Monday, September 14, 2009

My First Triathlon...Day of Champions

I did it! I am now a triathlete! I finished the Title 9 Women’s Only Triathlon in Hopkinton, Mass. in a mere 1 hour, 38 minutes. What a great day. What a wonderful experience. Besides the emotional high from finishing, the event itself served as a great motivator to getting into shape (and now staying in shape)…and also a great way to meet people. To follow is how the day went for me…including some tips on those thinking about (come on – you can do it!!!) competing in a tri.

Saturday morning, my husband Michael and I drove up to the New England area and stayed with my beautiful sorority sister Theresa and her husband Pete. About 4 months ago, Theresa asked all of our friends if we would join her in this amazing endeavor as she counted down to her 40th birthday this November. I didn’t hesitate. Neither did our fellow Sigma sister Shannon. So the three of us entered the race as newbies – looking forward to becoming bona-fide triathletes. I know, I can’t believe it myself.

Looking fierce: me, Theresa and Shannon are determined at the start of our first-ever tri:

Game Day. We woke at 5 am to a breakfast of champions (peanut butter toast) and headed off for the 8 am start. I accidently signed up with the elite crowd so when I parked my bike next to them, needless to say I was just a little bit anxious (Lucky I did switch to the newbie wave).

Our first event was a 1/4 mile swim in the icy waters of the Hopkinton reservoir. This was the toughest leg as I have never swam in the open water, which made me extremely nervous. I was used to the comforts of the 80 degree waters of my pool at Equinox, where each swimmer has their own lane. After the first few waves took off, we got into the water and waited for the countdown. Let me tell you nothing can prepare you for the darkness, choppiness of the waves and 50 other swimmers thrashing by you. I felt like I was paddling nowhere and quickly fell back, and far. It was just brutal, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see, I felt dizzy, I wanted to give up. But I was committed and did make through, on my back, in about 25 minutes.

Next up with the 10-mile bike ride through the hilly park roads. Luckily, I found my bike rather quickly since I was among the last to finish the swim. I was ready -- biking is my strength and the longest leg of the race -- and I hoped to make up some of the ground I lost. I quickly dried off, got my bike gear on and started on a hill. The roads were slick from all the rain and the hills were tough, but nothing I haven’t experienced before. I absolutely loved this portion of the race, especially because I was able to pass a lot of people. I was making good time.

Title 9 Bike Course:

I rode downhill to the transition area, where I saw Michael, cheering me on, saying I crushed this portion.

The final portion was the 5-k run inside this scenic park. While in the transition area, I was exhilarated but was feeling the burn in my legs. I knew I can easily run the 3 miles, but I never practiced brick training. I changed into my socks and sneakers and started running (the wrong way – classic me). Once on the right route, my legs felts like logs but I remembered to keep my strides short. I started up a hill, which made it easier for me to keep my steps short. I was feeling great, cruising through the miles, feeling on top of the world. I felt like such a champion with the other participants and crowds pushing me along the course and eventually through the finish line. I found Michael, my biggest fan, and received my medal. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done and I earned every 1,234 calories I burned. I’m especially proud of both Thersa and Shannon (We did it ladies!!!). Also, Shannon came in first place in the newbie category (20th overall) -- she finished in 1 hour, 12 minutes.

I learned a lot during the training and participating in my first triathlon, some of it I will take with me for my next race. The biggest thing I learned was that nothing beats training outdoors. Cycling was my strongest leg because I have peddled thousands of miles in the US and in Europe and know what it feels like to have the road beneath me. Conversely, my swim was the weakest because I had absolutely no experience swimming in open waters. I also recommend buying a triathlon-specific wetsuit. This would have made a huge difference. Not only would I be warmer, but the wetsuit will make you more buoyant, lifting you ever so slightly out of the water and thus help to make you swim faster while using less energy.

Another tip -- start training for your triathlon about 2 months before the event with small workout sessions so your body isn’t thrown into shock and slowly work you way up. Mix up your training across all three disciplines each week rather than focus on only one leg. By varying your workouts you prevent boredom, increase your stamina and prevent demotivation.

But always remember to listen to your body. You don’t want to overwork your muscles. That will only lead to injury. You know when you are ready to push yourself to the next level when your workouts start to feel easier. And just as important as your workout regime is to maintain a healthy diet with lots of protein to assist your muscle recovery. Finally, on the day of the race and what may have added to my time by about 5 minutes is to be organized as well as practice the transitions and know your routes. You are going to bring a lot of equipment with you. You don’t want to waste time untying your running sneakers and going the wrong way on the course, both of which I did and lost precious time.

And the winners are: me, Shannon and Theresa

Now we're ready for the next triathlon. All the hard work was rewarded once we crossed that finish line.


  1. Lady-I am SO proud of you. This post moved me to tears (and to possibly sign up for one)? I'm following your lead. Great job!!!!! xoxo

  2. Daughter of mine, speaking for your entire family, we couldn't be prouder of you if you'd won the event. To participate and complete is satisfaction enough. To you and your two sisters in success bravo, bravo, bravo. Shannon and Theresa, way to go.

    Next time we'll be there to cheer the three of you forward.

  3. You captured the day perfectly! I love your energy, positive attitude, and joy for life!

  4. Awesome job Jen!!!! I will live vicariously through you as I cannot imagine myself actually doing a triathalon!

  5. Great post, Jen, and a big congrats! xoxo!

  6. Hey Jennifer, I just read your blog, and I got chills up and down my spine..You have given me inspiration to do something for myself...Congratulations on your success...You deserve every bit of it....x0x0x0x0Gena Marchetto

  7. Your personal best day was very inspiring. I think we should all go the extra mile to do something for ourselves. xoxo Rainie

  8. Jen, I am so proud of you, Theresa, and Shannon. Your blog was incredibly inspiring and brought me close to tears in pride. I love being your sorority sister and friend. Congrats on finishing, training, and expressing beautifully a wonderful day!

  9. Wow! You never cease to amaze me! Congrats you fabulous thing! You're amazing...xoxo!