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Why You Need To Be Training for Transitions

Make worrying about transitions a thing of the past when you use these time-saving tips for triathlon transitions

A quick and easy transition is an important skill to save time during your triathlon. However, it is often overlooked during the training process. These transition techniques should be practiced during your training leading up to your upcoming tri to save time and reduce any stress you may be feeling about tackling transition on the morning of your race.

Know Your Way Around

Having an idea of the layout of the transition area of your tri beforehand is especially crucial on race day. Reviewing the course maps will eliminate any uncertainties you have and should be done in the days leading up to your race. Take it a step further and arrive at the race site early to do a pre-race walkthrough in transition.  Get familiar with the flow of transition during your walkthrough.  Make a point to identify where you will swim in, bike out, bike in and run out.

Athlete getting her gear set up in transitions before the racePlan Your Gear

Know what gear you will be using first will help you determine how to layout your gear when you arrive at the race site. If your goal is to improve your overall race time, you will need to be organized in your transition layout. Another common mistake we see athletes make is bringing too much stuff. Only bring what you need to avoid losing any items, or having items in the way to slow you down. Layout your items in the order you use them to save time when you arrive in transition during the race.

Practice

Practicing your transitions is the best way to be prepared come race day. Set up a practice transition area wherever you find an open space like in your driveway, or an empty track. This will give you the opportunity to time yourself and see how long the swim to bike transition will take, as well as the bike to run. Determine which time-saving techniques you’ll use such as deciding to have your shoes already clipped into your bike, or where to place your helmet for easy access. Practice putting on and removing shoes, and mounting your bike while keeping your rhythm. Layout your gear to get in and out of transition in the least amount of time possible.

Only Bring the Essentials

Getting into gear in the transition area

Only bring what you need to avoid losing any items, or having items in the way to slow you down. Along with completing a gear check to make sure you have all the items you need, take some time to make sure your gear is functioning properly. The idea is to have everything ready to go when you run into transition during your tri.

The best way to get good at anything is practice, practice, PRACTICE! Training for transitions ultimately determines how well you can tackle them on the day of your race. Use these tips for your upcoming tri to improve your race time, or maybe even PR!

Rookie Mistakes Triathletes Make on Race Morning

Get a good night’s rest before your upcoming tri with this as your guide to avoid making these rookie mistakes on race morning!

Even after all the training and metal preparation you’ve put in for the day of the race, there are still things that can go wrong on race morning. We all know how chaotic race morning of a triathlon can be, but have no fear! Follow these few simple strategies to help your race day go much smoother when you avoid making these rookie mistakes on race morning.

1. Getting to Race Site Late

Get to the race site early so you have time to familiarize yourself with the transition areas and layout of the course. Arriving late will increase your pre-race jitters and take away the fun of race morning with your fellow athletes.

Rookie Mistakes Triathletes Make on Race Morning. Group yoga with fellow athletes at Rookie Tri

Warming up, overlooking Decker Lake!

2. Not Warming Up

At Rookie Tri, we have a group warm-up led by professional trainers to help make sure your body is properly warmed up for the race. This is important, so be sure to plan to have some time to get a warm-up in and get that blooding pumping before your tri!

3. Bringing More Than you Have to

Brining more items means to keep track of and more chance of losing an item. Avoid this common mistake and keep it simple by only bringing what you absolutely need.

Good looking gear set up on race morning

Tri gear set up in T1!

4. Forgetting Gear

You’d be surprised at how often folks forget their running shoes or helmet on race morning. This will cause you unnecessary stress, so have a checklist, or use ours!

5. Starting in the Wrong Gear

Being familiar with the course will help you determine which gear you should start the bike leg in. Starting in the right gear will help maximize your power right away and set you up for success throughout the bike portion.

Athlete drinking water from one of the aid stations on course

Quick stop to hydrate at one of the aid stations!

6. Forgetting to Hydrate

Staying hydrated during your upcoming tri will ultimately determine how well you perform during the race. Determine how much fluids your body requires during training, so you don’t drink too much or too little on the day of your race.

7. Forgetting Sunscreen

You can’t avoid the Texas heat, but you can avoid the mistake of getting sun damage to your skin during a triathlon. Apply sunscreen on race morning before you get to the site. (This should also be done during your training!!)

8. Forgetting the FUN

Celebrating at the finish line party

After all, you signed up to have a great experience with friends and family around you. This should be easy with the infectious energy the athletes bring to The Rookie Tri who are always willing to help a fellow athlete if needed.

Use this as your guide for your next tri to avoid these common rookie mistakes triathletes on race morning and set yourself up for a fun-filled, hassle-free race morning!

Rookie Mistakes Triathletes Make During Training

Get more bang for your buck during your upcoming tri by addressing these rookie mistakes triathletes make during training

This year we celebrate 17 years of swim-bike-run fun at the 17th Annual Rookie Tri on May 3, 2020. We have seen just about everything you can think of in those 17 years, but we still see athletes make the same mistakes time and time again. Don’t let these mistakes get in your way of making progress on your training journey. Use this list to avoid the most common training mistakes made by triathletes to help your future race mornings go off without a hitch!

1. Selecting the Wrong Race

Go short before you go long. Your first triathlon is a learning experience, so ease yourself into the sport by completing a short distance tri like Rookie Tri. Once you’ve found your race, train for the distance you signed up for. The training leading up to the race will give you an idea of what to expect during the tri and help you determine which areas require more training.

2. Failing to Have a Training Plan

Training hard and logging those miles!

Now what? Find a training plan! We know it’s tough to find time to train for three different sports, so make it easier on yourself by finding a free online training plan. There are tons of free training plans created by professional coaches to guide you during your training. Using a training plan will ensure you divide up the training as needed to have you race-day ready.

3. Not Learning to Pace

Overexerting yourself at the start of the race will hurt you during the rest of the race. Pacing yourself throughout training is the best way to know your pace for each discipline. Practicing pacing is key to a strong finish and successful race.

4. Not Training Your Weakness

Ignoring your least favorite portion during your training will only hurt you on race day. It’s natural to avoid training your least favorite discipline and spend the majority of your time on your strongest. Improve your performance on race day by preparing for your least favorite discipline to eliminate any uncertainties you have.

Getting into bike gear in transition

Getting into gear in transition

5. Not Practicing for Transitions

Practicing transitions during training will give you the best idea of how long it takes you to execute transitions on race day. Some athletes leave their shoes clipped into their bike for a quicker transition. Practicing will help you figure out what works best for you in the least amount of time.

6. Not Knowing the Rules

Is your race wetsuit legal? Can you wear headphones? Don’t get disqualified by not knowing the basic rules of triathlon. Look over the USAT rules before starting your training so there are no surprises to throw you off your A-game on race day.

7. Not Doing an Open Water Swim Before Race Morning

Open water is vastly different than pool training. How you do on the swim sets the tone for the rest of your race. Plan some open-water swims into your training so you know exactly what to expect on race day. Go an extra step and get a group of other athletes who are training to do a mock swim with you!

Celebrating at the finish line party!

Whether you started your journey to get in shape or challenge yourself the most important thing to remember during training is to have FUN. Trust your training and enjoy the experience! This should be easy with the infectious energy the athletes bring to The Rookie Tri.

Use this as your guide leading up to your next tri to avoid these common rookie mistakes triathletes make during training. That way you can focus on having a great time and hopefully be inspired to continue your triathlon journey!

Celebs You Didn’t Know Are Triathletes

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!

 

A Few Reasons To Love The Rookie Tri

If you’re interested in getting into triathlons, here are 4 reasons why you’ll love Rookie Tri, and why you should give it a try!

The triathlon community is an exciting place that brings all kinds of people together to share their love of swimming, cycling and running. To make our participants feel more comfortable easing into this world, we created The Rookie Tri. Taking on a sprint distance triathlon as your first tri is a great way to build your self-confidence and hopefully spark your desire to continue your tri journey!  If you don’t already, keep reading for a couple of reasons you will love The Rookie Tri.

Location

Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park

Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park has great running, biking, and hiking trails!

The home of Rookie Tri is one of Austin’s known hot spots, Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park aka Decker Lake.  The park is located at 6614 Blue Bluff Road.  On race morning, we always kick-off The Rooke Tri with a group stretch as the sun rises, looking out over Decker Lake. This is a great opportunity for you to get a look at the swim course if you aren’t familiar with the area. Pro tip: If you live around the area and are nervous about the swim portion, get out there and do a mock swim beforehand. For the spectators, there are great spots along the course for friends and family to join you on race day while getting a great view of you throughout the tri!

Different Options

We offer different distances and divisions to make sure all our participants get the most out of their individual race experience. There is an aquabike option for all of our non-runners out there. There is also a relay option, so you have the choice to divide up the tri and have your friends or family complete it with you! Along with these different distances, The Rookie Tri is special because of its separated Rookie (beginners) and Veterans (experienced triathletes) groups.

Everyone’s a Rookie Here

We know how intimidating your first triathlon can be. The Rookie Tri was created to help beginner triathletes dip a toe in before diving straight into a full distance triathlon. As soon as the race begins, everyone’s a Rookie. However, knowing you are completing your first tri along with others who may be new to the sport is not only comforting, but a great opportunity to meet other athletes at your current skill level. Our biggest goal is for the participants to have the most fun possible. That’s easy because we always have the best participants who cheer one another on and help each other out throughout the course, so you’ll feel right at home. 

Finish Line Party

Rookie Tri Finish Line Party

Rookie Tri Participants having a blast at the Finish Line Party

Where else would be better than to celebrate your victory on completing The Rookie Tri than with fellow Rookies? Participants get complimentary hot food and cold drinks waiting for them at the finish line. Also, you’ll receive some other great treats from various vendors. There’s also a beer garden for our 21 and up participants to enjoy! Last but not least, everyone loves the swag toss we do to wrap up the finish line party, although you won’t want it to end!

There are many more reasons to love The Rookie Tri, but here are a few of our favorites we wanted to highlight. Whether it is your first triathlon or your tenth, get ready to have an incredible time at The Rookie Tri.

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.

Tire Blowout Prevention Tips

Prevent your next tire blowout

The last thing you want is a tire blowout the morning of your first triathlon!

Culprit: old tires

There are times when people use bike tires that are not very well maintained. The tire may have dry or weak spots. Mechanics/helpers/friends helping others get ready in transition during bike check-in will normally pump tires up to the maximum tire pressure. This exposes already weak, drily rotted, or damaged areas of the tire. This is the main culprit of tires blowing out.

Not a culprit: temperature change

A severe temperature change the night before will only cause a very slight change in tire pressure overnight. A swing of 50 degrees will be a shift of fewer than 10 lbs. of air pressure in your tire. Most wheel manufacturers’ rims can withstand more than twice the recommended tire pressure before the tire would pop off of the rim. So if your tire is supposed to be aired up to 120 lbs., chances are your rim can hold twice that amount of force or more.

Culprit: too little pressure

Begin the bike portion of your triathlon knowing your tires are completely aired up.  Too little pressure will slow your ride down and make you work harder than necessary.

Rubber is a porous material. Tubes and tires will lose pressure over a short amount of time. Some tires will lose as much as 25 to 40 percent of their air in a week. If you air your tires up the day before you will probably have a little less air in your tires by race start. This would be a reason why you should air them up race day.

You can learn more about proper air pressure from this Jack’s Generic Triathlon blog post.

Want to learn more about flat tire prevention?  Follow the advice in an earlier blog of ours.

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.

Thank You 2018 Rookie Tri Volunteers

Huge thank you to the Rookie Tri volunteers for making Year 15 amazing

Body marking with a smile at Rookie Tri! Photo credit – Ed Sparks

Thank you to everyone who donated their time and energy to help us have a great event. The 2018 Rookie Tri was a success and we couldn’t have done it without our awesome volunteers! Our 15th anniversary wouldn’t have gone as smoothly without you. You helped stuff packets and work packet pickup before race day. Early morning called and you parked cars, body marked triathletes, worked transition, and directed athletes on course. Once the final finisher crossed you assisted with breakdown. You were vital in leaving Walter E Long Metropolitan Park cleaner than when we found it.

We loved getting to celebrate our volunteers with a fun and prize-filled dinner party at Brick Oven on Thursday night (5/10). It was a pleasure to chat with all of you while eating some delicious food. Enjoy the extra swag, car seat covers, socks, and foam rollers!

Don’t forget, this is event #1 of the Texas Tri Series. Keep your streak going and volunteer at CapTex Tri!

Once again, THANK YOU!