The first weekend of sunshine. People are slightly insane from joy – flipflops and all. Cyclists are back, and their jerseys are as tight as ever. And the start of the triathlon season is weeks away. For all triathletes and triathlete-to-bes out there – the race recap of my first Olympic triathlon that I completed in 2013.
Does a costume give you superpowers?
I’d like to believe that it does.
Just ask any woman, wearing high heels and a miniskirt. And they don’t call it power suit, for no reason. Superpowers, I tell you.
As I pick up my wetsuit rental on a Friday before my Olympic triathlon, it is black and orange. Orange is my lucky color, so I take it to be a good sign.
My memories of the first time in a wetsuit are far from favorable. After a friend suggested that I go for medium, I decided to play it safe and go for large, only to have to squeeze into an X-large twenty humiliating minutes later.
Lots of huffing and puffing, I pulled and tugged, and squeezed, and pulled some more. The result was a cross between Catwoman and italian sausage, with a heavy (ha!) emphasis on the latter.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are definitely upsides to a wetsuit. For example, neoprene does wonders for cellulite. Adds buoyancy to the potentially brick-like extremities. The dolphin skin fabric even makes pot bellies look adorable. Just add doggie paddling, and you could practically squeal from tenderness.
Fortunately, Friday’s wetsuit experience was much more positive. I knew what to expect, and the Catwoman / Italian sausage quotient shifted somewhat in the direction of the former.
I did my very first triathlon at a week’s notice in 2011. It was a Try-a-Tri at Toronto Island – swim 250m, bike 10km, and run 2.5km. (Thanks, Goss!)
When I saw the race gear list, I thought they were joking.
A bike helmet? What’s next? Knee pads?
Goggles? Why would you swim with goggles? You can’t see anything!
As I’m packing for this event (two years later), at least there are no surprises.
Goss and I are up shortly after five. With coffee pulsating through our veins, we make the short-ish drive to the Muskokas. I’m starting to feel ill with anxiety. The typical drill – it usually starts about an hour beforehand, and nothing, but the start of the race can make it go away.
“What are you afraid of?”, Goss asks.
“I’m afraid of DNF-ing. I’m afraid of the swim”, I respond.
The swim takes place along the river. It is essentially one extra wide and extra (extra!) long pool lane. Swim down with the current, swim up – against. I dare someone to pull a negative split on this one.
Getting into a wetsuit only takes a couple of minutes. I’m getting better at this Catwoman thing. Triathletes are already warming up, doing laps across the river. I go in, mostly to get the “getting wet and cold” part over with. To my surprise, it’s not at all cold in the suit.
My god, I want one of these. Not for triathlons. No, I want one in general. To wear to the swimming pool. Or cocktail parties.
I also feel as light as Tinkerbell. As I lie back in the water, the suit supports my weight, as my feet peep out of the water. This is freaking amazing! I definitely want one of these.
I may take two hours to do this damn swim, but at least I will not drown. Sweet!
According to Coach Mike, it’s almost a tradition to… you know… warm up the wetsuit before the race. Of course, he could have been joking, and I just made a total fool out of myself. Meh. Won’t be the first time (or last).
My first time peeing in a wetsuit. I feel like a triathlete already. Although I gotta say, triathlete pride aside, I’m not a fan. That warm feeling slowly spreading around your stomach is just fucking weird.
A cute quaint river feels much cozier than an open lake, that’s for sure. I still remember the 500m I had to swim in an off-road triathlon, when it was chilly and windy. The water keeps slapping you in the face, as if offended at your constant pummeling.
I see the sky few times. This is in literal, rather than metaphorical sense – I actually turn over onto my back and see the sky.
When I see the green turn-around buoy, I cannot believe my eyes. We get to turn around? I was mentally ready to swim two, three times longer than we already had, before we got to come back.
I touch the bottom twice with my foot, and both times pull it away so quickly you’d think the bottom was burning hot. “I am swimming this distance, damn it!”, I think to myself.
A big sign of success – not a single guy/girl in a canoe attempts to save me today. One looks directly at me, and not even a glimpse of concern registers on his face.
Ladies and gentlemen, apparently I no longer look like I’m drowning when I swim. Who would have thought?
I expect this part to be slow and uncomfortable. In fact, I make peace with the fact that I will probably spend a good two hours in the saddle. The bike is borrowed from a friend, who uses different pedals, and so, I am destined to make the ultimate faux pas of the triathlon and ride in my running shoes.
I rip off the wetsuit, but then take my time to get dressed. T-shirt, running crops, socks, running shoes (yep, no clips).
The bike course in two words: Scenic. Long. The pallette is white, green and yellow. White – flowers, road markings, clouds. Green – leaves, grass, trees. Yellow – sun, deer warning signs.
Goss later said she was incredibly relieved to see me smiling on course. It was a hilly one. I went into the bike portion, expecting to be slow and uncomfortable. The ride was… well, slow and uncomfortable. And I was quite comfortable with that. I was fully prepared to spend two hours in the saddle. Hence, the smiling. I may have been (gasp!) enjoying the ride.
As the lead cyclists are coming back, I’m still figuring out how to shift gears. They fly by. Black disk wheels, and aero helmets, each one is like cross between a Dementor and a freight train.
On a side note, I could never wear a helmet like that with a straight face. Everyone pretends that it’s completely normal, even though you look like Sonic the Hedgehog on speed.
Judging from the calf markings of the cyclists passing me (there were many), I was “racing” in the bottom third of 50 to 65 age category.
Jennifer, age 53.
Maureen, age 51.
Being passed by someone almost twice my age in a triathlon always makes me smile. No, I’m lying. Not always. It makes me smile for the first hour or so. Then it starts to piss me off.
I’d need to put in some training before I catch up to these silver torpedoes.
I’m pretty sure I’m the very last person now.
Colleen, age 55.
Where did YOU come from, Colleen?
Now I’m definitely the last person.
Trish, age 57.
Ok. Now dead last. For sure.
For me, doing a triathlon is like driving against traffic. When I get out of the water, all the bikes are gone, and when I bring the bike back, everyone’s off running. Awesome. No fighting for space on the grass.
The only body parts aware of the fact that I’m running are my eyes (thankfully!) and arms (helpful!). The legs have no idea. They are still spinning bike pedals, bored. I have no feedback from my lower body at all. I glance down, checking (per km) pace.
4:30 Whoa, too fast.
Finally, six kilometers into the ten kilometer run, the legs wake up. They are fully aware now. And they don’t like it.
“What the hell?”, they complain.
“Come on, we are almost there!”, I shush.
“That’s a total bullshit sentence, and you know it!”
They are right. I know it.
“Shut up and work. I’ll give you beer”.
Legs seem intrigued, but not yet convinced.
“What kind of beer?”, they wonder.
“Cold kind”, I respond. “A craft brew. Something red.”
“Fine”, they mumble and grudgingly oblige.
I pick up the pace in the last 500m, and sprint towards the finish, passing a woman in front of me. And that’s it.
Another bucket list item done!
I am an Olympic triathlon finisher.
I covered 51.5km of distance today, using my body (as well as a sheet of neoprene and two wheels). I swam for 1.5km, biked for 40km, and ran for 10km. In a row. As in… one after another. Without stopping.
That’s pretty impressive, if I say so myself.
That shit takes superpowers.
- my first Olympic triathlon
- my longest solo bike ride
- the first time I peed in a wet suit
- the longest I have ever swam freestyle
- first triathlon I used my Suunto Ambit2 [see distance/time here]
YOUR TURN: Do you remember your first triathlon? Your first 5k? Your first obstacle race? What are some of your memorable race firsts?
Liked this post? Read about my first ultra marathon and how I’ve never run an easy race.
Your favourite tri-baby,