward through the years where I had other priorities: boyfriends, friends, work, getting married, even owning a small business for a while. I continued to run on and off through these years, even fitting in my first couple marathons. But boy does training for a marathon take a lot of time, and I was only in my 20's, surely time was something I had plenty of, right?  

Well, life changes faster than you realize and I found myself a 34-year-old stay-at-home mom.  Wait a second, I thought, how old am I??? Already???  I knew it would realistically take a couple years (at least) for me to be ready for a full Ironman.  "Someday" was going to disappear if I didn't do something soon!  

Of course, I got my sister on board with me right away.  We set up a plan to do a half in 2011, and a full in 2013.  We searched for our half-distance tri based on location, time of year, and reviews, ultimately picking Chisago Lakes Half-Iron.  (In the end, my sister had not been able to fit in the training and backed out of the race.)

When I became pregnant, the first thing we bought was the baby backpack.  The second the jogging stroller, and the third the child bike trailer.  I knew that I wanted to raise my child in an active family and I began running as soon as I could after a c-section (a severely sprained ankle prevented me from running through most of my pregnancy).  The run really didn't worry me.  I had, after all, been a runner for almost 30 years.  I may not be fast, but I knew the distance was manageable, even if it meant walking.  The only part of the run that really worried me was how I'd feel after swimming and biking. 

I hadn't done any swimming since I took swimming lessons as a child.  I grew up in a small town with only an outdoor pool so we had no swim team.  I knew the basic movements of the strokes and could tread water for a LONG time, but my form was (and still is) terrible.  Swimming is by far my weakest sport in triathlon.  I joined the closest gym with a pool 30 miles away and hired a swim coach.  She and I were not a good fit and I struck out on my own (with a lot of help from Total Immersion videos and books!)  I was lucky to find a triathlon-specific swim clinic an hour away mid-March and just that day with them helped me a lot.  

My first open water swim and my first swim in a wetsuit were both my first triathlon on May 22, 2011.  This was a sprint distance tri, worked into my training schedule for the purpose of practice.  The week after, my (semi-)local multisport club started doing group open water swims.  After panicking in the cold water at my first tri, I attended every one I could.  

As far as the bike, I'd purchased a decent road bike a couple years before when my husband and I did RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa) and learned how to ride with clipless pedals.  The challenge for me here was finding myself on a new bike one week before my goal race after hubby had forgotten it was on the top of the Jeep before pulling into a garage.  The new bike and I did not get along right away and I ended up driving more than 2 hours each way for a proper bike fit 6 days before my race.  Again, I knew I could get through the bike, barring any mechanical failure, it just might take me a while.  

On July 24, 2011, I completed my goal and finished my first half-iron distance triathlon.  I had some sort of issue in every leg of the race, but my only goal was to finish, so none of them caused too much frustration.  I am proud to say, that in a very athletic family, where all my uncles, cousins, etc. are athletes - some of them very good- I, the middle-to-back-of-the-packer, was the first to complete a half-ironman distance triathlon.  

The iron distance race goal has been moved back to 2013 for me.  After doing a half, I see how much more improvement I need to make.  I won't win my age group, or even be close.  The only medal I will get is the one that says "Finisher".  But I will get that medal, and then I will return for another.  


  1. Where are you planning for your full? I am shooting for Ironman Wisconsin in 2013.

    We can motivate each other!

  2. Jeremy, I'm not sure yet. I have a few races I'm considering. I need to make a decision soon as I'm hoping to volunteer in 2012 at whatever race I pick for 2013.

    I'm kind of crossing my fingers that Rev3's SoCal race will include a full. I visited San Diego for the first time this year and would love to go back for a race.