Revolutionary Tri Race Recap

Today I’m checking one more item off my New Year’s list of resolutions: “Complete a Triathlon” = DONE!

All I keep thinking today as I stare at the sign Ashley made for me is, “I did it!”

Saving this sign forever, obviously.

I’ll just tell you now – I LOVED IT. I began looking up my next triathlon as soon as I got home, showered, and into my yoga pants.

Let’s back up. I woke up feeling sore and tired – after volunteering at the Ironman all day yesterday, my feet just hurt. Specifically, my left heel. (What is the problem, left leg?! Get it together!)

Oh that’s just my pal Jordan, winning the Ironman by 2 miles. I gave him water and chicken broth and cold sponges. No big deal.

Manning the aid station was thrilling – we were a double-hit station; the athletes came by us at miles 23 and 25. Prime time.

It was absolutely amazing to be right there on the sideline and see the differences in each athlete as they came through – some were fist-pumping, some were crying. All were hot, sweaty, inspirational messes. The emotion was unbelievable.

363 days before my Ironman, and 1 day before my first triathlon, I’m primed with motivation.

I arrived at MY race site this morning in North Jersey around 6:15 am. I checked in, was sharpied with my number and age (how embarrassing!) and then headed over to the transition area. This was a smaller triathlon-only 200 people or so. I was able to put my bike wherever I wanted. Decisions, decisions. I choose an easy-to-find end spot, and got to work organizing my little area. That took me approximately 4 minutes. After staring at every other person, trying to figure out how my bike was supposed to hang, where to put the race number stickers, and how to get the timing bracelet on, I still had over an hour until race time. I occupied myself by playing the age guessing game: guess how old someone is, and then confirm by the marking on their calf when they turn around. It’s amazing how horrible I am at ages. I was almost 15 years off in most cases. Yikes.

I was born in St. Louis, so I’m sure you can imagine the angst the Miller Lite swim cap caused me. Sigh.


I felt so out of place – and not just because of that Miller Lite swim cap. When it comes to running, I know the drill. I know what’s going on and what to do when and what my specific goals are. I don’t really get nervous before running races anymore.

This was a whole new ballgame.


So there I was, creepily watching what everyone else was doing and questioning everything I was doing. My anxiousness escalated when we were finally called for the “race meeting”, AKA the race director on a microphone telling us about the course and making funny jokes about his friends that were racing. (This was totally one of those local races where everyone knew each other. Minus myself.)

I was in the second wave of the swim start.

No, this photo is not from today. Yes, I went to the lake last week simply to look at it. And see what the water temperature would be. I need to be prepared at all times!

I cannot handle cold water so I was thankful when he announced the temp was 77 degrees, which just so happened to be warmer than the air when we started. I was COLD standing outside!

Okay, okay. I’m getting to the good part…

Annnddd the whistle blew and we were off! I started off by pretty much just flailing around. I’d try to swim, and then I’d be on top of someone. I’d try to see where I was going, but I would get kicked. I’d try to breathe and choked on water instead. Note to self: learn to multi-task.

I was having trouble catching my breath. I wasn’t worried about the open water so much (I grew up swimming in lakes) but I was anxious overall; I was concerned about making it the whole way, and finding a spot where I could actually start moving. Panic ensued! After about 2 minutes it subsided and I was able to do actual strokes as opposed to doggy paddling and flapping around. Never a pretty site.

Eventually, I actually found myself enjoying the swim (GASP!). After about 10 minutes-ish, I finished the 1/4 mile swim. (Results aren’t posted yet so I’m not positive. I also heard the race director say it was a little longer than 1/4 mile…who needs specific details, I guess?!)

I was absolutely disgusting when I popped out of the water. Like, head to toe, brown muck all over my body. The blonde hair on my arms was brown. There were people cheering and all I kept thinking was “DON’T LOOK AT ME DON’T LOOK AT ME I’M SO GROSS AHHH”.

I’ll work on getting over that. TRIATHLONS ARE NOT BEAUTY PAGEANTS KARA.

I ran into T1 (transition 1 – look at me using the fancy lingo!) and grabbed my bike. Fairly uneventful. And then, it started.

The Hills.

Not the entertaining, lay-in-bed-on-a-Sunday-and-watch-the-whole-season Lauren Conrad television series. (What? Who does that?) That would have been delightful. No, The Hills of Morris County, NJ.

There was nothing flat about this ride. Nothing. You were going up or down, that’s it.

I don’t think I’ve ever cursed biking as much as I did on this ride.

I was sure I’d be able to dominate the bike, but as I kept getting passed by speedy people twice my age, I felt worse and worse mentally. I kept thinking of everything that was going wrong. I didn’t shift correctly. My helmet felt loose. All I wanted to do was finish the ten miles and get to the run. And then another uphill would come. Sigh.

Eventually I made it to T2 (again with the fancy terminology! I’m learning!) and threw my bike on the rack and ran out, passing Ashley on my way. Pretty sure I gave her a look of death – sorry bud. I didn’t mean it!

Instantly my legs felt like lead, but thankfully that feeling wore off after the first mile.

Funny thing about the first mile…it was on a legit trail. In a forest. Prior to the tri, I was blissfully unaware that this was a trail race. I was in a forest, running on rocks and tree roots, single file on a tiny little path. Eventually it cleared out and I was able to get moving, but that first mile was slow and tricky…yet invigorating.

Once it cleared I was able to pick up my pace. I had to run two loops around the lake. Thankfully I saw Ashley again as I finished the first loop – I’m so thankful she made the trek to cheer for me!

AND THEN, some little kid came running up beside me…naturally I wasn’t going to let a 9-year old beat me, so I pushed to pass him and head for the finish line. And then I realized he still had one loop to go. Oops. Need to work on that over-competitiveness.

I SURVIVED. It took me about an hour and 35 minutes, I think. I’ll confirm when the results are posted. Obviously the run was my favorite leg – I couldn’t wait to start. Not even because I’m more comfortable with running as a sport, I just LOVE RUNNING. I’m a runner, not a fighter.

Overall, it was wonderful. Actually, when I told Lora I loved the triathlon, she asked me if I loved it more than marathoning.

My answer?


This is Kara Runs, after all. With maybe just a little tri-talk on the side.

Speaking of which…I think I see the Philly Marathon in my future. Stay tuned.

Have you ever done a tri? Want to do one? What’s your favorite leg of the three? Thanks for all the advice over the past few weeks – keep the secrets coming!


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. August 12, 2012 / 9:08 pm

    congrats! I also love that you LOVED it, so wonderful. shows you that hard work pays off big time!

    • August 17, 2012 / 8:19 pm

      Thanks! It sure does :)

  2. August 12, 2012 / 9:29 pm

    Wahoo!! Way to go, girl!! So exciting!! :) And double yay about Philly marathon!

    • August 17, 2012 / 8:19 pm

      I wish you could join me!

  3. August 12, 2012 / 9:32 pm

    Congratulations on a great first triathlon!

    I’ve learned a lot about triathlon through JP and other friends this summer, and I hope to do a sprint tri next summer! I just need to save my fun money for a road bike!

    • August 17, 2012 / 8:20 pm

      Oooh yay!! You definitely should. You can find road bikes on eBay for pretty cheap…I’ve been stalking it lately, haha.

      • August 17, 2012 / 11:25 pm

        Oh gosh, I’ve been stalking, too! I’ve got six bikes on my watch list, and hoping to score a great deal within the next few days!

  4. August 12, 2012 / 11:56 pm

    Congrats! I know after my first i was absolutely hooked, they’re addicting! i’m glad you enjoyed it! my fav is biking no doubt! :) i just really like the feeling of passing people on the bike haha! that probably sounds terrible but it gets me moving

    • August 17, 2012 / 8:21 pm

      They really are! I kept being passed by people on the bike, I need to get up to your level :)

    • August 17, 2012 / 8:21 pm

      Thanks girl!! You also rock :)

  5. misszippy1
    August 13, 2012 / 8:50 am

    Congrats Kara! So great that you did it and conquered your anxiety about it!

    I started in triathlon 14 years ago and decided a while back that I really love running more than tris. That said, I have my first tri this Sunday in five years! And it’s a hilly mother, too. Send me some of your good race karma!

    • August 17, 2012 / 8:21 pm

      Thanks – the anxiety was definitely the hardest part. So excited for you this weekend…BEST OF LUCK!!! Can’t wait to hear all about it.

  6. August 13, 2012 / 10:02 am

    Congratulations!! I’ve had my eye on a tri for awhile now, but I want a bike first. So hopefully in 2013 :)

    And I like the sound of this Philly Marathon – do it do it!!

    • August 17, 2012 / 8:22 pm

      DO IT!! Check on eBay or CraigsList for bikes…I’ve seen some great deals. You just need to get measured and figure out what size you need!

  7. August 13, 2012 / 12:43 pm

    Good for you!! I have only done one tri and absolutely loved it (and by that I mean I was terrified and nervous for basically the whole race, but after it was over I couldn’t wait to sign up for another one). When I was training, I liked the swimming best because it was so methodical and calming. But once I was in a lake with a couple hundred people the calmness part dissappeared, and I found that I enjoyed the ride that most.

    I am exicted to continue reading about your tri adventures!

    • August 17, 2012 / 8:23 pm

      Haha I was scared at various points throughout the race as well…but crossing the finish line already had me thinking of which one I can do next :) Do you think you’ll do another one soon? (You should!)

  8. August 15, 2012 / 12:46 am

    Congratulations!!!!! What a challenge!!!! What an accomplishment!

    • August 17, 2012 / 8:23 pm

      Thanks, friend!

  9. Sean Moronski
    August 15, 2012 / 9:55 am

    This was also my first triathlon after five plus years of running. I finished a few minutes behind you. My swim was awful and, yes, the bike course was hilly. Regardless, it is a great accomplishment to finish your first tri. Best of luck going forward.

    • August 17, 2012 / 8:24 pm

      Thanks so much, Sean, and congrats to you as well!! Swim was pretty disgusting but I’m glad I finished in once piece :)

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