My First Triathlon

Would you hate me if this blog changed from running chit-chat to serious, terrified discussions about running and triathlons and swimming and biking ?

And golfing? Kidding. That will never happen.

Well, let’s be honest, it won’t include serious discussions. At least not all the time. I’m too ADD and silly for that. But, I’m really starting to love this triathlon training thing. It’s possible I’m becoming a runner-swimmer-biker, but it’s too early too tell. I’m not ready to totally cheat on running yet. (Running, you will ALWAYS, always be my first sweaty love.)

Besides, I have that whole Ragnar thing going on. Who has time to swim when they are busy relay-running 200 miles from Saratoga to Lake Placid with 11 awesome friends? Unless you count chicken fights in the hotel pool, although I don’t think that would prepare me for lake swimming too well.

Chicken-fighting aside, all signs point to triathlon. In August, anyway.

officially signed up for MY FIRST TRIATHLON! Doesn’t that sound like the name of one of those children’s books that describe some little kid’s random experience with something? “My First Time Riding a Bicycle!” or “My First Trip to Disney World!” Those cartoon characters have all the fun.

See? Chipmunks. Disney. RUNNING! Fun.

Anyway, you certainly didn’t come here to talk about Disney World and learning to bike without training wheels (or DID you? I never know what you guys are thinking).

Moving on.

I signed up for a little, 100-ish person sprint tri in a beautiful area of my town – all parks and lakes and SHADY which is key in August! Nice and simple for a first-timer, right? No traveling, no packing millions of items….plus I’m within close proximity to my house. Driving isn’t even necessary, I can bike to the start if I’m feeling extra-ambitious.

Credit: Greenbrook Racing

I paid a non-refundable fee and everything, so I’m committed. No backing out, Kara.

Here’s the rundown:

¼ mile swim – “M-shaped” in a lake, so they say. Whatever that means. Waves of 50. The good people start first, so I’ll be starting second. Or third. Who knows if they’ll even let me in the lake?

10 mile bike – One big, hilly loop.

3.1 mile run – Two 1.5 mile loops on an off-road path. Glorious 5K run which I will be anxiously awaiting.

5K? I have that covered, fellas.

They specifically mention “lots of areas for friends and family to come cheer you on!” Soooo…which of you would like those honors? Hmmm?

Obviously I’m full of questions:

-How do I find out if wetsuits are typically worn in this event? What’s the water temperature going to be?

-Do all triathlons give you swim caps?

-If I swim in a swimsuit, how do I change into my biking and running clothes? Would I have to wear a swimsuit under my clothes? What if I wear a wetsuit, I guess I need tri tops and tri bottoms? Does this mean I get to go shopping??

-If I rent a wetsuit, do I test it out in a pool? Won’t that look ridiculous? How do I even get one of those things on and off? Will my clothes underneath get wet?!

-What’s a good swim pace? Am I going to get kicked? Do I hang toward the back? What if I can’t find my bike? What if someone STEALS my beautiful new bike?!

-Transitions scare me. This isn’t a question, I just don’t know what’s going on.


I’ve already stalked the race results from last year, found the organizers Facebook page (the actual race website is very vague), and Googled pictures to see what participants wear/look like…AKA if they look intimidating.

I feel exactly like I did when I began running longer distances. The whole terrified “what’s going on I feel lost and vulnerable” feeling. I hate it and love it at the same time. As Brendan said to me last night, “You’re doing it! It’s happening!”

YIKES. Change is a’coming.

I’ve always brushed off triathlons as a viable fitness/race option because they seem so confusing; so many terms and accessories and weird training plans. I started as a runner. I’m a runner through and through! But once I was motivated by someone who made me consider that, “Hey, maybe I CAN do that”,  and took the time to actually read and Google the crap out of all variations of “triathlon training for beginners” and “tips for triathlons” and “how the heck do I find a wetsuit, “what’s the opposite of a mountain bike”, “every pool in the tri-state area”, and “do people really pee on their bikes in triathlons” (have you heard about that?!) I’ve finally scratched the surface of tri knowledge. Just a bit, but enough to feel like I can do it.

This is my apprehensive “I CAN DO THIS” face. Eeek!

I completed my first official BRICK workout yesterday, (see how I’m learning the lingo?) not counting my random post-FlyWheel runs. I biked on a spin bike (does that count?) for 10.1 miles, which took me 26:48. I then ran for 2 miles on a treadmill in 20:30. Not bad for me, I’d say. My legs felt a little tired but warmed up.

I know, I know. I should probably avoid indoor workouts. But if you were in NYC yesterday, you are aware that there was a monsoon outside. I did what I had to do. I felt AMAZING!

This photo isn’t even from yesterday but it is relevant because it’s raining. Boom.

So, I’m feeling motivated. Anxious. Pumped the F up.

To add more fuel to my fire, the day before my inaugural triathlon I’m volunteering at the NYC Ironman U.S. Championship. I plan to be super inspired. (You should join me! Philanthropy is FUN!)

Game on.

I’m a writer currently living in New Jersey and blogging about running, fitness, wellness, and motivation. I want every reader to laugh and feel empowered, balanced, and motivated! Subscribe by email to get 1-2 newsletters a month with post updates, my favorite articles, running playlists and more!


  1. July 19, 2012 / 10:12 pm

    Man way to go on this! I have never done one but it is on my bucket list for sure.

    • July 20, 2012 / 10:38 am

      Thanks! DO IT!!!! :)

  2. July 20, 2012 / 4:37 pm

    Awesomeness! I am kind of a triathlon junkie (This weekend is the triathlon in Hamburg, with alot of olympic triathletes!), I just don’t race myself (bike-problem) ;). My biggest concern would be about swimming, too. Chrissie Wellington wrote, that swimming during a triathlon would be like being in a washmaschine, but you can do it! I can’t wait to read the recap.

    • July 24, 2012 / 8:50 pm

      Oh I didn’t know you liked triathlons too! Awesome! I saw Chrissie Wellington speak once…so cool :)

      • July 25, 2012 / 3:26 pm

        Just met Jan Frodeno and Rasmus Henning at the triathlon in Hamburg. Writing a post about it right now. Have you read Chrissie Wellingtons book yet? It’s really inspirational!

  3. July 20, 2012 / 7:54 pm

    Yayyy so excited for you!! I wish I could swim hahah then I would totally be in!! :)

    • July 24, 2012 / 8:50 pm

      Soooo you should learn and join me! Just saying…:)

  4. July 21, 2012 / 11:07 am

    I would love to do once a small triathlon!!
    Because my first love is SWIMMING <3
    Wish you success!!

    • July 25, 2012 / 7:19 am

      Oh wow, you should! Most people are scared of the swimming :) do you ever do open water swims? Advice is welcome!!

      • July 29, 2012 / 4:31 am

        I did open water swim a long time ago… The only thing I remember is: I was just pulled by the flow of people and just thought: swim swim swim swim till I got out :) but the longest I did outdoor was 1k.
        You’ll see how energising it will be!!

  5. July 21, 2012 / 10:15 pm

    That’s exciting!! You can do it!!!!!! I’m sure I’ll be terrified when I try one someday. Especially the swim!!

    • July 24, 2012 / 8:51 pm

      I’m most nervous about the swimming. Yikes! Do you plan to do one at some point?!

  6. July 22, 2012 / 11:58 pm

    I have all of the same thoughts/concerns as you. Except I am also concerned I will drown. Erin (on our Rag team) has done a bunch of tris. She even swam for our college team. So fancy…Talk to her for sure!

    • July 24, 2012 / 8:51 pm

      I’m concerned about that as well. It’s a fairly worrisome thing…haha! I’m totally going to harass her with questions

  7. July 25, 2012 / 11:46 am

    Hi Kara! Congrats on signing up for your first tri. I know it seems a little daunting at first, but you are going to do great and will realize how undaunting it really is: I thought I’d try to answer some of your questions based on my own experiences. Hope this is helpful …

    Wetsuits are typically worn if the water temperature is colder than 78 degrees. For a swim this short, if the water is warm, I wouldn’t recommend using one. You could email the race directors to see what the temps have been in the past.

    All races will provide you a swim cap in your bag when you go to packet pick-up. They are usually different colors based on swim waves or age groups.

    Don’t swim in a swim suit. Go to a local mulit-sport store and get yourself a tri suit. I would highly suggest a two piece, which looks like spandex shorts and either a sports bra or full tank. They have many that are made specifically for triathlons. Then you don’t have to worry about changing at all. Also, while you’re there, be sure to get some Yankz or another similar brand of tieless shoelaces. This will enable you to slip your running shoes on without having to waste time tying them.

    Don’t worry about your swim pace for your first race. Your goal should just be to finish. You’ll probably see the fast swimmers in the 6-minute range for a 400, the middle of the pack at 8-9, and the slower end at 10+ minutes. You are going to get kicked. The most important thing to do is to try and stay calm during the swim. You don’t want to use a lot of energy up because you are panicing. Get over to one side of the group. Don’t try to start in the middle where you’ll get trampled over by other swimmers. The goal is just to finish.

    You will find your bike. Once you set up your transition area, practice going from the swim end to your bike so you know where it is. Count racks, identify a tree or trash can nearby, etc. as a focal point. Also, if the transition area is on pavement, bring some chalk and write your initials really big in front of your bike so you can easily spot it. Also be sure to use a brightly colored towel to lay all our transition stuff on so it is easy to spot. You’ll see some first timers tie mylar balloons on the rack by their bike. No one will steal your bike. To get out of the transition area, the number of your bike has to match the number they mark on your body :)

    For your first race, don’t worry about transition time. I’m happy to provide more help or thoughts on that as needed.

    As for cycling indoors, spinning is a great way to build up your speed and strength, but you need to be outdoors on your bike at least once a week. I just discovered Flywheel myself and love it (Here’s my recent post about my experience:

    I’ll be in NYC for BlogHer August 1-3 if you want to talk more or try to meet up for a Flywheel class.

    Good luck with training! xoxo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *