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Meet Laura! She was once a Rookie and this is her story

Laura is the Volunteer Manager at High Five Events, but before she was part of the crew, you would have seen her at our races, either cheering or actually racing. Here is the story of Laura’s first triathlon.

How I Started in Triathlon

I started training for triathlons in the fall of 2013 when I moved in with my brother Pablo, who was a pretty serious age group triathlete at that time. Ever since I was little, I always wanted to do what my brother did, so naturally, I started doing triathlons. Shortly after I joined the triathlon team, Austin T3,  where Pablo had been training for a couple of years. 

I got my first road bike. It was a Felt that was a “petite” size because even the smallest frame was just a little bit too big for me. That’s when I started to train more seriously. I would swim, bike or run almost every day. While my fitness level was more than ready for the Rookie Tri, I was very nervous about competing.  

Laura Riding the bike course around Walter E. Long Park training for her first triathlon

Riding the bike course around Walter E. Long Park

About a couple of months before the 2014 Rookie Tri, I went to Decker Lake and rode the course multiple times. Even though those hills wouldn’t get any easier, I got more comfortable with shifting my gears and riding in general. I would also practice my transitions over and over again.  This helped me get used to running without socks. I also remember practicing getting in and out of my wetsuit by wearing it in the shower. Long story short, I was very scared of not being prepared, which resulted in me becoming a total dork. 

Getting Ready to Tri

Race weekend came, and I remember being super excited, but also very nervous. I went to Jack and Adam’s to pick up my packet the day before, and then I went home to get everything ready. The first thing I did, was put the stickers on my helmet and bike, and my bib number on a race belt.  I also tried on my timing chip, which at that time was on a velcro strap. It happened to be too big for me. Because it was so loose, I could lose it in the water so I had to put safety pins on it to secure it.

Laura’s First Triathlon – Race Day

Swim

On race day, I got to Decker Lake early in the morning. I had plenty of time to set up my transition area and warm-up. I didn’t get in the water, but I had some elastic bands that I used to warm-up. The swim was the part I was most excited about. By that time I had participated in open water swim events, so I felt confident. 

The horn went off and we all started. In 2014 the Rookie Tri didn’t have a time trial start yet, so we all started together in the water. I was feeling pretty good throughout the swim until my watch started to get loose. The watch as a birthday gift, so I really didn’t want to lose it! I stopped for a couple of seconds to take my watch off and put it in my sports bra to be able to keep swimming. I finished the swim, ran up the hill, found my bike and off I went.

Bike and Run Laura standing on the Rookie Tri podium at her first triathlon

My heart was beating SO fast, and I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my body as I got on my bike. As much as I want to believe that I am not a competitive person, you put a timing chip on me and the switch flips. I finished the bike faster than I expected, and now I just had the run left. I racked my bike, put my running shoes on and it was go time.

With the run being so short, I knew I could run faster. However, I didn’t take into account that the run was ALL ON GRASS! While that was a little bit of an adjustment for me, I was still able to finish the race and it was so exciting to get across the finish line. I ended up finishing third in my age group.

The coolest thing about the Rookie Tri is that it has separate awards for rookies and veterans, so if you’re a rookie, you’re only competing against beginners. Therefore, I was able to get on the podium and receive a trophy!  

Take a break and meet these adorable dogs of triathlon

Over the years, human spectators have brought their 4-legged counterparts to cheer on triathletes. These good boys and good girls bring a smile to everyone’s face, including their favorite triathlete! They’re also game for a good scratch from staff and others. Our triathlons are dog-friendly and we’ve met countless adorable pups over the years. We even asked y’all to share images of your spectating dogs at our events. Meet some of the most adorable dogs of triathlon that you’ll ever see!

Adorable Dogs at Rookie Tri

Want to bring your furry friend to the next triathlon? Review our dog-friendly triathlon tips below. We’d love to meet your pup and add them to our list!

Dog-Friendly Triathlon Tips

  • Bring snacks and water – Spectating is hard work, just like completing a triathlon. Bring hydration (and a bowl) and nutrition so your dog can refuel during the event.
  • Keep your dog on a leash – As much as we’d love to see pups roaming freely at our events, participant safety is vital. Keep your dog on a leash so participants aren’t tripped up and Fido doesn’t try to complete the swim portion of the triathlon!
  • Pick up after your dog – No explanation needed. Help us keep the race site in better condition than when we found it. Bring extra bags. You never know if you’ll run out or someone else runs out.
  • Follow park and/or city rules and regulations – If there are additional rules, follow them. We want to keep seeing more dogs of triathlon at our events, so follow any additional rules and regulations.

If you have a photo of your furry friend cheering you on at Rookie Tri, share them with us on Facebook or Twitter!

Tina’s First Triathlon

My first tri was The Rookie Tri on May 5, 2013. Here is how I remember it, looking back at it seven years later. But let’s back up a bit. I forgot to introduce myself. 

Who I Am & Why That Matters a Little Bit

Tina's First Tri Rookie Tri Staff StoriesMy name is Tina, and I am the Marketing Manager for High Five Events, the company that owns and produces The Rookie Tri

I got really into cycling in my junior year at the University of Texas, around 2009. My car had bit the dust, so I decided to save the money and get a bike instead. I was instantly hooked; I LOVED IT! 

This love of bikes eventually lead to my working at Jack & Adam’s Bicycles in the summer of 2011. For those not familiar with Jack & Adam’s, now Jack & Adam’s Fredricksburg, it was THE triathlon store not only in Austin but in the US. We had a fantastic staff that was full of knowledge and loved introducing new people to the sport of triathlon and cycling. 

Why I Did My First Tri

I have never been very competitive, and while I dabbled in swimming and running, it took two years before the staff/customers at Jack & Adam’s actually convinced me to sign up for my first race. We had decided to have the entire staff at the time do the Rookie. Everyone was at different levels, with many having completed many races, including Ironmans.

Prepping for My First Triathlon

Prepping her tri gear for The Rookie TriI trained for about 6-8 weeks leading up the event, mainly focusing on swimming. I went to the pool twice a week with a friend and did I think three open water swims in what at the time was the Pure Austin Quarry. I think one of the most helpful things was sharing a lane with multiple people, as it gives you the feel of swimming around others on race morning. 

The night before I stayed at a friend’s house so that we could get up in the morning. I was so nervous I set up my transition area several times, double-checking I had everything. It was supposed to be a little colder than usual the next day, so I “panic packed” extra stuff to stay warm on the bike.

The Big Day

Swim

Tina is ready to go at the Rookie Tri in 2013

The morning of, we got there as early as we could to set up in transition. We went down to swim start, and talked with people while we waited for the start. It was definitely chilly, and the wind had made the water a little choppy. As we entered, I realized all the “waves” (from the wind and other people) were coming from the right, and I only knew how to breathe to my right. Uh oh! I had to work out what to do on the fly, so I switched to a simple breaststroke and grabbed on the kayak at the first turn to help get my bearings. The lifeguard asked if I was okay to continue, and I said yes and continued. I also stopped to apologize to every person I ran into during the swim, not that they were listening. After making the next turn buoy and facing the shore, I knew I had it in me to finish. My final swim time, according to the results that year, was 10:01. 

Bike

I rushed into transition, and I was so amped and excited by everyone cheering that I forgot all of the extra arm warmers and stuff I had packed and jumped on the bike. Thankfully, it was okay because I was plenty warm after a mile or two on the bike. I completed the bike in 43:07.

Run

The run is my least favorite of the three sports, so I was not looking forward to the run. I reluctantly slip into my running shoes and head out on course. Looking at the results now, it says I ran a 20:59. Probably true because I remember enjoying myself and taking my time during my first tri. At this point, I think everyone else had already finished, so my only time constraint was finishing with enough time to drive back and be at work when it opened. 

I remember being greeted at the finish line and everyone cheering, and I still have my finisher medal. Total time 01:19:28. Not bad for a true Rookie! 

Overall First Triathlon Experience

Tina crossing the Rookie Tri finish lineOver the years, I have convinced untold amounts of people to sign up for their first triathlon because I honestly believe that it is good for people. It is such a unique experience, and above all else, it is fun. The triathlon community is so supportive, and I am lucky to call so many of them friends. 

I hope my story has helped inspire you to go ahead and give triathlon a try. If you see me at the next High Five Events race, stop by and say Hi!

Ever wondered which of your favorite celebs share the love of triathlon with you??

The world of triathlon knows no bounds. With an estimate of 4 million people participating every year, the sport is constantly growing and adding new athletes to the mix! We see every type of person enter triathlons, but have you ever thought about which of your favorite stars are triathletes too? See if your favorite star made the list with these celebs that TRI!

 

1. Shawn Colvin

Shawn Colvin, Triathlete

Image: Getty Images

Shawn Colvin is a Grammy award-winning artist that was bitten by the tri-bug back in 2001. “It’s true, once you do one of them you want to do more!” She regularly participates in triathlons all over the country and was even at the 2019 Kerrville Triathlon Festival where she sang the national anthem to kick-off Saturday and Sunday of race weekend! Colvin holds a special place in our hearts because she’s one of our very own and completed Rookie Tri in 2006!

 

 

James Marsden

Image: Noel Vasquez

2. James Marsden

James Marden, known for his role in The Loft, is an actor, singer, and a regular participant of triathlons all over the States. He is constantly keeping up with his training and participates in various triathlons every year to maintain his muscular physique. Marsden says triathlons are a great way to stay in shape year-round so he is camera-ready at all times.  He even missed the 2017 Emmy awards because it conflicted with one of his triathlons!

 

3. Jennie Finch

Image: Matt Peyton

Jennie Finch is one of the best softball players the sport has ever seen. After retiring from her 11-year career earning her 2 Olympic medals, she hung up her cleats and traded them in for running shoes. She began by entering marathons before she participated in the 2013 New York City Triathlon as a way to get back in shape after her third child was born. She crossed the finish line of the Olympic-distance (we see what she did there) with an impressive time of 2:51:15!

 

 

Triathlete Gordon Ramsay

Image: Clara Molden

4. Gordon Ramsay

Hell’s Kitchen’s overlord, Gordon Ramsay, took his skills out of the kitchen to participate in the 2013 Hawaii Ironman. Since then, Ramsay, 52,  has competed in several marathons, half ironmans, and other races throughout his journey. The competitive environment of the events is what keeps him coming back year after year. He trains throughout the year to keep up with his physical condition alongside his wife, Tana.

 

Jennifer Lopez Triathlete

Image: Jean Lacroix

 

5. Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez was inspired to begin her journey as a triathlete for a good cause. She participated in her first-ever triathlon at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon in 2008 to raise money for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. New to the sport, she had to spend most of her time training for the swim portion. On race morning, her training certainly paid off with her finishing time being 2 hours, 23 minutes and 28 seconds!

 

Matthew McConaughey

Image: Gregg Deguire

6. Matthew McConaughey

Austin local, Matthew McConaughey, is no stranger to the sport, having completed several triathlons since his journey began. McConaughey started his journey in 2008 by completing an Olympic-distance tri. He showed off his athleticism by earning a time of 1:43:48. How would you like that for your first ever triathlon time? Although he’s completed several triathlons since then, he has yet to complete Rookie Tri! Maybe we should ask him!

 

7. Claire Holt

Claire Holt Triathlete

Image: Chris Polk

Best known for her role in the TV series The Vampire Diaries, Claire Holt was instantly hooked on triathlons. Like the other star triathletes, Claire Holt is a regular participant of the celebrity division at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. Once she discovered her love for the sport, she found herself returning every year with the goal of improving her performance! She achieved her goal at the 2012 event by taking home first place with a time of one hour and 44 minutes.

 

Image: Noel Vasquez

8. Joel McHale

Joel McHale is the newest celeb to become a triathlete. He was especially impressed with his defeat of fellow triathlete and star, James Marsden, during the run portion of the race. He plans on returning to race triathlon again next year and plans on recruiting other celebs to join him!

 

9. Megyn Price

Megyn Price

Image: Chelsea Lauran

Rules of Engagement star, Megyn Price, started her triathlon career because she wanted to have a goal that would test her physical strength.  She finds it important for females to have goals that are based on something more than how you look. Her efforts paid off when she took home first place at a 2010 triathlon with a time of 2:10:23, just 3 years after her first tri! Way to go!

 

 

Brendan Hansen Triathlete

Image: Jamie Squire

10. Brendan Hansen

Brendan Hansen is best known for his professional swimming career. During all the chaos of winning 6 Olympic medals, breaking world records left and right, and starting a family, Hansen managed to find time to become a triathlete! Hansen competed alongside our Rookie Triathletes in 2010 and continues to participate in triathlons in and around Austin, Texas. When asked about his triathlon journey, Hansen told The Orange County Register, “Triathletes are great. They’ve got a screw loose, the way they train. But at the finish line, there is a beer tent. How great is that?” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

These folks may be superstars, but at the end of the day, their triathlon journey started just like everybody elses. With a Sprint Distance Tri and online training plans. If these stars can fit training into their schedules around all the craziness, you can too!

 

Everything you need for Rookie Tri’s Sweet 16 in one place

Rookie Triathlon’s Sweet 16 is this Sunday, May 5th! We’re putting the final touches on another great event and are ready to party with you at the finish line festival. Once again, Rookie Tri has more than 500 Rookies participating in their first or second triathlon… EVER! We’ve shared a lot of helpful information lately and want to make sure both Rookies and Veterans have everything they need for a successful event. Check out all the information and links below. We’ve got everything you need in one place. Good luck this Sunday!

Download the Rookie Tri app and have all the information you need in one place!

Download the app

Talk about all the information in one place. Download the Rookie Tri app and you’ll have everything you need in the palm of your hand! Tell friends and family to download the app as well so they know what you know. They can also track you on Sunday. The app is available for iPhone and Android.

Packet pick up

Make packet pick up smooth and enjoyable! Review packet pick up hours, location, pro tips, details, and parking. Make sure you have your ID; you’re the only one who can get your packet! Pro tip: Mellow Johnny’s is offering $1 off all non-alcoholic beverages. Just show your Rookie Tri bib!

Bike safety check

Complete this bike safety check before you leave the house! It’s very reassuring to know that your bike is completely ready to go race morning. Check your tires’ air pressure one more time before you drive to Decker Lake.

Group riding etiquette

It never hurts to review what to do during a group ride. That’s essentially what you’ll do this Sunday! Review the guidelines and adhere to them during the bike portion. This will help keep everyone safe on the roads and allow you to communicate with other cyclists if needed.

Calm pre-race jitters

Are the pre-race jitters kicking in? Don’t worry! That’s normal for both Rookies and Veterans. We’ve got 6 tactics you can use to calm those nerves, from planning the night before to listening to music race morning. Check them out and see what works for you.

Weekend and swim wave schedules

Not sure when something begins or ends? Want to double-check the approximate time your swim wave will begin? Hit up the schedule.

Course maps

Know the course maps before you get to transition. Becoming familiar with the layout will benefit you on Sunday. If you have friends that want to cheer for you on course share this with them so they know where to go.

Water temperature

As of May 2nd, the water temperature was 70 degrees. This makes the swim wetsuit legal per USAT rules. Greater than 78 degrees is the threshold, so we anticipate a wetsuit-legal swim. Feel free to review USAT’s wetsuit rules. Pro tip: a final temperature reading will be taken race morning. That will be the final determining temperature.

These are the answers to the 5 questions that Rookie Tri is asked the most

More than half the field participating in the 16th annual Rookie Tri are Rookies. That’s amazing! So many new folks being introduced to the sport is great for triathlon. Our main focus is to make Rookie Tri as inviting for new folks as possible. That means answering all the questions that come in! If you’ve wanted to ask a question, but haven’t done so, the answer might be below. These are answers to our 5 most commonly asked questions.

What do I need to bring to packet pick up?

  • Current photo ID
  • USAT annual membership card. Make sure it is not expired. (Digital copy is okay)
  • If you purchased a one-day license, you do not need to bring proof. If you still need a USAT license, you can purchase a one-day or annual license at packet pickup.

Can I pick up a packet for a friend or family member or my relay team members?

No. All High Five Events triathlons are USAT-sanctioned. USAT rules require each participant to show a photo ID and current USAT status while picking up their own packet.

Do I need a wetsuit to participate in the triathlon?

Wetsuits are not required to participate in any High Five Events triathlon. Depending on the water temperature for the event, wetsuits may or may not be legal. Read USAT wetsuit rules here: USAT Swimming Conduct.

How will I know if the event is wetsuit legal?

Water temperatures for the event will be announced on social media the day before and the morning of the race. If the temperature is equal to or lower than 78 degrees a wetsuit can be worn. Review the USAT rules for specific details.

Are headphones allowed?

No. Per USAT rules, bringing personal audio devices on the race course will result in a time penalty

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!

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. I started going to the gym a couple of times a week and I even attended some yoga classes to try and build muscle strength and improve my flexibility. Someone recommended that I have a look at some online yoga courses but I was so busy preparing for the race, I knew I wouldn’t have time! Training for a triathlon meant I barely had any free time. 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. Strength training is a type of physical exercise that is set out to help improve an individual’s strength and endurance, so you could say that it is perfect for triathlon training. But 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 decided to buy some new cycling clothing from a company like Cycology and was back on my bike as soon as it all arrived! Cycling is a great form of exercise in my opinion. 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.

5 reasons to make your first triathlon a sprint triathlon

Some people want to jump right into training for a full-distance triathlon. That’s 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and 26.2 miles of running! We strongly discourage first-time triathletes from starting with this type of distance. It’s always best to test out the waters first before taking on such a huge endeavor. See the reasons below for why you should make your first triathlon a sprint triathlon. When you’re done, register for Rookie Triathlon and let the training begin!

There are many reasons that a sprint triathlon is the perfect distance for your first triathlon

There are many reasons that a sprint triathlon is the perfect distance for your first triathlon

There’s less training

Triathlon training takes up a lot of time. With three different sports to prepare for, you could triple the amount of training needed. Starting with a shorter distance triathlon allows you to understand how much time is needed for each discipline. Going for something longer in the beginning and not realizing the time it takes, could set you up for disappointment and failure.

Your body’s response

If you’re interested in triathlon, chances are you have a swimming, cycling, or running background. That’s great, but you’re about to request a lot more from your body when you train for a triathlon. You don’t know how you’ll respond to the different elements of training. Making a sprint triathlon your first triathlon will allow you and your body to adjust to the rigors of triathlon training. Chances are higher that your body will respond positively to the increase in training.

Quicker results

Signing up for a sprint triathlon means you’ll have a shorter training runway, which can reduce burnout and get you closer to race day. For a first-time triathlete, the mental aspect of training is just as vital as the physical. From a training standpoint, you’re asking less of your body. From a mental standpoint, the shorter training timeline allows you to reach your goal of the finish line sooner!

Less chance for injury

The more you train, the more you run the risk of injury. Training for anything can lead to injury, especially if done incorrectly. Usuou extend your training timeline, the chances for injury greatly increase, especially from overuse. Training for a sprint triathlon is perfect, especially if your body isn’t completely ready to handle the load of full-distance triathlon. The Rookie Triathlon is perfect for first-time triathletes. You train for a 300m swim, 11.2-mile bike ride, and 2-mile run.

See if you like it

Compare triathlon training to shopping for a car. You wouldn’t walk into a dealership and pay for a vehicle without taking it for a test drive and checking it out, would you? Same thing for triathlon. See if you like it first! Don’t jump into a full-distance triathlon as your first triathlon. You should understand the training and financial commitment to triathlon training before diving in. That’s why a sprint triathlon is the perfect distance for your 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.