Getting a little more JOLLY, a little more GREEN, and a little less GIANT.

16 August 2014

My First Triathlon: Triathamom (Part 1: Preparations)

Over a year ago my brother said to my sister and me, "Why don't we all do a triathlon?"

Huh??? Triathlon? No way. Sure I run. But I don't bike. I don't swim. Well, at least not very well on either account. Plus who has the resources for that kind of training? Money. Time. A pool. Not me. It was a quick and easy "No way" from me. There was no pressure because he quickly backed out too.

But dang him. He planted a seed. Why DON'T we do a triathlon? I turned to my favorite athletic sounding board, my Facebook runners' group. Many of them were triathletes AND moms AND trusted friends. They would be the best sources for sound advice.

One of them (Megan) said, "Hey, if you're serious about getting into the tri world there's this great event called Triathamom that's actually going on next week and they're looking for volunteers. You can see what triathlons are all about without the pressure to do one. Plus, if you volunteer you get a free entry next year!" Or something like that.

Volunteering at Triathamom 2013
 I jumped at the opportunity and soon found myself standing--very early on a Saturday morning--in an orange vest directing crowd traffic and guiding (and cheering on) triathamoms as they emerged from the pool and ran to the first transition area. It was incredible to see so many women of every size, shape, ability, and age doing something so monumental. Absolutely inspiring! After seeing the variety in the athletes I knew this was something I could do.

My friend Katie participated in Triathamom 2013 and 2014. She is awesome!
I continued to run and started adding in biking as the weather improved with the arrival of Spring and Summer. Out of necessity most of my bike rides were accompanied by various arrangements of my children. Three year old Cee was along for almost every ride, happily riding in the bike trailer. Five year old Elle always wanted to try riding her own bike but was so slow and would often tire after a few miles. When she was done I would just pile her bike on top of the trailer and have her sit next to Cee and continue on my way. Pulling 100 plus pounds of kid, bike, and stroller is the very definition of "resistance training". Sometimes the older two kids would join us and it has been really fun seeing my kids getting faster and faster on their bikes. Enough that we can actually go at a pretty decent training pace for me.

Swimming was the most terrifying aspect of a triathlon for me. I could "swim" but was putting out a lot of energy without getting much in return. Back in April I scheduled swim lessons with one of the gals from my running group. Sara teaches swim lessons at one of the local rec centers. Most of her students are little kids but she gladly took me on. This was one of the best moves I could have made in preparing for the triathlon!

I was so nervous for that first lesson. There were several other lessons going on at the same time but everyone in the pool was under 5 years old. Sara took me to the deep end and asked me to show her what I thought a "freestyle stroke" was. I immediately started breast stroking and realized half way down the lane I wasn't even doing the right thing. So I switched over to what I thought was freestyle. She was so great at correcting my terrible technique and teaching me how to streamline my body, breath efficiently, and lengthen my strokes.  I'm so grateful for her patience and non-judgement.

After only two lessons I felt ready to practice what I had learned and perfect my technique. I have spent the last several months going to the rec center pool at least twice a week to swim laps. This was terrifying at first. I have always been afraid of the gym and just felt like I didn't belong. I figured if I was brave enough to get swim lessons as an adult I could be brave enough to finally get a real gym membership. It was really hard dropping Cee and Elle off at the gym daycare. I've never left them in the care of strangers like that and when Cee decided she didn't like day care and started freaking out every time I would drop her off it only made it harder. She finally likes it now. I still feel a little out of place but I'm getting so much more comfortable at being in the gym IN A SWIMSUIT no less. And I am such a better swimmer now! A lady even stopped me in the lane the other week and asked how long I had been swimming. When I told her a couple of months she was very surprised and complimented me on my form. Totally made my day!

After I got better at swimming and biking, I began to throw a few brick workouts in to prepare for transitioning between activities. I would bike 10 or so miles and immediately run a mile or so after. I had heard that moving right from biking to running is a weird transition and it's absolutely true. Your legs can feel very "stumpy" after pedaling for so long. A couple of days I set up mini-tri practices for myself. I would bike up to the gym, swim, bike back home, and then run a couple of times around the block. Or I would drive up to the gym and start with swimming, then bike, then run. After a few of those I felt pretty confident that I was ready for a full-fledged triathlon.

I didn't have a lot of money to spend on new equipment so I just planned to use my mountain bike for the biking portion. I was nervous about running in my swim suit so I practiced a couple of times in some spandex shorts and a sports bra. It worked so I skipped out on buying an official tri suit or shorts. For the biking and running stretches I just stuck with my good old running shoes. Between my frugality and my volunteering for a free spot the year before this race cost me nothing.

Did that mean it meant nothing? No way. I have been so excited to do this for over a year. This was a new exciting challenge and an opportunity to try new things and to be brave as well as to expand my fitness and experience. After a year of mental and physical preparation I couldn't help but get a little emotional at packet pickup on Friday when they stamped my numbers on my arms and my age on my leg. This was getting real.

Part 2: Race day details.

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