My First Triathlon Experience

My First Triathlon Experience

by Katie S.

I am writing this on Monday, the day after the triathlon.

My triathlon experience didn’t begin yesterday.  It actually began last August when I decided to “check out” the AARP sponsored triathlon in Naperville.  I thought, Let’s go see what it’s like, I think I can do it.  Well, within minutes of the first wave out of transition, I said to myself, “Yeah, you can do this, no problem!”

Well, HA!  Those words came back to me many times over and over again but followed by… What were you thinking?

In October, as I was hurrying by the running club table on my way out of the health club, something, no, someone named Joe LoPresto, along with Suzy Cerra, pulled me in and educated me about their Running Club 5K class.  I signed up, gave them a check and ran out the door to meet up with my friends for Homecoming weekend at North Central College.  Then reality sank in.  What have I done?  This class is on Saturday mornings at 8 a.m!!!  This was usually no big deal but I was introduced to Don that same night.  We began dating immediately and Saturday mornings got to be a little hard as our Friday nights got a little longer.  I was scared to death.  I’m not a runner!  Don was very encouraging although he was not athletic.  I completed the 5K class and was better, but not quite the runner I needed to be.

Well, then came the holidays and the winter blahs.  I gained back 20 pounds that I had lost during the year.  Feeling angry about my set back, I thought, I’ve got to do something.  Lucky for me there was a triathlon training program starting to get me back on track.  Thank goodness for that.  The first night in the pool and I thought, Am I ever going to make it?  It was amazing to see what 7 weeks of coaching can do.  By the second week I had the whole breathing thing down.

After the seven week class, a 10 week class began and I enrolled in it too.  I really enjoyed the weekly class.  The group support was great motivation as well as a lot of fun.

My family, friends and Don knew that I was enrolled in this weekly class but I don’t think they really knew what was involved.  Each one had an idea but didn’t fully understand.  I think they thought it was more social than anything.

It was during this program that Coach Joe (LoPresto) introduced his personal coaching business to our class.  I knew I needed his services but that became ever so clear during our practice triathlon during week nine.  Coach Joe was out on the course providing directions and support.  As I rode by on my bike, he yelled, “Change your gears, Katie!” And I yelled back, “I don’t know how!”  The bike shop where I had purchased my bike had told me that I would figure it out once I got out on my bike and became used to riding it. HA!

I contacted Coach Joe and asked him if he would be willing to work with me, the girl who didn’t know how to change her gears.  Luckily, he said yes!

With a couple of personal coaching sessions and two weeks before my big debut, Coach Joe helped me bring it all together.  He taught me how to change my gears, put together a strategy for my run and bike and showed me what to expect from transition.  He also spent time with me on the mental issues that face me and inhibit peak performance.  This was so awesome.  I now have a strategy to help keep the demons from taking me over.

At Coach Joe’s recommendation, I sent an email to my family and close friends who would be attending my triathlon to outline what they should expect on race day.  This included what I needed like positive support, triathlon etiquette, race start/location, what to bring, etc.  This was very helpful to both me and my family and friends.  I didn’t have to answer the same questions over and over again.  Especially the questions like “When do expect to be done?” or “How long do you think it will take you?”

So now it’s the race weekend.

Friday night I went to bed at 9:30.  I got up Saturday morning, took my bike for a quick spin to make sure everything was working properly and then headed out to registration.  Registration was a piece of cake.  I picked up my gear, listened to the course talk and checked out the offerings.  It was such a supportive environment.  I met a couple of ladies (Ramona & Joyce) through Coach Joe.  They are in their 8th & 9th triathlon seasons.  I really enjoyed listening to them.  What an inspiration!

Saturday night Don (my boyfriend) had a chorus performance so my parents, along with my sister and I, went to dinner.  After dinner, I took them down to Centennial Beach and the Riverwalk to give them the overview of where they would be going for the race and what to expect.  They were much more comfortable at this point.  My family, especially my dad, likes to be in charge and know where they are going.  They really had no idea what to expect.

Being from out of town, my parents slept over for the big race.  When I got up on race day my parents had left an encouraging card in my bathroom, wishing me a successful day. A great way to start the day!

Don came with me at 5:30 a.m. to set up my gear in transition and hang with me until my wave start.  He is such a trooper!  I love him so much.  He lugged my gear, calmed my nerves, was VERY supportive and carried a clean dry set of clothes for me to change into immediately after the race.  All without one complaint!

My family began to arrive shortly after 6:30.  My mom was so afraid she wasn’t going to get a “good” parking spot and, of course, heaven forbid she miss something.  She even made my sister change her plans because she wasn’t confident that she would make it by my start.

My other friends (Kristi, Renae, Karen & Mike, The McGrady’s) and family (Rod, Sue & Haley) trickled in.  Some made the swim but all were there by the time I left for the bike ride.

My sister had these big white sticks that you bang together, similar to what you see at college or NBA basketball games.  I could see them cheering from the start as well as throughout the swim.  My mom and friend, Kristi, came down to the swim run out to cheer me on.  That was awesome!  My mom’s support meant a lot.  Back in October when I was at their home and told them I was going to do a triathlon, she & my dad both said that I would never do this.  They were very skeptical all along that I would complete the race (and injury free).  Later my sister told me that they split up at that time because they wanted to make sure someone was there to cheer for me on the bike.  They didn’t realize that transition would take so long.

My friends & family strategically placed themselves on the bike/run to cheer for me and my friend, Kristine, also participating in her 1st tri.

The bike and run courses were fun!  I was truly overwhelmed by the support from the fellow athletes.  So many women were offering kind words to each other and a “Come on, girl, you can do it!”  I was proud to be competing with them.  During the run, I made friends with 2 women that I hadn’t known before and their stories along with courage were amazing.  I can’t remember their names nor where they are from; however, I will always remember their spirit.

The other thing that struck me was the wonderful volunteer support.  At every turn, every aid station, or any point in between, there were always words of encouragement.  “Let’s go ladies!”  The young people at the aid stations were yelling out your name as they handed you water or Cytomax.  Wow!  That’s impressive.

The finish line was most overwhelming.  I was first met by Coach Joe, Suzy, Noelle and the gang with high fives as I passed into the finishing area.  Can you say AWESOME!  Then I ran by my friends and family.  I couldn’t believe the support from them.  My parents, I expect them to be there.  But the others, they were there for ME!  They were all hooting and hollering.  I got a kick out of seeing their faces, especially my Uncle Rod’s.  He was excited.  Don then immediately met me with a great big hug as I came out of the finisher’s area.  It was very emotional.  I couldn’t begin to thank him enough for his support through all of this.  He never once doubted my abilities and was proud to tell others of my training.

The post race support continued with the congratulations to the how did you do to how do you feel.  I think if there hadn’t been rain we would have stayed a little longer to enjoy the festivities.

My parents then treated my support group to breakfast/lunch for a post race celebration.

It was such an incredible experience!


Mark your calendars for next year; I’ll be back for this one!

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