A Runner’s First Try At A Tri: Part One

Ten days before the Redondo Beach Triathlon I decided I wanted to become a triathlete. Ten days later I crossed the finish line of my first triathlon. Follow my Try at a Tri series and learn how you can turn into a triathlete too.

Written by: Linzay Logan

The wet sand is cold. The mist is turning into rain. The waves are seem like they are bigger than I have ever seen them in California. The woman standing next to me has bright red lipstick and thick black eyeliner on. I didn’t know this was going to be a fashion contest too. I guess if she is rescued by one of the lifeguards she’ll at least look good for it.

The whistle blows and I run into the water, or rather, the water runs into us. The first wave knocks me down and I get a good gulp of salt water. I stand up and am knocked down a couple more times before I decide to just tread water, do a few breaststroke pulls and let the rest go. Only two minutes into my first triathlon and I think I have swallowed the entire ocean and am gasping for air. At least my electrolyte levels are high from the salt intake.

Finally, I make it out of the break, but the water is still choppy. This is not going to be anything like a training swim in the pool. No bilateral breathing is going to be going on out here. Any technique I had left from swim team in high school is gone. The other women around me are swimming breaststroke, backstroke, some doggy paddling, simply trying to stay afloat. No one told me it was going to be this tough. I wonder how red lipstick lady is doing.

As I catch my breath I start to get back into my mental game and into my grove, swimming free-style and breathing on every stroke. I swim into some bubbles—someone is right in front of me. I go to the side and pass them. Bubbles again—I make my way around them also. I am passing people! No way! I pass several more women in my age group then a few men in the two waves that started five and ten minutes before the women’s wave. Go me!

Kick to the gut. Ouch! I look up. I’m swimming toward shore—perpendicular to the other swimmers and the way I am supposed to be going. Hence, the kick. I guess sighting is important. In all the training plans I read that suggested how important sighting is I never thought I would actually swim in the wrong direction.

As I am almost to the final buoy I remember sharks live in the ocean. Then I remember there was a shark attack in La Jolla just a week ago. Every shadow looks like a great white coming to eat me. I try to close my eyes, but figure I’ll probably end up swimming in the wrong direction again. Eyes open, I scan the ocean for the man eaters. I see the buoy line and kick it into gear as I head into shore determined to pass the two girls next to me and get out of the possible grasp of a shark’s jaws. I catch a wave in and take my first step on land after 800 long meters. I can’t feel my toes. Looking down, I see they are still there and a shark didn’t get a little snack. Running while trying to get my wetsuit off, and smiling for the camera as my friend Erin and her husband Jimmy are cheering and taking more pictures than my mom would have if she’d been there, was something I never practiced in my “10 days to your first triathlon” training schedule. Well, there’s a first time for everything.

I count the rows of bikes—six, seven, eight—I see my yellow flower next to my bike. There are bikes still left on the rack. I’m not last! Not even close! Wetsuit off, goggles off, swim cap off, shoes on, helmet on.

One woman speeds by on a road bike. A man on a TT bike screams past. Then a guy with a disc wheel passes me. Really? A disc wheel? It’s only a six-mile bike. There is a guy on the other side of the course on a beach cruise with aero bars. I need a road bike. This is embarrassing. I pass an 11-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl. At least the kids aren’t putting me to shame. Riding by the transition area on the second loop I hear Erin screaming and then I see her snapping more pictures. “You’re a triathlete!” she yells and I can’t help but smile a little bigger.

Racking my bike and running to the run start I realize my toes are still numb. I feel as if my stride looks like I have two broken legs and Gumby arms. And I thought the running part was the one segment of the triathlon that I wouldn’t need to worry about. I’ve run a ton of races. I know how to do this.

The two-mile run went by so quick I didn’t have very much time to think about my numb toes. As I turn the corner from the Redondo Beach Pier to the beach I hear the announcer and all the course supporters cheering. With a huge smile on my face I pick it up for the last hundred feet, pass two guys and Erin snaps a shot of one of the guys looking at me pass him, mouth open in awe. I cross the finish line, the emcee announces my name and right ahead of me are breakfast burritos and pizza. Triathlons are awesome.

Check back later this week as Linzay explains how a runner can effectively make the move to triathlete.

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