Becoming a Triathlete
Hi Coach Joe! I may have been slow and I may have sold myself short, but I finished the Naperville Sprint Triathlon presented by Experience Triathlon only because of your help, your training clinics, and your team’s encouragement. Coach Joe, I really want to give you a great big hug, but this letter will have to suffice for now. Thank you so much for what you do!
Not long ago I physically would never have been able to do even one of the disciplines let alone all three. After buying a bike in May, my friend challenged me to do the Naperville Sprint Triathlon. Honestly, I only signed up to do it because he would never leave me alone otherwise. I had every intention of dropping out. I didn’t think 10 weeks was long enough to go from 20 years of couching it to such an intense endurance sport. But I made an honest effort to at least try.
If you can recall back in June, we spoke on the phone and I explained how I lost all this weight and really wanted to take my fitness to the next level, but I didn’t follow through with that idea. Not yet at least. I did, however, attend all the clinics you offered, followed a pretty strict training plan, and took the advice of everyone I spoke with at Experience Triathlon to help me train. I was quite confident the week before the Naperville event that I might actually be able to cross that finish line. My only goal was to finish and it didn’t matter where I placed. I wasn’t in it to win it. I did it to prove to myself (and my friend) that I can do anything I set my mind to doing. I drew much inspiration from your website and the blog articles others posted there. What an amazing group of people. I joined ET, but outside of the clinics, have not had an opportunity to take advantage of anything else yet. BUT I WILL!
If I may, I’d like to share some of my mind set with you leading up to the race and the things that happened on that day.
I was quite confident in my ability to swim, bike, and run – but on all on different days. My swimming wasn’t the best but I knew I could at least swim 400 meters fairly well until I saw the pool at Centennial Beach at your swim clinic. I was in Coach Cathy’s group and she taught us how to polo for sighting, how to turn around the buoy, and how to float on our back. In the short time I was in the water with her and my group, I realized I had so much I needed to learn. I remember you telling us in one of the other clinics that by joining ET we had one swim lesson to take advantage of and I am ever so glad I did. Coach Jim was amazing. The things I learned from him in a half hour swim lesson made a huge impact in my swim during the event.
Never had I been so nervous as I was the day before the event. I went to the pre-race clinic and soaked in every word you spoke. I recited the information back to my daughter so I would not forget anything the next morning. I envisioned how I would set up, transition, and finish. I could barely eat the night before and the morning was no different. I forced myself to eat. Once I arrived at the lot, my anxiety level was the highest it’s ever been. My heart was pounding out my throat, my stomach was doing gymnastics, and my head was spinning. I was no longer confident that I could do any of this! I found my spot in the transition area and carefully recalled and followed everything you mentioned in clinic. Except I realized I forgot my sunglasses and my car was parked a half mile away. Good thing my daughter accompanied me so she could fetch them. Once I set up everything, I began panicking because everyone around me looked like they knew what they were doing and I was sitting there audibly counting racks. I lucked out because my area was right next to a small tree so I used a landmark rather than count racks.
Upon announcement of transition closing, I felt the first wave of nausea setting in. I almost backed out. Instead, I took the anger of my friend argument and fueled myself to show him I could do this! I grabbed my goggles, my swim cap, hugged my daughter tight and Thank GOD for Coach Jim standing there as if he was waiting for me. He gave me a few words of advice that I clung to for the next hour until my feet hit the water. If it wasn’t for Coach Jim, I don’t think I would have actually stepped into the water! I kept creeping back further and further. At 7:45ish, I finally hit the water AND FORGOT HOW TO SWIM. I panicked. Another wave of nausea hit me, and this time there was no controlling it. I flipped over on my back for a moment to try and push my heart out of my throat, refocused myself, and flipped back over and began swimming. I began following someone and realized she swam all the way to the wall – AND I DID TOO. I missed the buoy and had to swim all the way back to the left. I am not sure how much distance I lost, but I bet it was a good 40 feet or so. Once I finished the swim, I had the most ridiculous looking smile on my face (although the pics the race people took show me looking horrified as I exited the pool). Off to bike – the easiest portion of the race.
Okay, so here are the lessons I learned in transition. 1). When you said tuck your socks into your shoes so they don’t blow away – I think you really meant that. Ya, my sock was GONE! Luckily I found it 3 bikes down AND I had a spare, just in case. 2). This would have been a nice time to take a swig of water. 3). Don’t put a stick of gum in your shoe and forget to put it in your mouth. 4). Running with a bike on wet pavement with shoe clips on feet is slippery – particularly when this would be my first time ever running on wet pavement with shoe clips on. But once I got past the mount line, I was off and had the best bike ride I’ve ever had! I was focused, content, and reflecting on that terrible swim.
Transition from bike to run was no problem, except my brain and my legs wanted to do two different things. I did bricks many times in the past three weeks, but that swim really knocked me out! Plus, my lack of food made me light headed. I did bring one of those gel things. YOU SAID NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY. I broke that rule! Those taste gross, but it did give me the needed energy to continue. The first mile was horrifying. I couldn’t run to save my life. Just before the water station, I lost that gel I consumed. But I think it did its job because after I got it out of my system and had a bit of Gatorade, I felt much better and ran the rest of the race. I ran slowly, but my brain and legs finally became friends again.
Crossing that finish line was the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had. I never dreamed I’d accomplish the goals I achieved. I was so tired, but the adrenaline still coursing through my body would carry me on for days. I DID THIS! The 44 year old out of shape, and not too long ago severely overweight couch girl just completed her first sprint triathlon!
Coach Joe, I will be doing this again next year. I will complete the paperwork you sent me for ET Personal Coaching. I will take advantage of everything ET has to offer because NOW I know what I need to do and I need YOUR TEAM to help me achieve the next set of goals I have. I have benchmarked myself and next year, I will go for not just finishing, but for time!
Thank you for everything you taught me, for your clinics, for your love of this sport, and for helping others just like me stay positive and motivated! I look forward to working with the ET Family in the near future!
Enjoy all the photos from our fabulous weekend at The Naperville Sprint Triathlon presented by Experience Triathlon on the ET Photo Gallery!