A First Triathlon

by Amy Hackney Blackwell  <Submit your comments to the author>

"Ya'll better hurry," said the guy tending the parking lot as we pulled in.

"Hurry?" I thought. "It's only 8 o'clock, and the race starts at 9...."

Roy rummaged in his duffel bag and came up with the registration brochure. "It starts at 8," he groaned.

Thus began my first triathlon.

I decided I wanted to do a triathlon when I was about 5 months pregnant last year. It seemed like the ultimate bad-ass sport, and it didn't require too much running. I figured it would be a good way to lose my baby-weight and would make me an object of admiration among my peers. The Clemson sprint triathlon was a perfect first race - exactly six months after my son was born, close to home, and of a manageable distance. My husband's best friend Roy, a former army Ranger, offered to run with me; I was overjoyed to have a coach and companion.

So there we were, standing in the parking lot listening to the crowd cheer on the first wave of swimmers in the distant lake. We sprang into action, frantically pulling our bikes off the rack, attaching wheels, hauling gear out of the car, and racing to the starting point. I barely remembered to take off my shoes before I got to the water.

That water was COLD! Take-your-breath-away cold - I couldn't bring myself to put my face in it for the first few minutes. The race materials had recommended wetsuits, but I hadnít been able to find one that fit, so I was shivering in my Speedo. Ah well, triathletes are supposed to be tough. I doggedly kept swimming, stroke and breathe, stroke and breathe. Roy disappeared; I pushed ahead to catch him. Other swimmers were behind me now - maybe I wouldnít finish last after all!

I finished the swim and tied my shoes for the bike leg.

The bike leg was what really slowed us down. There was no getting around the fact that our mountain bikes were only able to go about half as fast as road bikes. Roy had wanted me to get a road bike, but I didn't want to spend the money. How different could a road bike be, anyway? Well, a road bike is different. The key difference is that it is faster than a mountain bike, an important consideration in a race. The other bikers were miles ahead of us - you would have thought the course had been set up just for the two of us.

Anyway, it was a lovely day for a leisurely bike ride in the country, sweep truck at my back, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I had time to notice things like the emus at the poultry farm and the sign inviting visitors to tour the facility. Maybe I'll go back some time.

Bike leg down, only the run was left. My legs were tired as I stumbled away. Roy and I pretended we were just out for a cool-down jog after finishing the race, and shouted encouragement to the competitors who were on the return leg of the run. We made up time there, too; we were much closer to the second-to-last runner than we were to the second-to-last biker. We mystified the volunteers, who wondered what calamity had made us, young and fit, dead last. "We thought it started at nine," we explained over our shoulders as we ran away.

When I do my next triathlon, Iíll be prepared. Iíve purchased a road bike and have been riding it diligently. I even have a pair of bike shoes that clip into the pedals; they're not as hard to use as I feared, and they really do help me go faster. Itís great to have a good bike.

You wonít catch me finishing last again!


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