As with any first try in life, a first tri always has a few obstacles. Plenty of people will join the ranks as new triathletes at Nation’s, especially with the addition of our inaugural sprint distance event.
I asked my teammates on the National Capital YMCA Triathlon Team about their experiences during their first events.
Susan had watched a half Iron race and figured she’d get help removing her wetsuit during the sprint. She said she rolled around in transition for a few minutes laughing and struggling.
A wetsuit proved troublesome for Erik, too. He rented one for his first race in a savvy move to test the product before he committed to the sport. He tried on the suit the night before in the hotel room, pulled the garment off, and went to bed. When he exited the water, he couldn’t find the zipper because he’d worn the suit inside out.
Sometimes, though, the difficulties come from an external source.
Bridget built her strength in our club’s coached swimming program, but her doubts lingered. On her first race day, she found her rhythm in the water, but the buoys never seemed to get any closer. She stopped at a kayak, and the lifeguard assured her she looked strong in the water. She finished, and learned after the race that the initial buoy had drifted several hundred meters and added a significant chunk to the swim distance.
I encountered a problem similar to Bridget’s in my inaugural triathlon.
My first open water swim went well, and I rolled into T2 with a faster bike split than my goal time. I felt good as I headed into my strongest sport.
The run course had no shade under a sunny sky and temperatures in the mid 90s, plus humidity. The last portion of the route twisted through a historic village, so I knew I was close.
“Half a mile to go,” someone said.
I cranked my pace for the final stretch.
“Half a mile to go,” someone else said.
And I kept running hard.
“Way to go bud,” my dad said. “Half a mile to the finish.”
I glared at him.
“I’ve heard that before,” I said as I slowed. “This course is wrong.”
I ended up walking — I was dangerously close to overheating — and managed to jog the last few hundred feet to the finish with the encouragement of a fellow athlete who ran with me.
A misplaced turnaround cone meant the 4.4-mile run had extended into something closer to six.
Despite the mishap, I stuck with the sport. So have all my teammates.
Your first race might not play out perfectly either, but everyone on the course — fellow competitors, race officials, volunteers, spectators — wants you to finish. Your reward at the end of the day is a good story and the title of triathlete.