My First Triathlon: First Leg

1429 1429_ () 1429 1429 Thoughts on the triathlon
The first part of the triathlon is the swim, and it’s the part of the race that I was most worried about. Before this race, I had never done any distance swimming in open water, with no side to hold onto for even a quick three-second breather. So before I agreed to do this race, I gave serious thought to my abilities to swim the 600-meter distance.

What I learned from talking to others is there are several canoes and boats in the water to offer assistance. I also found out people do a wide variety of strokes, from back to breast to doggy paddle. I heard of several newbies like me using the first tri to just do it — to make it through without stressing about stroke-perfection.

When I heard the standards could be so humble, I decided to go for it — if I was desperate for a break during the swim, I could stop at a boat. As we stood at the shore the morning of the race, I knew that in order to keep myself calm, especially for my inaugural tri, I should have built-in safe zones. I looked out at the lake and told myself to swim to the first buoy and then I could take a breather. I didn’t know if I’d even need a breather, but that was my plan.

Another huge part of my approach was deliberately going last — I mean, dead last. The swimming begins in heats, first men, then older men, then women, then novice. I was in the last group. So much of what I had heard and read about the swim was the chaos — people swimming over the tops of other people, swimmers getting kicked, water splashing everywhere. I realized that all the action would probably scare me (it was scary to friends of mine) and I decided I would avoid the madness to avoid any potential panic.

When our heat got called into the water, I slowly waded in along with everyone else. As the timer counted down, I kept calm, knowing I was not in this to race. I was in this to finish. When he shouted go, everyone took off and I held back for about three seconds. I let just about every other person go first. Then I pushed off and started my swim.

This is where I’d like to mention attire, and how you should not go with my choice. My sister-in-law sent me some great links to good tri-clothing options, but I didn’t have time to order anything. I decided to go with a nice fitted active tank (with a sports bra underneath) and a pair of bathing suit bottoms. Then I could pull on my running shorts for the bike and run. (Sorry if this is TMI, but I would have found this all pretty helpful). The problem with the shirt and bra combo is that neither are designed for water, so they felt like twenty pounds when wet. That was a funky sensation that was disconcerting in the water. I felt weighted down. The shirt never dried the rest of the morning and I just felt icky. So, note to self: wear shirts or tanks designed for water wear.

As for the swim, I decided I would do breaststroke as long as I needed to — again, my freestyle has never been tested beyond laps in the pool, so I went with what I’m most confident. Every time I came up for air, however, water got splashed in my face. Eventually I just kept my face up until I was away from the splashing.

I rounded the first buoy and approached the boat. I didn’t really need to rest, but that’s what I told myself I’d do. Plus, I couldn’t tell how much further until there was another boat. I didn’t want to push too much. For my next race, I have decided to be in better swim shape (did I mention we decided three weeks ago to do this? So, yeah, not totally geared up properly).

As I held onto the float for a minute, a guy swam over to the boat needing his second break. The lifeguard was very nice, but did point out to the guy that we were 150 meters into a 600 meter race, and that he certainly hoped the man could finish, but just keep that in mind. He was on his second break. I hope that guy did finish; I think everyone made it through the swimming.

I took off after a few seconds and started to swim again. I won’t lie — it’s rather daunting to be out in the middle of the lake. Even with goggles you can’t see a thing in the water. It was a little spooky at times, to be swimming and then hear yelling. I’d look over to see someone totally off course, the boat-aides having to yell loud to get their attention. The drifter would suddenly jerk up, looking around to see what the fuss was about. And then realize it was about them.

In the water, as with the rest of the race, it’s just mind over matter. My brother and I were talking a few days before the race about getting your head right, getting in the habit of deliberately thinking about anything but what your body is doing. Because if you focus on that, you want to poop out pretty quick.

I started thinking about the boys and how my parents were bringing them to the race to watch us. I started getting pretty tired towards the end and started praying I’d see them on the shore. I kept looking and finally I spotted them, my mom and dad and the boys, standing there watching me. And yes, that did it for me. I found the energy to kick it up a bit.

When I got close enough to touch the sand, I felt relief. But also a bit sick. Because I was one-down-two-to-go. And the next step required 13 miles of biking power from me. 1429″> ?



  1. R~
    That was a greast post. I so enjoyed reading all about the experience. And no, I don’t think you shared TMI – hey, enquiring minds WANT to know, right?! 🙂

    It’s funny because when I read you last post and you mentioned swimming in the lake, I totally wondered how people do that. It would have to be weird to not see anything in murky water like that – and I’d know for me, my mind would be messing with me for sure.

    How great your parents and kiddos came out to root you on.

    Can’t wait to read part deux!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wow. Kuddos to you with only a three prep window. Very, very impressive. Congratulations on completely the swim. I look forward to the updates on the remaining parts. I’m impressed. Go girl!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Great job…. I am a mother of 4 similar in age to yours and I know how hard it is to find the time/energy to train. I have enjoyed your blog. I am a Georgia native now living in PA. We are packing up the kids as I speak to make our summer drive down to Monroe, GA. Also, FYI… I went school supply shopping at Walmart yesterday and found Chuck Norris folders and spiral bound notebooks – no joke! My boys were thrilled. Keep up the good work – it’s the only way to keep your sanity.
    God Bless, Beth Koons

  4. You are awesome!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Not to be morbid, but if there’s any chance either of you has a heart condition, please do be extra careful — especially with the swimming part. Just saw this recently:

  6. Anonymous says:

    good job Rach! I am way impressed with swimming in lake water. Definite mind over matter not being able to see what else is swimming with you!!!;(
    hope the rest of the race was easier for you.

  7. whew! I feel tired just reading about it. What a great thing you are doing.
    Hey, how is it going with weaning yourself from Diet Coke? News is that there are new diet drinks made with Stevia that are pretty tasty creatures. Though I haven’t tried them, I may have to sneak a little in the house and give it a whirl. Although iced tea is so much cheaper.

  8. Allison Kennedy says:

    Hey Rach!
    First of all, way to go!
    And second, HOW IN THE WORLD do you have the energy to do the likes of this with 5 boys? I have no children and it wears me out thinking about it. 🙂
    Looking forward to the next installments.
    Love Allison

  9. I was holding my breath at the end. More, more!! 🙂

  10. WOW! That is awesome! Congratulations!

  11. Jennifer says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years. I have 5 kids similar in age to yours, and am training for a half-marathon at the end of August (something I’ve never done before.) Sometimes I wonder if I should be spending so much time on myself, although I do most of the training while the kids are still asleep.

    It’s good to know that I’m not the only fitness-minded mom who likes a good challenge (like raising 5 kids isn’t enough!).

    Looking forward to the next installment.

  12. Wow, great job! I have been training for a marathon but would LOVE to try a tri! Thanks for the motivation. I also am used to just pool lapping- no experience with open water. I think it’s too intimidating so thanks for the post!

  13. Marria ( says:

    Congratulations! I haven’t attempted a triathlon (yet!) but have been a “triathlon widow” in the past. My husband has completed three Ironmans and a number of shorter triathlons! My son, Asher, will be competing in his 2nd triathlon (he’s 8) this Saturday morning! Keep up the good work. And, you go, girl!

  14. momto5minnies says:

    Another mommy here with more bars in more places (LOL).

    I think it is awesome that you did this. We are a big swimming family and I am slowly getting back into running. Maybe with some training I can do this … maybe?????