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My First Triathlon – Dead Last, Still a Winner

Experiences from your first triathlon

We put out a challenge on Rookie Tri Facebook for triathletes to submit a story about their first triathlon. The goal was to show individuals thinking about completing Rookie Triathlon as their first that they can make it happen! As with anything in life, the first time you do something doesn’t normally end of perfectly. Cindy Miller shared her story and all of its ups and downs. This won’t be your exact experience. With training and determination, you will complete your first triathlon too. Remember – whether you’re first or last, you’ll still be a triathlete when you cross the finish line on Sunday, May 5th.

An Athlete’s Perspective – Issue 16

by: Cindy Miller

I have completed five sprint triathlons. I am not an athlete but do like to push myself to try new things. This story is not meant to scare you, but to encourage you and give you a little chuckle. The triathlon I describe in this story is longer than the Rookie Triathlon. Anyone can do the Rookie Tri with a little effort and a lot of determination.

Preparation

My first triathlon was Spring Lake Sprint Triathlon at Aquarena Springs. I signed up and was doing it all by myself. My first bike was a hybrid road/mountain bike that I purchased from Walmart for $200 (mistake #1). I practiced my open water in Lake Austin. Most of my cycling was done on a stationary bike. I had already run several half marathons so the 5k was going to be a piece of cake. My sister was going to go with me for support and help me any way she could. I was extremely nervous and excited.

Here we go!

We arrived early to set up my transition station and I realized I could not wear my glasses in the water. I could not see to get from the transition point to the beginning of the swim. This was the first time my sister came in to save the day. She guided me to the swim start area and I was good to go. Again, excited and nervous I dove off the dock into the water and to my surprise there were several diver photographers there to startle me. I kept swimming and enjoying the fish and plant growth below me. The 500-meter swim was complete and I went to my transition point. I put on my glasses, dried off, put on my socks, shoes, my shirt, and walked my bike out of the transition.

The bike ride

Still full of excitement and a bit tired from the swim and transition, I started my 14-mile bike ride. It was lovely. Most of the other athletes were very kind as they passed me. Hearing things like, “on your left” or encouraging comments like  “keep it up!!” or “you got this!!” All was well until a police officer said, “Your back tire looks a little low.” He was correct. Being my first tri, I did not come prepared for a low tire (mistake #2) but that wasn’t going to stop me. I kept on going, dragging myself downhill. I watched a bus pass me and saw the volunteers get picked up right in front of me.

My sister was at the transition waiting for me to return with my bike and heard a volunteer say, “all the cyclists are back.” She went up to the volunteer and said, “wait, my sister is still out there.” She was nervous for me as they already started announcing the winners.

Not alone

I was still riding my bike and thought I was all alone, but I wasn’t. There were two SUVs behind me making sure I was safe. One came up to me and asked if I wanted to quit and I said “no” but I could use a pump. He hesitated because it was against the rules, but at this point, it was not about winning just about finishing. He pumped up my tire and I finished the ride.

I just had the run to go. The kind man that followed me in the SUV for the final three miles of my bike ride said that he needed to come with me for the run since there was no one else out there. He mentioned that he couldn’t run fast so we had a nice 3.1-mile jog.

Finale

My sister was now waiting for me to cross the finish line. Most of the triathletes were gone so the main volunteers asked my sister if the volunteers that were timing me could leave and she said it was fine. Knowing that my race time was not anyone’s concern at that point, just crossing the finish line.

I finally crossed the finish line with my jogging partner and my first triathlon was complete. My sister was there to congratulate me. If you haven’t guessed by now, I came in dead last. I was not defeated. My first triathlon was complete.  My sister and I laughed the whole ride home. I learned several things from that experience:

1)      My sister is wonderful

2)      No matter what I was safe

3)      Someone’s always going to be last (stick around to cheer that person on)

4)      Never give up!

An Athlete’s Perspective is a blog series of event and/or training experiences written firsthand by the athletes themselves. An Athlete’s Perspective is a completely unscripted and raw look into the mind and daily life of an athlete as they prepare for their next race. Readers will discover training regimens, eating tips, gear recommendations, and an uncut perspective into the lives of people like you and me.

8 Security Tips for Your Bike

Protect your precious bike with these 8 security tips

The cycling/triathlon community is relatively small. You probably know someone whose bike was stolen. Maybe you’ve had your bike stolen. The offseason is the perfect time to re-evaluate your bike security. Protect your triathlon investment as you train for Rookie Triathlon, the first tri of your life or the first tri of your season! Here are a few security tips to keep your bike out of the arms of a thief.

Bike security tips

  • Verify the serial number that is etched on the bike. Typically it is underneath the bottom bracket or on one of the chainstays. Some bike shops record the serial number at the time of purchase; consider contacting the original bike shop to verify the number.
  • Let your insurance company know about your important investment. Provide your insurer with photos to verify ownership as well as an original sales receipt and serial number. This is helpful in the event your bike is stolen. The police and your insurance company need this information to expedite the process.
  • Register your bike with the National Bike Registry (NBR). The NBR is the only true national database where bikes can be identified by police and returned to the rightful owner. Register today!

Bike lock advice

  • Never leave your bike unlocked and unattended outside ANY building – this includes your local bike shop. Unfortunately, bike theft can happen even in your backyard. You just never know who might be passing through.
  • Avoid locking your bike outside for an extended period of time. If you ride your bike to work on a consistent basis, see if your employer will allow you to bring your bike inside. If not, lock it up in a secure place that is visible to more people.
  • Invest in a quality lock if locking your bike outside is unavoidable. Avoid the thinner cable locks. Look for the beefier U-Lock style lock. In addition to the U-Lock, commuters should consider carrying a heavier cable lock so you can lock your bike to almost anything.
  • If you leave your bike in your car consider covering it with a blanket and/or keep it out of plain view as much as possible.
  • If you need to leave your bike on your bike rack for an extended period, make sure to lock it on the rack. Some racks come with an existing lock which works great. The other option is to use a heavy cable lock.

4 Reasons to Run the Austin Marathon 5K

Whether you’re new to running or searching for a winter goal race, the Austin Marathon 5K is for you! This event takes place on Feb. 17th in downtown Austin and runs entirely on South Congress Ave. Register for the 5K to be a part of Austin’s premier running event. Run solo or with a group of friends, make it a goal race or fundraise for your favorite Austin Gives Miles charity. No matter what you do, proceeds from your Austin Marathon 5K registration will benefit Paramount Theatre! Bonus before we get started: all participants receive an Under Armour Austin Marathon 5K shirt and all finishers get a medal.

#1 – Be a part of Austin Marathon weekend!

Participants take off at the start of the Austin Marathon 5K.
Start of the 2018 Austin Marathon 5K.
Credit: Ed Sparks

New to running/triathlon? Returning from injury? Want to participate with your kids in Austin’s premier running event? You don’t have to be the fastest runner or able to run 26.2 miles to enjoy race weekend. Register with your kids, friends, or family members and complete the Austin Marathon 5K together! Everyone can then celebrate at the Austin Marathon finish line festival. Adults can enjoy the beer garden (not kids!). Grab some post-run food at a food truck. Watch the marathon/half marathon action on the two Jumbotrons. Get ready for live music. Best of all, purchase the VIP Experience and enjoy the delicious food and tasty beverages before the half marathoners and marathoners!

#2 – Goal race

If your offseason focus has been on improving your running, then you should have a goal race! The Austin Marathon 5K is the perfect distance at the right time of year. You get to see your progress before triathlon season kicks in. That’ll tell you what you need to keep working on and show you what you’ve been doing right. You’ll also get the competitive juices flowing with 2,000+ of your closest running friends. Training with a friend or a group this offseason? Have them register and join you on Feb. 17th!

#3 – Benefits Paramount Theatre

That’s right, the Austin Marathon will donate a portion of your Austin Marathon 5K registration to Paramount Theater, a true Austin original. Opening in 1915, the Paramount Theater has seen it all! They’re Austin’s original performing arts venue, annually hosting 250+ events. If you love live music, theater, live shows, comedy, or the performing arts then this is your chance to support them. Pro tip: once you cross the finish line take a picture by yourself or with your crew underneath the Paramount Theatre marquee!

#4 – Fundraise for Austin Gives Miles

You want to fundraise for your favorite Austin Gives Miles charity, but 13.1 or 26.2 miles isn’t in your cards this year. You can still fundraise for the Austin Marathon 5K! That’s right, your fundraising efforts while training for the Austin Marathon 5K will still positively impact a cause that’s near to your heart. Make it a team effort and multiply your group’s effect! Gather friends and fundraise for the same cause. Make shirts, challenge each other, and see who can raise the most cash! You’ll help Austin Gives Miles grow, be involved with race weekend, and support your favorite Central Texas nonprofit!

New Swim Equipment, Now What?

See improvement in the water when you properly use your new swim equipment

Congrats! You just registered for Rookie Triathlon, the first triathlon of your life! Time to start training for the 300m swim. Purchasing swim equipment will help you improve in the water. Once you get all of your swim equipment, you probably have some questions about using it all. What’s a kickboard? Are you placing your buoy properly? What about your paddles? Here are some training tips that’ll help you get acclimated to your new swim equipment. We also provide some swim equipment recommendations!

Use our insight to get acclimated with your swim equipment!

Rookie Tri participant enters Decker Lake. Credit – Ed Sparks

PaddlesSwim paddles should fit within 1-2 inches of space around the edge of your fingers for maximum pulling power. Make sure to enter the water with your hand at a slight angle when swimming with paddles to reduce resistance against the paddle.

Buoy – Place the swim buoy between your thighs and try not to kick while you are pulling. The buoy will help stabilize your lower body. This allows you to rotate your hips and shoulders more effectively without the help of your kick. Pulling with just the buoy (no paddles) will help you focus on your “catch” in the water. Adding the paddles is a great way to increase your upper body strength.

FinsFins should fit snugly around your foot, but not tight. When kicking with fins, make sure to keep your legs fairly straight and use your hips to kick (without too much bend in the knee). The fins should help propel you through the water while keeping your upper body relaxed. Fins also help with ankle flexibility, which is very important in swimming.

Kickboard – The streamline kickboard helps beginner swimmers glide smoothly through the water as they develop the kick. Focus on keeping your lower body and the board on the surface of the water to reduce drag while you are kicking. Aim for small, quick kicks with your legs.

Mesh bag – Putting your swim gear in a mesh bag will help prevent lost or misplaced equipment. It will also allow your equipment to dry quickly after swim workouts.

Bicycle Helmets: The Breakdown

Bicycle helmets only work if you wear them correctly

That’s not breaking news, but anyone that’s new to triathlon might not think they’re necessary. Well, they are and you need to make sure the one you purchase is effective. Especially if you’ve started training for Rookie Triathlon, the first triathlon of your life! 

Your helmet could be the difference between life and death. Here's the lowdown on bicycle helmets, from choosing one that fits your head to avoiding common helmet mistakes. Click To Tweet

Why wear a bicycle helmet?

It’s simple: if you fall from your bike, the helmet will take the force of the blow instead of your head. Wearing a bicycle helmet when cycling is the most effective way to prevent a life-threatening head injury. Don’t assume that bicycle helmets are just for kids. Adults face the same risks as children. Even a low-speed fall from a bike can be dangerous.

Selecting a bicycle helmet

Bicycle helmets are cooler, more comfortable, and easier to adjust than ever before. There are plenty of inexpensive choices that will meet all these needs. Check out these recommendations from the staff at High Five Events.

Remember the ground rules:

Make sure the helmet is safe. Look for a seal of approval from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI). If it doesn’t have a seal of approval from them, don’t purchase it and most certainly don’t ride with it. Aerodynamic helmets should be held to the same standards as regular helmets. A few extra seconds are not worth risking serious injury.

Make sure it fits snugly

You shouldn’t be able to move the bicycle helmet more than one inch in any direction, front-to-back or side-to-side. The sizing pads included with every bicycle helmet can help make the fit more secure. If you have long hair, consider a helmet with a ponytail port. The rules for wearing a bicycle helmet are simple. Wear the helmet flat on the top of your head. The helmet should cover the top of your forehead without tilting forward or backward.

Think about visibility

If the bicycle helmet straps block your vision – even a little bit – choose another helmet. Likewise, make sure motorists and other cyclists can see you; choose a brightly colored helmet.

Fasten the chin strap just below your chin

If it’s not fastened, it won’t help you out much. If the bicycle helmet doesn’t feel snug, use the foam sizing pads that came with the helmet to get a better fit. The helmet shouldn’t rock from front to back or side to side. Some helmets are “one size fits all,” but others come in S-XL. Wear it before you buy it!

Bicycle helmets must be replaced after every crash

If a crack or any sort of puncture is spotted on the helmet, it should be replaced. No questions asked.

7 Steps to a Clean Bike

Not only does a clean bike look great, but it also performs better, lasts longer, and is easier to maintain

Perhaps you haven’t cleaned your bike all triathlon season. Maybe you just went on a long ride and it rained on you. It might be the end of your season and you’re putting your bike away for a few months. Whatever the case, it’s time to clean your bike! Follow the 7 steps below and your bike will be clean in no time. Take care of the bike that takes care of you. Remember, a clean bike is a happy bike.

Supplies

  1. An old shirt or a few rags
  2. Dish soap
  3. Small bucket
  4. Water hose
  5. Bicycle lubricant

Guideline for a clean bike

Step 1:

Set the nozzle on the hose to a light spray and spray down the entire bicycle. You do not want the pressure of the water to be too powerful. It could remove grease in areas that will be difficult for you to replace.

Step 2:

Tear the shirt into a few pieces and place in the bucket with a cap full of dish soap. Fill the bucket halfway with water and mix the water and soap around with the rags. Take one rag from the bucket and scrub the entire bike. Get the tires, frame, spokes, rims, hubs, drivetrain, and any other part of the bike that seems dirty. Check out this bicycle cleaning kit, it can make it easier to get to some of those hard to reach spots.

Step 3:

Take the water hose again and spray your bike off one more time. This should remove the remaining grime that has been loosened up by the scrubbing.

Step 4:

Take one of the remaining rags and dry the bicycle off. You can allow it to drip dry for a few minutes to make this easier.

Step 5:

Now that your bicycle is clean and dry, it is time to re-lube the drivetrain and other moving parts. Take your bike lube and cover the entire chain. Drip a few drops on the cassette of the bicycle. Now drip a few drops on each side of your wheels were your skewers go through the hub. Finally, drip a few drops on the brake calipers where the center bolt passes through and connects to the frame. This blog post provides more specifics on cleaning a drivetrain.

Step 6:

Now put your helmet on and take your bike for a little spin. Make sure you shift into every possible gear on your bike to spread out the lube. If you do not want to ride, just lift your rear wheel off the ground and shift the bicycle into every gear that way.

Step 7:

Last but not least, wipe the chain and drivetrain down one more time with a clean, dry rag to remove excess lube.

Happy cleaning!

My First Real Bike: The One that Started it All

You won’t find many triathletes who can’t remember their first real bike

Some of the High Five Events staff were chatting about bikes the other day during lunch. Then the inevitable happened: we started reminiscing about our first real bike. For some, their first real bike experience took place many years ago. One staff member purchased their first real bike earlier this year. One thing remained constant: everyone remembered their first real bike vividly. Read about our first bikes and their corresponding stories. Let this blog take you down memory lane, conjuring memories of your first real bike. Then share that experience with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Emily

I got my first real bike (silver Felt ZW) in 2013, two weeks after I registered for my first triathlon, the Rookie Tri! I hadn’t ridden a bike in more than 20 years! Getting used to riding was both scary and exhilarating. I dinged it up pretty good when I fell over at a red light and hit a curb. I forgot my feet were clipped in! Three people got out of their cars to check on me and all I wanted them to do was go away. HA!

Emily's first real bike: silver Felt ZW road bike.

Emily’s silver Felt ZW.

Stacy

My first bike was a Bianchi Giro 105. I got it in 2001 and remember being able to ride in certain parts of Austin that I wouldn’t even consider riding today!

William

Late last year I decided to train for my first triathlon, Rookie Tri. Earlier this year I traveled to Jack and Adam’s Fredericksburg and purchased my first bike, a black FeltZ 100. My first real ride took place on the Veloway. The entire time I kept thinking back to how often we rode bikes as kids. This bike was different that those of my childhood, but the feeling remained the same. Powering your bike, the wind in your face, leaning into turns, it all eventually came back. Now I love riding my bike to work to save on gas and help the environment.

William's first real bike: FeltZ 100.

Fresh off the rack with zero milage.

Tina

My first real bike was black with pink and purple stripes. I remember it came with a huge red bow! It was my first bike with gears and hand brakes. I crashed into a huge agave bush on my first ride and got all scratched up. I’m from Corpus Christi and my family and I would go on rides along the seawall.

Joey

Way back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth… I was just getting started in triathlon and ended up tearing my calf on the run at a race in North Carolina. Prior to that, I was riding a road bike when racing, but I really wanted a tri bike (like the cool). During my recovery I bought a Quintana Roo Kilo as motivation. I counted down the days until I could go out and ride my shiny new toy. 4 QR’s later I still have fond memories of that first race bike. Racing and training with friends led to hundreds of fun miles.

Do you have fond memories of your first real bike? Share your story with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

4 Reasons to Register for Jack’s Generic Triathlon

If you’re on the fence, these 4 reasons will push you to register for JGT

You’ve debated registering for Jack’s Generic Triathlon for some time now. Friends are racing. Your triathlon club will be there.

You plan to register, just haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Why? Perhaps you forgot, maybe it slipped your mind. Every time you think about registering for JGT you’re not near a computer. When you’re near a computer, you forget. It happens. Well, you’re on the computer now. Read the 4 reasons to register for JGT, on August 26th, below and make it happen.

New date, venue, and distance

The Rookie Triathlon - Beginner Triathlon Runner Rookie TriJGT will take place at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park (aka Decker Lake) on Sunday, August 26th. Previously, the event has taken place at Texas Ski Ranch and Lake Pflugerville. JGT now features the sprint distance only. Aquabike and Relay options are available. The sprint distance will consist of a 600m swim, 11.2-mile bike, and 5K run. Here’s to slightly cooler temperatures at the end of August *quickly knocks on wood*.

Year 16

That’s right, JGT is in its 16th year. There’s a reason people return year after year: they’re more than a number, they’re a barcode. From Day One, JGT has focused on the participant. Sure there have been elites and awesome swag, but the focus consistently remains on you: the athlete. Plus it is fun and clever.

3rd Texas Tri Series event

If you’re taking on the Texas Tri Series then you need to register and complete Jack’s Generic Triathlon. That goes for volunteers too! JGT is the third event in the much-loved series. Triathletes are challenged to participate in or volunteer for four Central Texas triathlons throughout the summer. Many use it as a means to stay active over the summer. Some use it to advance in distance. There are folks out there who just want to challenge themselves. Regardless of why clubs and groups travel from all over to cheer on their athletes as they take on the Texas Tri Series. You can expect a supportive and energetic atmosphere on August 26th.

Sweet, we mean generic, shirt/medal combo

Now that you have this year’s Rookie swag, this combo is perfect for your growing collection. I mean, can you find a better looking shirt/medal duo? We’ll wait… This year’s shirt is perfect for wearing around town or during your post-JGT workouts. And the design is sure to catch everyone’s attention.

The shirt is super-soft and one you’ll gladly add to your collection. The medal matches the shirt and commemorates the accomplishment of crossing the JGT finish line. Make your triathlete friends who don’t race JGT jealous. Or challenge them to join you so they can join in on the fun!

REGISTER!

 

Texas Tri Series – One Down, Three Remain

The 2018 Texas Tri Series is underway

The Texas Tri Series consists of four triathlons (first of which was Rookie Tri) that take place in and around the Austin area. You can participate in the Texas Tri Series (for free!) as an athlete or a volunteer. If you completed Rookie Tri on Sunday, May 6th, and want to register for the series there’s still time!

The events range from sprint to half distances. There are many volunteer roles and ways to participate. This is a great event to complete with family, friends, and even your kids. To participate, you must register for the Texas Tri Series (remember, it’s free!) and participate or volunteer at all four events.

In addition to all the awesome goodies you get at each event in the series, you will get some awesome rewards for completing the series. Each series finisher will receive a 2018 Texas Tri Series finisher medal and a finisher item. Timing is not being tracked for the 2018 Texas Tri Series.

The series is composed of four events

  • Rookie Triathlon
    • Sunday, May 6th
    • Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park
    • Sprint distance (300m swim, 11.2-mile bike, 2-mile run)
    • Relay, aquabike, and virtual options
  • Life Time Tri CapTex
    • Monday, May 31st
    • Via Mathias (Auditorium) Shores
    • Super Sprint distance (.25-mile swim, 6.3-mile bike, 3.1-mile run)
    • Sprint distance (.46-mile swim, 12.3-mile bike, 3.1-mile run)
    • International distance (.93-mile swim, 24.3-mile bike, 6.2-mile run)
    • Relay and aquabike options

      Jack's Generic Tri is the third Texas Tri Series event.

      Jack’s Generic Tri is the third Texas Tri Series event.

  • Jack’s Generic Triathlon
    • Sunday, August 26th
    • Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park
    • Sprint distance (600m swim, 11.2-mile bike, 5K run)
    • Relay, aquabike, and virtual options
  • Kerrville Triathlon Festival
    • Saturday, September 29th, and Sunday, September 30th
    • Kerrville, Texas (Nimitz Lake and Louise Hays Park)

      Kerrville Tri is the final Texas Tri Series event

      Kerrville Triathlon Festival is the final Texas Tri Series event.

    • Sprint distance (500m swim,14.5-mile bike, 5K run)
    • Quarter distance (1000m swim, 29-mile bike, 6.4-mile run)
    • Half distance (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run)
    • Relay (sprint and half) and aquabike (quarter and half) options

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.