Six months from today I will be toeing the line of my very first Ironman 70.3. I signed up for the race over the summer as soon as registration opened so I feel like hitting the six month mark to go makes it seem tangible. I think about this race at least once a day and will continue to do so until race day! I have backed off on my training in the last month as I don’t want to burn out and get injured before even starting Ironman training in the spring. I haven’t determined a training plan yet, but I anticipate starting to train in February or March. I will maintain a base in running, cycling, and any other activities until that time. This got me thinking about my first ever race, the Iron Girl Sprint triathlon in the Atlanta area.
In 2009, I read a blurb in Self magazine about triathlons and it sounded fun so I signed up for one in the Atlanta area. This was before blogs were big and I didn’t have anyone to turn to for advice or tips so I pretty much made it up as I went along. Once I signed up, the first order of business was buying a bike! I went to the bike store and purchased a hybrid bike for around $400 as I wasn’t sure if I wanted to invest in a more expensive road bike and the bike store employee advised the bike would be fine for a triathlon.
This is how little I knew about bikes: When I was little, my dad would pump up our mountain bike tires with his air compressor so I assumed this is how you pumped up all tires. I tried to pump my bike tires the same way and could not figure out why it wouldn’t work. I tried everything to get the tires pumped up and all I succeeded in doing was making them completely flat. I was beyond frustrated and nearly in tears at not being able to figure out something so simple. I took the bike to a bike shop and they told me the valves were special and I needed a special bike tire pump. I wish the person who I had purchased the bike from had told me that!
To train, I wore a pair of Under Armour compression type spandex shorts. They did not have padding and were not meant for triathlons. I don’t think I really knew about padded bike shorts and I refused to wear them. My butt was killing me so I purchased one of those nerdy gel-filled bike seat covers to use. One thing I did right: I rode the bike course two weeks before the race to ensure I could ride the entire thing.
To train for the swim, I swam in our apartment complex pool non-stop for 15 minutes at a time. No drills or anything. It was a lake swim and that didn’t bother me. I know a lot of people are really afraid of swimming open water triathlons, but it didn’t even occur to me to be scared. I think it’s due to growing up with a pool and swimming in my neighbors pond when I was little. I have a high comfort level in the water so at least I had that on my side! The swim wasn’t bad at all, just kind of murky.
I was already a runner, so I just kept up my usual running routine and did a handful of bike to run bricks.
I also had no clue what to wear. I started off with a two piece sports swimsuit for the swim.
I did not plan out how it would all work very well. I assumed I would somehow be able to change out of the swimsuit and into shorts/sports bra/top. Turns out, there was no where to change! My sports bra had straps I could pull up and down so I was able to put it on, pull of my swimsuit top, and then pull the sports bra straps up. As for the bottoms, I could not wear them under the shorts as it would have been chafe city. Even with my limited knowledge, I knew that much! I ended up wrapping a towel around my waist, shimmying out of bottoms, and pulling up my bike shorts, all awkwardly done with one hand as the other was holding up my towel. I’m sure I was quite the sight! My sister and cousin were at the race and they even commented on how long I was in transition as they saw so many people I had come out of the water with come zooming out of transition without seeing me. Lesson learned: wear the shorts you are going to bike in while doing the swim portion. I didn’t know anything about fueling at this point so I did not take anything in during the race other than water and perhaps some Gatorade or something at the aid station on the run course. I ended up bonking on the run and took awhile to finish it.Even though I had no clue what I was doing, I loved every minute of that race and was hooked on triathlons after that!
My sister and cousin, Sara, attended the race and I was so grateful to have them there. It was great to have the support and to keep me distracted before the start. They had gone out the night before so I woke them up with just enough time to get out of bed and into the car where they fell right back to sleep until it was time to race. During the swim, I could hear Sara’s voice cheering for me even though I was out in the lake and it really helped to keep me motivated. I was so happy they came to my first triathlon!
Four years later, I am signed up for my first 70.3 distance, much farther than any distance I’ve raced before. To say I’m nervous would be an understatement! After signing up, I felt nervous-sick every time I thought about the race. Although I no longer freak out about just thinking of the race, I can only imagine how nervous I’ll be when the race nears!