Race report: I did my first triathlon and did not die, which was awesome

You guys! I did it!

I’m a triathlete.

That’s so much fun to type. I thought about doing triathlons for years before I actually got serious about it.

Today I did the Island Lake Triathlon at Island Lake State Park in Brighton, Michigan. It’s close to home and in a park I often train in, which was a great setting for my first triathlon. The swim was freaking me out plenty.

I arrived at the park at 5:45 a.m. so I had plenty of time to get my gear into transition, get marked and all that awesome triathlon jazz. Plus, I like being early. It’s less stressful.

Fellow athletes were excited and supportive when I told them it was my first triathlon, which is one thing I love about the endurance sport community.

Going into the race, I was worried about making it through the swim (I knew I could go the distance, but worried that it’d be insanely hard) and feared making dumb mistakes, especially during transition. There were wasps in my stomach most of the day Friday, and I didn’t get much sleep. I listened to melancholy Johnny Cash songs on the way to the park to even me out a little.

Seeing the sunrise over Kent Lake was definitely worth the 4:30 a.m. wake-up call.

But getting to the park and getting everything set up in transition was calming. I got my wet suit on quite easily (no alligator wrastlin’ today!), and once in the water, I felt that perfect mix of calm and excited.

“I can do this,” I told myself as I looked toward the buoys. For the first time, I believed it.

Although I’d planned to stay at the back of the pack, there weren’t a ton of women in the sprint wave, and I threw myself in there. Typical.

The first 200 meters were semi-panicking, which I expected. I choked on some water, had a few people crawling over me and saw insanely intimidating weeds that I was half sure might try to kill me, but I made it through. No signs of Lindsay-eating piranhas, which was quite a relief. I also survived the alpha male Olympic triathlete who ran me over without slowing my stroke.

About half way to the first buoy, I started having fun! This is why I wanted to do this. I’m swimming in a smelly lake before 8 a.m. which a bunch of other crazy people. The swim, 750 meters, suddenly seemed shorter.

I need to work on my sighting, but I was pleased with how I did considering I’d never done that before. Spending many summers camping and swimming the middle of a river where the water was well over my head was great mental preparation for the swim, and that wet suit was a huge source of comfort for me.

My swim ended up being 3 minutes faster than I anticipated. As I approached the beach, I was so incredibly relieved and emotional. Got a little teary. I did the big scary thing. I unzipped my wet suit like a pro and came into transition with a smile like Chrissie Wellington.

The first transition was smooth, to my surprise. I didn’t try to hurry myself unnecessarily, but worked steadily to shed my swim gear and get ready for the bike.

The bike was hard. It’s a hilly park, and I’m not in great shape. But I know how to hurt. At one point, I thought about a trail run I did a few months ago and then remembered “Oh hey, I’m going up a steep hill and this hurts!” Discomfort is fine. It’s nice to have the mentality when it comes to pain.

Toward the end, I went to a higher gear and started spinning faster to get my legs ready for the run, and made another smooth transition (who am I?) to the run, which went almost immediately up a hill.

After about a half mile of jelly legs, I got my running legs back and started to feel like Craig Alexander. Head and shoulders up and driving forward. Slow-mo Crowie mode lasted for about a mile to the turnaround, which was on a hill. My asthma was acting up and I had to “air up”, in equestrian parlance, and I walked a few times in the back half of the race.

It went something like this: “Activate Slow-Mo Crowie Mode”. gasp, OK, a quick walk. “REACTIVATE SLOW-MO CROWIE MODE!” gasping, walk, walk, walk “CROWIE MODE, GO!” The knowledge that I’d shortly be able to call myself a triathlete was really helpful in this section of the race.

I pushed hard for the last half mile and ran strong to the finish. And then I was a triathlete.

I did a new thing! I didn’t die!

Lack of fitness got to me on the bike and run, but I’ll get there. Today wasn’t about going fast, it was about learning, being smart and finishing.

I feel stronger than I did this morning, not least for overcoming a lot of fear.

There’s also the identity factor. Before I ran my first marathon, I wanted to have the identity of the marathoner. That was really important to me. Triathlon was the same. It’s awesome that this is a thing I can do.

I like the numbers in sharpie on my arms and legs. I like taking my bike to and from transition and standing around in the water in a wet suit and hot pink swim cap. I love the way I look in my tri kit (it feels almost more right for me than a running kit, and I love the hell outta running). I like that I can swim, bike and run in one race.

Can’t wait for the next one.



4 thoughts on “Race report: I did my first triathlon and did not die, which was awesome

  1. I’m so excited for you! Triathlon is such a weird little sport – so much Lycra, so many weird bikes! – but I thoroughly enjoy it, and I’m glad to see that you’ve been bitten by the bug too.

    Also I loled a bit at the image of you driving to the race site while listening to Johnny Cash. So endearing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha yeah…had to bring myself down a little. I usually like pump-up music, but I admit, I was super scared.

      I love the energy of triathlons. I saw that when I did duathlons, but now I know I prefer the swimming! The part I was most scared of was actually my favorite. At about 200 meters the relief I felt when I realized I could indeed do it was incredible.


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