About 8 years ago I challenged myself to run the Kona, Hawaii Marathon. A marathon is a pretty dang good challenge for a non-runner; after crossing the finish line and discovering I really, really, really did not like running, I went looking for a new challenge. A few years later my sister and I decided to train for the Hobble Creek Half Marathon. I was hoping a half marathon might actually be enjoyable, but some serious knee pain and 13.1 miles later I realized yet again long-distance running was definitely not for me.
I don’t remember when I first considered a triathlon, but I knew it was definitely next on the list of fitness challenges. The sprint distance required only 3 miles of running, a very doable distance even without the use of an MP3 player (whose idea was that anyway?), and the swimming should be easy thanks to the high school swim team.
The only issue remaining was the bike. I hadn’t been on a bike in over 20 years and I hoped beyond hope it really was as easy as the cliché made it sound. Fortunately, a wobbly ride or two (or three) later and I was clipping in, clipping out and quickly falling in love—and falling down occasionally—with cycling. (I’m still working on pulling out my water bottle mid-ride…that’s where it gets tricky!)
I finally had the gear and a simple training schedule I’d found online, but I hadn’t yet decided which sprint triathlon would be my first. It didn’t take long for a couple good friends with some tri experience to convince me Echo Reservoir was the way to go for a first-time triathlete. Being the trusting person I am I totally went with it, registered and started training, wobbly bike and all.
I quickly discovered I thoroughly enjoyed the variety in my newfound workout schedule, even looking forward to those exhaustion-inducing brick workouts (two workouts in the same day). The only time I really questioned my progress was when I went on rides with a girlfriend also training for Echo—but with a trainer. I was doing it on my own and wondered if I’d be prepared come race day. Her workout schedule was a lot more intense than mine. And then I finally got to a point where I decided I was doing my best and that would be good enough, dang it!
Wanting to be as prepared as possible, I made sure to do an open water swim before jumping feet first into Echo. Having never worn a wetsuit, it was definitely a new experience. Combining a wetsuit with Utah Lake turned it into a very interesting experience. Murky, mysterious waters aside, an open water practice swim was essential in helping me prepare for Echo. I got used to the tight-fitting wetsuit, learned how to sight and became comfortable swimming in a large body of water without the help of lane lines.
The weekend before Echo, TriUtah held a free clinic at the reservoir. Wanting to do as much research as possible and test out the triathlon waters before the race, I headed to the reservoir early Saturday morning. Dave Pruetz from In Training had all the beginners get into wetsuits and make our way into the water. We swam back and forth practicing sighting, swimming and acclimating ourselves to the rather chilly, rather deep reservoir. After a little dog paddling we switched to our bikes followed by our running shoes. I was able to run through (literally at one point) the exact route we’d ride/run on race day.
Throughout the morning Dave shared details of race day (schedule, transition, USAT do’s and don’ts) and answered whatever questions we had. One of my most pressing questions was if I could take colored Sharpies to my swim cap so my parents could recognize me during the swim. (The answer was “yes.”) The clinic was a big factor in easing my nervousness about my first race. I still had those pre-race jitters but they were a heck of a lot less jittery!
The morning of the race is a bit of a blur (anything before 6:00 a.m. is often blurry) but I can still remember the anticipation and excitement I felt that morning. I won’t give you a play-by-play but I will say for a first tri, it was awesome. When I finished I knew I still had lots of room for improvement (a 6-minute transition? seriously?) but I finished…and I finished in the top half of my age group. Not bad for an online training schedule and my very first triathlon.
The best part? No knee pain and no “what the crap was I thinking?” feeling after crossing the finish line. Okay, maybe I thought that just once while running along the trail in the hot sun sans MP3 player…but after some orange slices and a few photos, I couldn’t wait to sign up for my next sprint tri. In fact, I ended up doing three more this summer and even placed third in one!
I still have plenty of room for improvement but for once I’m truly looking forward to it, and that’s what makes this challenge the most enjoyable one so far. I’m can’t wait to compete in the Echo Reservoir tri next July, but this time with a little more experience and a lot more training under my race belt.
Now, if I could just get my daughter to wear something other than pajamas, I’d be totally set!