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Rookie Triathlon’s Sweet 16 a Smashing Success

Hundreds introduced to triathlon at Rookie Triathlon’s Sweet 16

On Sunday, May 5th, more than 1000 registrants celebrated Rookie Triathlon‘s Sweet 16 at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park in Austin, Texas. Temperatures were ideal for those competing in their first ever triathlon or the first triathlon of their season despite recent severe storms in Central Texas. Rookies, those who participated in their first or second triathlon, consisted of more than half the field.

“The experience of my first triathlon at Rookie Tri is one I won’t forget,” said Lorie Sturgis, who completed her first triathlon in 2:17:52. “The support from spectators, volunteers, and High Five Events was phenomenal and I can’t wait to complete my next triathlon!”

Professional triathlete Pablo Gomez won his first Rookie Triathlon with the time of 45:28. Second and third place went to Justin Arnosky and Jack Cartwright, who crossed the finish line in 46:10 and 46:18 respectively. For the fourth time since 2015, professional triathlete Natasha Van Der Merwe topped the women’s field with a winning time of 49:38. Second place finisher Clare Dasso (54:49) and third place finisher Michelle Bonathan (57:00) rounded out the women’s field.

“I love being at Rookie Tri because many triathletes begin their season out here,” said Gomez, who has completed Rookie Triathlon seven times. “It’s especially great to win a race where Rookies and Veterans can compete on the same course. As always, thanks to High Five Events!”

The Rookie Tri

The Rookie Tri has three different divisions: Rookie (first or second triathlon), Veteran (completed more than two triathlons), and Open. Rookies and Veterans start the swim in their division based on their age group. Two participants enter the water every few seconds. The Open Division allows participants to begin regardless of age, with a mass swim start. Rookie Tri also featured Athena and Clydesdale categories. The inclusion of the categories, which had 114 total participants, created more energy and competition on race day.

The wetsuit legal 300-meter swim took place in a 70 degree Decker Lake, the 11.2-mile bike course featured rolling hills, and the two-mile run course ran through the park. Participants received custom finisher medals, Sweet 16 shirts and water bottles, swim cap, beer, a post-race meal, and the signature swag toss. Professional timing and photography, as well as a great volunteer crew and hundreds of supportive spectators, made this triathlon memorable for rookies and veterans alike. The Rookie Triathlon participants can see their times here. They can also relive race day by checking out photos from the event on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Rookie Tri would like to thank all of the volunteers for coming out and making today’s event memorable for all triathletes. Their willingness to get up extra early to cheer on and support every participant truly made a difference in their experience. Rookie Triathlon would also like to thank sponsors City Limit Cycles, RunLab Austin, Oskar Blues Brewery, nuun hydration, Ascension Seton, Camp Gladiator, Fleet Feet Austin, Z’Tejas, FinisherPix, the City of Austin, Austin Police Department, Travis County Sheriff’s Office, and Travis County EMS.

Rookie Triathlon Puts Final Touches on Sweet 16 Celebration

More than half of the Rookie Triathlon’s Sweet 16 field consists of beginner triathletes

High Five Events is excited to celebrate 16 years of bringing new triathletes or introducing new triathletes to the sport at 2019 The Rookie Triathlon. The event will take place on Sunday, May 5th, at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park. More than 1000 participants will complete the first triathlon of their life or the first triathlon of their season. Everyone will celebrate Rookie Tri’s Sweet 16 at the finish line festival. There will be a beer garden, post-race food, and a Sweet 16 cake!

Loren showing off her well-deserved 2018 Rookie Tri finisher medal and water bottle!

“I registered for Rookie Tri, my first ever triathlon, to push myself and see what I can accomplish,” said Brieann Grissom. “ I had brain surgery twice, most recently in January, and want to challenge my mind and body in a way I typically don’t do!”

The Rookie Tri has three different divisions: Rookie (first or second triathlon), Veteran (completed more than two triathlons), and Open. Rookies and Veterans start the swim in their division based on their age group. 1-2 participants will enter the water every few seconds. The Open Division allows participants to begin regardless of age, with a mass swim start. Rookie Tri is also returning the Athena and Clydesdale categories. The inclusion of the two divisions will create more energy and competition on race day.

“It’s exciting to see Rookie Tri’s continued growth because that means more and more people are getting introduced to triathlon,” said Stacy Keese, co-owner of High Five Events. “We love seeing first-timers come back and complete Rookie Tri for the second time, making them a veteran for the next year!”

Sweet 16 perks

Participants will receive custom 2019 shirts, finisher medals and water bottles. They’ll also receive swim caps, beer, a post-race meal, and the signature swag toss. Professional timing and photography, as well as a great volunteer crew and hundreds of supportive spectators, will make this triathlon memorable for rookies and veterans alike. Participants and volunteers can register until Saturday. Packet pickup will take place at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop in Austin.

Rookie Tri, an award-winning triathlon, consists of a 300m swim in Decker Lake, an 11.2-mile bike ride in a protected lane around the lake, and a two-mile run through Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park. Rookie Tri has aquabike and relay options for race day. The relay team can consist of two or three members and the aquabike completes the swim and the bike only. Triathletes who can’t make it to the event can still participate through the virtual Rookie Tri. Participants can complete the Rookie Tri on their own time at their preferred locations.

2019 Athlete Tracking and Live Results

Follow your friends and family with athlete tracking

Support your friends and family at the 16th annual Rookie Triathlon! Show up early, make hilarious signs, and cheer loudly. Then get ready to celebrate at the finish line festival! If you’re at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park or halfway around the globe, use athlete tracking or receive alerts via social media to know where your friends and family are on course.

Live Online Tracking

Watch the leaderboard live on race day! Share this link with family and friends so that they can see Rookie Tri results no matter where they are on this beautiful earth.

Results on Social Media

You can also sign up to get results sent to your social media. Search for your name and set up messages to be sent to your social media. This will keep all of your followers up to date on your Rookie Tri progress. You can also set up text messaging to your spectators so they know when you have completed each part of the event and can be waiting for you at the finish line.

Final Results

Don’t forget to check out the final results and see if you placed in your division!

A Pro’s Guide to Race Week

Implement this race week checklist for your best Rookie Tri

by: Des Ficker Berry

The days before a big race can be stressful and hectic. Your mind might start to do funny things and your body can feel like it is playing tricks on you. That’s why you should closely follow a race week checklist.

I have had my absolute best races feeling slug-like several days out from a big race. I have learned to ignore signs of fatigue. You should know that your body is shutting down and resting to prepare for the big fight! I have created a race week checklist of how I spend my time and things I recommend doing five days out. Use some or all of my advice leading up to Rookie Tri!

Tuesday (5 days out)

  • last hard swim session of regular length, get in a set of 200s or 100s for some strength and speed
  • track session 4-6 x 800m with 90 secs rest, feeling good and strong but not going all out
  • sleep more than usual this night and eat more fruits and veggies, less starchy carbs

Wednesday (4 days out)

  • if needed, get a final tune-up for bike (schedule with James Balentine of City Limit Cycles and he’ll come to you!)
  • purchase any last-minute items you might need (gels, hydration, sunglasses, etc.)
  • 1-hour bike ride with some fast, 1-2 minute pickups at race pace
  • easy run and stretch
  • begin packing with that packing list!

Thursday (3 days out)

  • wake up and take ten minutes to imagine a perfect race in your head, down to each detail, this also helps you remember everything you need for the race
  • short swim with some fast 50s and 100’s
  • easy spin on the bike, if you have time
  • pack for the race (make a list and check it twice!)
  • begin adding in more carbs and thinking a lot about hydration

Friday (2 days out)

  • depending on your work/travel schedule, make this day very easy workout-wise, fit in a run or a swim if you can
  • hydrate and eat well all day long
  • dinner is important, make sure you get plenty of good carbs and lots of sleep with positive thoughts flowing about your race

Saturday (1 day out)

  • get easy and short workouts in as soon as you wake up (all three sports), no more than an hour of working out total
  • hydrate and eat a hearty breakfast and lunch, cut fiber intake completely on this day (low on salad and fruits )
  • pick up your packet!
  • lay out all of your race gear, organize it well so you can be done with it and relax
  • have a good dinner with no new foods!
  • do not go to bed stuffed or hungry
  • watch a movie as you go to bed that will help you get a good night’s sleep

Sunday (Race day!)

  • wake up and start moving around, jog a little after a coffee to get the-you-know-what flowing
  • eat an easily digestible breakfast (mine is always rice bread with peanut butter and honey)
  • carry a snack with you and some sports drink to drink one hour before go time

Get out there and kick some booty! You are all ready to go and have some FUN!!!

Desiree’s extensive recognition list:

2018 – qualified for 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials at California International Marathon (2:39:17)

2011 – 1st place Austin Marathon (2:50:35)

2010 – 1st place Cap10K (35:36)

2010 – 1st place Austin Half Marathon (1:17:41)

2009 – 10th place New York City Marathon (2:39:30)

2009 – 2nd place Austin Half Marathon (1:19:23)

2008 – qualified for Olympic Marathon Trials; finished in 2:48:11

2007 – 2nd place Austin Marathon (2:40:28)

2006 – 2nd place IRONMAN World Championship – Kona (9:28:02)

Training and Competing in Triathlons After 50

Rookie Tri ambassador talks about training for triathlons after 50

Steve Mallett, a Rookie Triathlon ambassador, began participating in endurance events at the tender age of 52. He talks about the benefits of cross-training and how it has helped him reduce injuries. Steve participated in triathlons 20 years ago, but he has since brought it back into his life. Below is a firsthand account of how he approaches training and competing in triathlons after 50. It’s never too late!

by: Steve Mallett

In January of 2015, at the age of 52, I started marathon training and racing with a well-known Austin running team. I immersed myself into a group of athletes and coaches searching to find the limits of speed and fitness. It was exhilarating and I hung on to my coach’s every word.  After six months I set a lifetime PR for the marathon. My fitness, I thought, was as good as it had ever been. I would later find out that my body could only handle that intensity for so long.

In late 2016, after months of 50-60 mile weeks, 3-4 marathons a year, and pushing myself to faster times, my body started to fail. Later that year, I developed a nagging and painful condition in my lower abdomen, later diagnosed as a pelvic fracture from overuse. I was devastated. The doctor’s recommendation was six months of no running. That’s like telling Rachel Ray to get out of the kitchen. I struggled to come to terms with this new reality.

Bring on the recovery

A few months into recovery I was cleared to start elliptical training. While in the gym I noticed other runners doing strength training and weights. I had never considered adding this to my fitness regimen. Running 60 miles a week was hard enough. How could I add in 3-4 hours of weights and strength training per week?

When I was cleared to run again I was cautious. I wanted to be fast again, but didn’t want another injury. Six months without running had taken its toll on me emotionally. I didn’t want to pull the scab off that wound. I started with some shorter runs and then finished in the gym with 30-45 minutes of whole-body strength and conditioning. As my running form came back, I noticed big changes in my strength and my running times.  

I registered for the Cap10K before my injury and decided to run and get a baseline for my recovery. I ran the fastest Cap10K I have ever run and felt great doing it. My running decreased, but I was getting faster.  The time in the gym and the intensity of my shorter runs was making me a stronger runner. I ran very few “junk” miles.

Time to add cycling

In the following months, I added cycling to my fitness regimen. I was already swimming three days a week as cross training for my running. After a 20-year hiatus, I began signing up for triathlons again. My goal was to compete again. However, I knew my body couldn’t handle the high mileage needed to run a fast marathon. Triathlons would give me my competition fix.  

I read The Time-Crunched Cyclist: Race-Winning Fitness in 6 Hours a Week, by Chris Carmichael and Jim Rutberg. I took many of those principles to heart. You can get faster and stronger by doing more intense, shorter workouts. But you have to compliment that with strength and weights.  

As you train for any race shorter than a Half Ironman, don’t focus on mileage for the sake of mileage. Some of the long, slow rides and runs are like counting your steps when you take out the trash. Yes, you got in some steps, but did they really count?  

Triathlon training

Many sprint triathlons have such a short run that any training run over 6-8 miles is wasted. You are better off doing four weekly runs. Long runs, speed-work/track days, fartleks, and tempo runs and drills can increase your speed.   

In the pool, break your workouts into sets. Try to push yourself. 2000 slow yards with a pull buoy may impress your friends on Strava, but 6×100 at race pace (after a warm-up) will actually make you faster on race day.  

One day a week it’s okay to go for a slow ride and enjoy the scenery. On other days, focus on pushing up your watts or climbing hills near your max heart rate. Those types of workouts will improve your speed and strength.  

To prevent injuries, don’t neglect your strength and weights. There are many places online to find whole body strength/conditioning and weight lifting plans for runners and triathletes. Start slowly and build.

Book recommendation

You should read Unbreakable Runner: Unleash the Power of Strength & Conditioning for a Lifetime of Running Strong, by Brian MacKenzie, the founder of Cross Fit. His program teaches you to be strong first. Then the speed and endurance will follow.  

If you choose a coach, try to find one who understands aging athletes. Trying to keep up with the 30-year-olds is a recipe for disaster. Find a coach that will push you, but not break you. You will have to shift your paradigm to believing that shorter, harder workouts will make you faster. A coach will help when you start to get tired and lazy. You want to avoid going through the workout motions at a lower intensity.  

If you are doing longer races, you will need to spend some time doing long, slow miles. When you hit age 50 the longer races are not so much about speed, but about mentally preparing for hours of racing at an elevated pace.

Too many triathletes fall into the trap of miles for the sake of miles. Your workouts should focus on quality, not how far you can go. As we age we need to be very smart about how we train and treat our bodies. Junk miles don’t lead to fast races, they lead to broken bodies.  

Bio: Steve competed in his first triathlon in 1984 in Key West, Florida. He has done more than 50 triathlons, 12 marathons, eight 50K races, and has finished the Rocky Raccoon 50-mile Trail Run twice. He is a real estate broker who lives in Dripping Springs, Texas.  

6 Tactics to Calm Your Pre-Race Jitters

Pre-race jitters will happen, calm them with our advice

Whether Rookie Triathlon is the first triathlon of your life or the first tri of your season, you’re likely to experience pre-race jitters. Don’t worry, this is normal! You’re excited, chatting with old friends and making new ones, scurrying to make your transition perfect, anxious to get in the water, checking off items on your to-do list. You’ve trained for this moment and want everything to go as smoothly as possible. So do we! That’s why we’ve compiled six tactics you can use to calm those pre-race jitters.

Plan race morning the night before

Take the time to plan out race morning when you’re not in a rush to get to Decker Lake. Follow our general advice and make race morning as smooth as possible! Completing this the day before ensures you have all the time you need. Start with leaving your house and lay out everything you’ll need to return home with your Rookie Tri medal! Think about transition, the swim, the bike, the run. Items to focus on: race bib, hydration, nutrition. If you’re a visual person, make a list and check it twice.

Remember your training

You’ve spent hours in the pool, logged miles on the bike, completed several brick workouts. You’re ready for this! It can be easy to think about what’s ahead, but it’s just as easy to think about what you’ve accomplished so far. If you have a game plan, go over that in your head. Focus on your breathing, make it mimic when you’re in the water. Think about your technique in the water. Look for items to focus on when you sight. If you had a particularly good bike ride, think about what went right on that ride.

Listen to music

This is used by many triathletes! You could jam out to the tunes playing at Rookie Tri or you could throw some headphones on and click play on your favorite album. You can’t use headphones during the race, so if you want a song to get stuck in your head make sure it’s one of the final songs you hear. Pro tip: if you find yourself with some extra time, find a quiet spot to sit down, listen to some tunes, close your eyes, and relax.

Complete the pre-race warmup

Complete the pre-race warmup with Camp Gladiator instructors to eliminate pre-race jitters.

Remove pre-race jitters by actually getting your blood flowing! Listen to the Camp Gladiator instructors and complete the pre-race warmup. You’ll get loose and start to feel good. Really focus on the activity you’re doing, make your form as perfect as possible. Zeroing in on what you’re doing keeps you from thinking about all the what-ifs that lead to pre-race jitters. Pro tip: add a deep stretch after the warmup to further loosen your muscles.

Get a friend to complete Rookie Tri with you

Has someone trained with you and showed you the ropes? Great! Have them join you at Rookie Tri. Having someone you know with you race morning brings familiarity. You’re more likely to be comfortable when they’re around. They can help you remember this pre-race jitters list! You could also talk about where you’ll celebrate and what you’ll eat/drink when you leave the finish line festival.

Invite friends and family to cheer for you

This is our favorite remedy for pre-race jitters. They don’t have to complete Rookie Tri, but invite friends and family to Decker Lake so they can cheer for you! They can make signs, take photos/video, and cheer for you at several different locations, including swim start, transition, and the finish line. Pro tip: you can hang out with friends and family before your swim wave begins.

Rookie Triathlon Announces Ascension Seton as Official Medical Provider

Ascension Seton professionals to have an on-course presence

High Five Events announces Ascension Seton as the Official Medical Provider of the 16th annual Rookie Triathlon. Ascension Seton and their experienced team will have an on-course presence throughout the event and at the finish line medical tent. Rookie Triathlon will take place on Sunday, May 5th, at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park.

“Ascension Seton is excited to continue to partner with High Five Events and be the Official Medical Provider for the Rookie Triathlon,” said Adam Bauman, vice president of business development at Ascension Seton. “We look forward to supporting another beloved Austin sporting event, and offering the highest level of care and medical oversight from Ascension Seton medical providers.”

As the Official Medical Provider, Ascension Seton doctors and nurses will work together with Travis County EMS to focus on participant’s well-being. Ascension Seton is part of the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system. They’ve expanded their Austin footprint, partnering with the Austin Marathon and Austin Bold FC.

“Rookie Tri participants can focus on completing the first triathlon of their life or first triathlon of their season knowing Ascension Seton doctors and nurses are on site should they be needed,” said Jack Murray, co-owner of High Five Events.

16th annual Rookie Tri

Rookie Tri, an award-winning triathlon, consists of a 300m swim in Decker Lake, an 11.2-mile bike ride in a protected lane around the lake, and a two-mile run through Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park. Rookie Tri offers relay, aquabike, and virtual options. Relay teams can consist of two or three members. Aquabike completes the swim and the bike only. Participants who register for the virtual Rookie Tri have until Monday, May 27th, to complete the Rookie Tri at their preferred locations.

Participants will receive custom 2019 shirts and water bottles, swim caps, beer, a post-race meal, and the signature swag toss. Professional timing and photography, as well as a great volunteer crew and hundreds of supportive spectators, will make this triathlon memorable for rookies and veterans alike. Registration is currently open.

Don Nolting – My First Triathlon

Don Nolting, an Austin Triathlon Club Ambassador, recalls his first triathlon

The 2016 Rookie Triathlon (300m swim, 11.2-mile bike, 2-mile run), was my attempt to help a friend, and myself, lose weight. I was 41 and 255 pounds at 6’1.5”. He thought a sprint triathlon would be a fun way to do it since he liked to swim. This probably wouldn’t have been a problem if, 1) we would have decided more than a month before the triathlon was to take place to sign up, 2) I hadn’t just undergone bilateral knee surgeries #4 and #5 six months prior, and 3) if I owned a bike.

Don Nolting, Austin Triathlon Club, Ambassador, after 2016 Rookie Triathlon.

Don Nolting, Austin Triathlon Club, Ambassador, after 2016 Rookie Triathlon.

I was still rehabbing from knee surgery, and given the short time to train, I focused on swimming and riding. While all my doctors discourage running with my knee issues, swimming and biking are highly suggested. The biggest thing for me was to not over train the month before the tri and be so sore and fatigued that I wouldn’t be able to race.

Training

Since I knew how to swim, I focused on that. The good news: the swim distance was only 300 meters. I started in the pool and then made sure to swim in a few different open water spots around Austin. Barton Springs became my really cold friend. I was having trouble freestyle swimming, so I focused on the breaststroke and worked on perfecting my form while training.

The biking was a whole different beast. I didn’t own a bike when I signed up for the tri. So I took advantage of all of the spring bike sales in Austin. I chose a hybrid bike as a starter bike and got in plenty of rides during the month. I even rode the bike course a few times and struggled some.

Since I planned to speed-walk the run, I only worked on increasing my overall fitness for that. In the end, I was pretty happy with where I was feeling after the bike rides, but I wasn’t confident about my swimming.

Race day

Race day showed up really fast! From a tip I had read on lots of tri websites, I laid out my transition and equipment the night before. I was sure I had everything, but 5:00 a.m. comes early. I was nervous, but the pre-race stretches helped calm my nerves. Waiting in line to get into the water was where the nerves sprung up again. Many of the guys in my age group were nervously chatting about how they hadn’t practiced swimming in open water. 

I was towards the back of the line going into the water, and I observed people grabbing the lifeguard canoes and the buoys. (* this is legal by USAT rules as long as you do not use the kayak to make forward progress).  Practicing breaststroke proved to be beneficial. I don’t think I could have freestyled in that water. I felt good after my swim and was proud I had completed it without taking any breaks or needing any assistance. The path to transition was an uphill path, so I took my time so I didn’t injure my knees at all.

Transition went pretty smoothly and I felt good getting onto my bike. The first 1.5 miles went well. However, once I turned into the headwind, it was like I put a sail on my back. I felt like I was going head-first into a wall and barely moving. I was happy to get back to transition, but wasn’t looking forward to the “run.” My legs were gassed, and I hadn’t really practiced going from cycling to a run or walk. Big mistake!

That two miles seemed like 20. In addition, it had recently rained, so the course was muddy and changed to include some hills that were rough on my knees. I wasn’t taking any chances with my knees so soon after surgery, so I walked the hills, but (against my doctor’s orders and my better judgment) slow-jogged the flatter sections. Finally coming around the last bend helped me pick up the pace and finish strong.

The Finish & Beyond

My goal was to finish my first Rookie Tri in 90 minutes, and I missed it by only three minutes. I was tired and sore, but proud that I had finished.

Unfortunately, because of knee rehab, it took me about a year to feel right again in order to train for another race. I got back into riding my bike and started swimming again in late 2017. I joined the Austin Tri Club in the spring of 2018 and have really started to push myself and my training thanks to the group. They support and motivate me as I safely train for aquabike challenges (*Aquabike participates complete the swim & bike portion of the triathlon, with their official timing stopping after entering transition after the bike.) and I enjoy cheering on my club-mates as they compete too.

Rookie Triathlete: Part 9: My First Triathlon

I did it, I completed my first triathlon

blog about completing my first triathlon

William and Barny. Photo – Ed Sparks

Back in January, I committed to my first triathlon, 2018 Rookie Triathlon. What began as a small idea quickly turned into a side bet complete with trash talk and a race-day following that formally introduced triathlon to newbies. I was fortunate to have one of the best triathletes in the world (Paul “Barny” Matthews) as my coach. I spoke with countless triathletes, both Rookies and IRONMAN finishers. Basically, everything they said could happen did happen at some point. Based on my training and my mock Rookie Tri in February, I figured finishing in 75 minutes would be respectable. Remember, I finished my mock triathlon in 1:34:43. I completed my first triathlon in 1:06:55.

When I set out to do something I’m all in. But I know for a fact I wouldn’t have been as successful and felt as good during my first triathlon if it weren’t for Barny. His training plan made me #feelthebarn before race day so I knew what to expect on race day.

Race day – Sunday, May 6, 2018

My alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. Why so early? My wife and good friend were volunteering that morning and needed to be there to help with parking. The night before I went through the entire race and packed my bag. Stickers were placed on my bike and helmet. Everything was quadruple checked. Hydration was mixed and placed in the fridge. I wanted race morning to be smooth.

Well that didn’t go as planned. Part of getting up a bit earlier was to ensure my bodily functions worked the way I wanted them to work in my own home. That didn’t happen. Porta-potties here I come. I checked my bag one more time because why not?! We took off on time and headed to Decker Lake. We get about halfway through and sonofa… I left both bottles of hydration in the fridge. So many scenarios go through my head. I popped off 35 at the next exit and booked it back to the house. NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY. We arrived around 5:30. Still early, but there were folks already parking! I parked and wanted to get my bike racked. I’d have plenty of time to get my bag and set up transition.

killing time in transition at my first triathlon

Passing time in transition. Photo – Ed Sparks

Killing time

Transition is set. Now I’m looking around thinking “Now what?” as I plot ways to kill time. I see friends and chat with them about my blog. Are you nervous they ask? Hell yeah I am. I spot my friend Rod Newlin before he took off to manage the bike course. We chatted for a bit and I wished him a happy belated birthday. He told me I’d be fine and shouldn’t be nervous. Easy for you to say Rod! But in reality, his words were helpful.

I found Raul Najera of RunFarUSA (timing company) and chatted with him a bit. Still killing time. He needed some help moving mats and re-wiring his timers. I quickly offered my assistance and asked if this gesture would help shave some minutes off my overall time. Apparently, that’s not the case. During this time I ran into my coach who gave me a sweet Ameican flag robe and boxing gloves. Something to ease the tension and create some laughs. I must’ve made three or four trips to the porta-potty. Man, I missed my own bathroom.

final preparation at my first triathlon

Trying to relax before the Rookie Tri. Photo – Ed Sparks

The race

My wife and friend join me after their volunteer duties are complete (thanks for volunteering!). I chat with some more folks. Find my arch-nemisis and his crew and laugh my ass off. His morning was more horrible than mine was. The race begins and we watch the Open wave cut through the smooth water. They make it look so easy. Barny exited the water and I cheered for him. He eventually won his second Rookie Tri in a row. A week after finishing 13th overall in the IRONMAN North American Championships. It’s almost game-time.

As we’re waiting in line, Paras (my arch-nemisis) and I start quickly re-thinking what we’ve gotten ourselves into. But we’re both competitors. When nobody was looking and we didn’t have access to our phone, we quickly slapped hands, wished each other the best of luck, and agreed we couldn’t wait for the post-race booze. It’s time to swim.

The swim

entering the water at my first triathlon

Entering Decker Lake. Photo – Ed Sparks

We were in line to be the last two of the Rookie male 30-39 to enter the water. Perfect. The next group would start a little after us and not as many would catch me. Wrong. We were the first to start with the 40-49 because Paras forgot his swim cap and his color matched theirs. Great. I enter the water in exactly what I’ll wear on the bike and run, minus shoes, plus goggles and nose plug. The first 50m are fantastic. Yes, this is all coming together as planned! Then someone hits my leg and it throws me off. Damn. Get it back together William. Get my stroke back and my leg is hit again, then my back. It’s clear folks are passing me.

My heart starts racing. My form goes to shit. I start kicking more. Welp, this isn’t good. Just keep moving forward. I breaststroke for a bit to get my breath back and return to my form. But the damage is done. My heart rate is high and my breathing is off. Just keep moving forward. I tried everything I could to get back under control, even swimming on my back a couple times. Nothing worked. I was already exhausted. I focused on making it to the next buoy. Then the next buoy. I’m in the home stretch and I can’t wait to feel solid earth beneath my feet. I finish the swim in a disappointing 9:52. Nearly three minutes more than my mock Rookie Tri swim. My first thought once I learned that Paras was ahead of me: makeup time on the bike.

The bike

Transition went smooth. I used the run to transition to gather myself and catch my breath. Arrived at my bike and everything is ready to go. I step on my towel to dry my feet while I put on my sunglasses and helmet. Slip on the shoes I’ll run in and head towards bike out. I cross the line and hop on, ready to chase down Paras. I quickly grab some nuun because I know I’m about to push myself like never before on a bike. Riding the course beforehand was a tremendous boost. Familiarity is huge. I was passing folks and feeling good. Everything was working out better than I anticipated. At every hill I’m looking for Paras. Nowhere. Shit.

starting the bike at my first triathlon

Playing catch up. Photo – Ed Sparks

But I’m in a groove now. Smoking the downhills and pounding the uphills. I’m getting after it. I finally see Paras on the frontage road and get this insane jolt of energy. He started more than two minutes ahead of me. I’m going all out now (which got me later). I don’t catch him until we turn right into the home stretch. Turn the corner, pass him, blow a kiss, and keep going. I need to make up time. Paras had more in the tank than I thought. We went back and forth on Decker Lake Rd. and eventually made it to transition at the same time. We had folks Facetiming people who couldn’t be there and streaming our race on Facebook live. I finished the bike in 37:44. That’s 24 minutes faster than my mock Rookie Tri bike. The Wrecker at Decker was living up to the hype.

The run

Transition went smooth again. Pre-planning helped. Took one last swig of nuun, dropped my bike off, and grabbed my SPIbelt. I leave transition right behind Paras. It’s on. I know he’s a top-notch runner, but folks on-course told me he incurred a couple penalties. He is faster, but I still have a chance. The course was changed because of flash flooding, so my day-before run didn’t help much. I’m feeling good, folks are cheering, volunteers are awesome. I see Paras start to disappear, but I don’t worry about that. I focus on passing one person at a time, keeping my pace.

crossing the finish line at my first triathlon

Crossing the Rookie Tri finish line. Photo – Ed Sparks

The new course weaved in and out for two miles. Every chance I got I poured water on my head. I turn the last leg and Barny is there cheering as loud as he can. Paras has penalties! You still have a chance! I catch my last boost of energy and head for the finish of my first triathlon. I’m asking my body to push itself beyond what’s it ever done. The finish is getting closer. I can hear Logan. Paras is at the edge of the finish chute and gives me a high five as I enter. He was three minutes ahead of me. I crossed the line of my first triathlon in 1:06:55. Eight minutes ahead of my 75-minute prediction. That’s a 28-minute improvement from my mock Rookie Tri in February.

I’m a triathlete

I crossed the finish line of my first triathlon and immediately fell to the ground. Exhausted. No medical was needed, just had to gather myself for a minute. I didn’t beat Paras, but I became a triathlete. The post-race trash talk wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. We were both that tired. We took photos, hung out with friends, our coaches joined the fun, we drank a few beers, and enjoyed the energetic finish line festival.

post-race photo at my first triathlon

The squads post-race. Photo – Ed Sparks

The entire experience was something I’ll never forget. My wife supported me through yet another endurance event and training cycle. Megan is a beautiful soul for putting up with my shenanigans and ability to consume great quantities of her amazing cooking. I appreciate Barny and all of his efforts. He’s a huge reason for my improvement. That is undeniable. I strongly encourage contacting him if you’re looking for a coach for your first triathlon or your first IRONMAN. I’m grateful my employer, High Five Events, allowed me to compete and not have to work the event. My co-workers provided a never-ending stream of insight and support.

What’s next?

I’m not sure what the future holds. I crossed the finish line of my first triathlon and said never again. But the more I think about it the more I realize I can still improve. I can get better at the swim. So I won’t say never now. I will say I’m a better runner because of swimming and cycling. My body feels better. I’m getting stronger. This cross-training thing is legit. I will keep swimming in the pool. I’ve begun riding my bike to work. My legs have more energy when I run. I really like what this journey has done for me.

If you’ve made it this far, then thank you. Thanks for reading and for your in-person and online support. If completing a triathlon is on your radar I highly suggest Rookie Triathlon. The entire event is well-organized (I’m biased), but I also approached my first triathlon as a Rookie triathlete, not the High Five Events Communications Manager. Most of my nerves were self-induced. Rookie Triathlon is perfect for that first-timer. There was plenty of room in transition, parking went smoothly, the water entrance was well-managed, and the finish line festival was one huge after party! If you’re like me and like planning ahead, 2019 Rookie Triathlon will take place on Cinco de Mayo. Don’t forget, I’m still a Rookie.

15th Annual Rookie Tri Introduces Hundreds to Triathlon

Huge finish line festival capped off 15th annual Rookie Tri celebration

15th Annual Rookie Tri Introduces Hundreds to Triathlon

Final preparations for the 15th Annual Rookie Tri!

On Sunday, May 6th, nearly 800 Rookies and Veterans participated in the 15th Annual Rookie Tri at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park in Austin, Texas. Temperatures were ideal for those competing in their first ever triathlon or the first triathlon of their season. Rookies, those who participated in their first or second triathlon, consisted of half the field.

“The volunteers were super helpful and really calmed my nerves on all of the “little things” that I needed to know (swim caps, transition zones, other rules),” said Paras Shah, who completed the 15th annual Rookie Tri (his first) in 1:03:29. “The crowd was very energetic and supportive and it was fun coming down the last mile and really hearing people genuinely excited for all of us first timers finishing a tri!”

Professional triathlete Paul “Barny” Williams repeated as overall champ with the time of 43:53 at the 15th annual Rookie Tri. Second and third place went to former pro Jamie Cleveland and Jack Cartwright. They crossed the finish line in 45:11 and 45:18 respectively. The women’s podium was topped by professional triathlete Natasha Van Der Merwe who had a winning time of 49:06. Second place finisher Haley Koop (50:50) and third place finisher Doreen Redenius (53:45) rounded out the women’s field.

Rookie Tri, Sunday, May 6, 2018

15th Annual Rookie Tri Introduces Hundreds to Triathlon

Hangin’ ten on the 11.2-mile bike ride.

The Rookie Tri has three different divisions: Rookie (first or second triathlon), Veteran (completed more than two triathlons), and Open. Rookies and Veterans start the swim in their division based on their age group. Two participants enter the water every few seconds. The Open Division allows participants to begin regardless of age, with a mass swim start. Rookie Tri introduced two new categories for 2018: Athena and Clydesdale. The inclusion of the categories, which had 79 total participants, created more energy and competition on race day.

The wetsuit legal 300-meter swim took place in a 72 degree Decker Lake. The 11.2-mile bike course featured rolling hills. The two-mile run course ran through the park. Participants received custom 2018 shirts and water bottles, swim cap, beer, a post-race meal, and the signature swag toss. Professional timing and photography, as well as a great volunteer crew and hundreds of supportive spectators, made this triathlon memorable for rookies and veterans alike. The Rookie Triathlon participants can see their times here. They can also relive race day by checking out photos from the event on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

15th Annual Rookie Tri Introduces Hundreds to Triathlon

Yes, the Oskar Blues was ice-cold!

Rookie Tri would like to thank all of the volunteers for coming out and making today’s event memorable for all triathletes. Their willingness to get up extra early to cheer on and support every participant truly made a difference in their experience. Rookie Triathlon would also like to thank sponsors City Limit Cycles, RunLab Austin, Oskar Blues Brewery, nuun hydration, Clif Bar, Ben Phillips-Engel and Volkers Austin, and SPIbelt.

All photo credits – Ed Sparks