My first triathlon- recap

My first triathlon is in the books!  Overall, it was a great experience.  A bit more challenging than I expected, but I’m so glad I did it.

I didn’t post goals in advance, as I had no idea what to aim for… but I was hoping for something in this range:

  • 500m Swim: Less than 10 minutes
  • 16.6 mile Bike: 55ish minutes
  • 3.24 mile Run: 23ish minutes
  • Total (with 1 minute transitions): Approx 1 hour, 30 minutes

So here’s the recap:

I was able to carpool with a neighbor, so I got up at 5am and rode in with him and his wife arriving by 6am. After a short walk to the start, so I had about fifteen minutes to set up transition before it closed at 6:30am.  Then we walked 500m along the water to the start.


I was hoping to warm up in the water, but ran out of time as the first wave took off at 6:45am.  My wave left at 7:23am.  We treaded the water for a few minutes until the gun went off.

I’m not sure what happened, (maybe I started too fast?) but suddenly my breaths were coming much too quickly to match my 3-stroke breathing pattern.  I started panicking a bit and decided to flip to my back to float and calm myself down before swimming more.  I had to do this twice before I finally decided to breathe only on one side, after every two strokes, to allow my heart rate to slow down and my breathing to normalize.

Once I finally got in the groove, I felt like I was moving along okay, but I knew I had wasted a lot of time in the water. I now understand how people can have a mini-panic attack in the open swim!

Thankfully, we swam along the shore the whole way, so I always knew where I was.  I was thrilled to see those finish buoys.

The wonderful volunteers pulled me out, and later I confirmed my slow swim- 12:33.

Transition 1: Thanks to all the advice I got in advance, the transitions went pretty well.  I opted out of cycling shoes, as I’m too new to be comfortable getting clipped in.  So I threw on socks and sneakers (love those stretchy laces!), buckled my race bib on, clipped the helmet and grabbed my bike-  T1: 1:10.


My heart was still racing from my swimming experience, so it took me a mile or so to start to feel better and focus on the bike.  I had decided to opt out of a watch and had no idea what pace I was going.  I was passed by a few seriously speedy ladies, but also passed my fair share.

It was a two-loop course, so we got to ride past the spectators half way through.  My husband and Lil were cheering at every transition and snapped these lovely pictures.  It was so nice to hear their voices!

I tried to pick up my pace for the second half, but have no way to prove whether that actually happened.  The loop was a “T” so I slowed down a lot at all four of those corners, but overall was happy with my time.  16.6 miles- 50:41 (19.7 MPH)

Transition 2: All I had to do was run in, drop off the bike and helmet, and run out.  I also took a second to drink water, as I hadn’t worked up the nerve to grab my water bottle on the bike ride.  And I grabbed a few Honey Stinger chews for quick energy.   T2- :43


Ahh, finally- I had made it to my favorite part! I ate two chews and tried to find my legs under me.  I was not moving very quickly for the first half mile but neither was anyone else.  With each mile, I began to find a little more speed, but my legs didn’t have a whole lot left.

Since I was running without my watch, I was guessing that I had run most of the 3.24 miles around an 8 minute pace.  Although it wasn’t the pace I had hoped for, this was definitely my strong point of the day.  I was finally passing some of those speedy biking women, and didn’t get passed at all.

Amazingly enough, my shin muscle/tendon felt fine! I wore my Tommie Copper compression sleeves the entire race. Stylin, I know.  Final time- 24:18 (7:30 pace).

There’s that end-of-race-I’m-tired arm swing again

I was so ready to be done at the finish, I stopped over the first line and didn’t realize it was the second line that recorded chip time.  I lost some time before I realized everyone was yelling at me to keep going, and I finished the run.

Final overall time- 1:29:36 (6th age group)

I came in just below my estimated time of 1:30:00, but I have plenty of room for improvement (the swim being the obvious one!) It was actually a lot more fun than I expected… the adrenaline that I normally get at the start of a running race was kicking in through each transition period as well.  I enjoyed the challenge of something new, and am loving that I can cross this off my bucket list now!

For local runners, I would definitely recommend the Shadow Creek triathlon.  It was well-organized, and the swim and bike courses were ideal for a newbie.  This was only the second year, and they had about 650 participants.  I liked that it was large enough to have action around me at all times, but small enough that it wasn’t overcrowded or overwhelming.

I definitely can’t say I’m “hooked” on triathlons the way I am on running.  But I also won’t say it’s my last!



129 thoughts on “My first triathlon- recap

  1. Congrats! That’s a great time. I’ve had the same experience at the start of an open water swim (kudos for doing open water for your first tri – most people opt for the pool) with the hyperventilating. You just have to try to relax and slow it down…it will come. Nice work on the bike – that’s a great pace! So when’s the next one?!
    Alison @ racingtales recently posted..Product Review: Premier ProteinMy Profile

    • Thank you! I will definitely start the swim much more slowly next time… I lost a lot of time trying to calm myself down and get going again. But at least now I know what to expect. No more on the calendar this year- but I could see myself doing one a year or so… we’ll see!
      Laura recently posted..My first triathlon- recapMy Profile

    • I’m sure you will be awesome, Robin! I was really disappointed with my crazy swim experience, and was hoping for more speed on the run, but overall I’m definitely happy with it for my first tri! Not calling myself a triathlete yet… I’m ready to get back to focusing on running!
      Laura recently posted..My first triathlon- recapMy Profile

  2. you did great! it’s crazy how each part makes you so tired for the next part (i’d never think SWIMMING would make me tired for biking, for example).
    i’m so glad to hear your shin held out, too.
    and, in case you were wondering, it’s totally normal to not wash off your race number for a few days,
    Random stranger, “what’s on your arm?”
    Laura, “oh, that’s my race number. i did a TRIATHLON this weekend.” (no big deal.)
    Amanda K. recently posted..The hair issueMy Profile

  3. YEA!!! So glad it went well for you and especially that the weather held out! So fun to see the old bike getting some good use- you rocked the bike portion!! The swim will come- my first wetsuit race I spent the entire 1500M swim on my back so I get it. Great job!!! So excited for you!
    Holly recently posted..Wordless Wednesday (mostly)My Profile

    • Thank you, Carrie! That is a plus with triathlons- the transition area is where everything is happening, so it’s easy to hang around there to spectate. The downside was there was no one along the bike or run course!
      Laura recently posted..My first triathlon- recapMy Profile

  4. Awesome Lar!!!! Love the detailed descriptions, you really took me there with you. It gave a great sense of what it must be like. So proud of you!

  5. Congrats to you – great job! You also got some great pictures to capture the day. Something tells me it wasn’t just a cross off the bucket list though, sounds like you will probably try more even if running is still your main love!
    abbi recently posted..Firecracker 5KMy Profile

    • You might be right! During that swim, I was thinking there is no way I want to do this again… but then I got it together and had a blast. :)

  6. awesome job!!! Congrats!!! I am a one-trick pony and haven’t done any tri’s but I am so impressed with you rockstars that do. This was a really great first tri. I am sure you will be rocking many more. :)

  7. Congrats again, Laura – it sounds like it went really, really well!!! I’ve done a tri every year for the past 5 years, and I still struggle with feeling that way at the swim start. If you’re not a regular open-water swimmer, it’s really disorienting when you first get in the water. You handled it perfectly, though – and your ‘slow’ swim time is my fast swim time! Hooray for officially becoming a triathlete!!!
    Michelle recently posted..What Goes Up, Must Come Down – UHC Jamestown Half-MarathonMy Profile

    • Thank you, Michelle! I think I could do one a year as well… probably no more than that. The swim was scary! I think I need to start much slower, I just couldn’t catch my breath and kept swallowing water til I finally let myself flip to the back and float for a bit. But I do feel more prepared for the next one!
      Laura recently posted..My first triathlon- recapMy Profile

  8. Girl, that is super impressive for your first tri! Way to go! Hubs did well, better than he did in Tejas last month, so that’s good. The girls and I had a lot of fun spectating; I really liked the two course loop because we usually don’t get to see him on the bike except for mount/dismount. And just give it a few more weeks, you’ll start wondering if you could fit one more in this season :)

  9. congratulations, Laura! I think your time is amazing! Even though you were slower in the swim, you met your goals very well with the bike and run…great come back! 6th place is impressive, too :) Thanks for sharing all the details!

    • Thanks, Jess! It was really fun.
      Yes- I love compression. I have the recovery sock as well as the Compression sleeves. I lived in the socks all winter after long runs, but it’s way too hot now so I’m experimenting with the sleeves and love them, too! It really makes a difference in reducing or preventing any soreness/fatigue.
      Laura recently posted..My first triathlon- recapMy Profile

  10. go you!! awesome job laura! and such a nice write up too.

    btw, i’m wondering if you take L running with you in these really hot temps. we have like high 90’s right now and it’s even hot in the morning. just wondering your take on this since you probably have more experience in the heat with the little ones than i do – thx!
    runner26 recently posted..Running Round the Mountain*My Profile

    • That’s really tough– I have been doing my runs alone in the summer, other than the occasional easy family 3 miler on the weekend, where we go as soon as she’s up (7am) bring milk and/or a snack for her, and keep it short. I think because she’s acclimated to it slowly over the months it’s okay- but I’m surprised at the strollers I see out closer to peak hours. I think if you keep it short, make sure she has a drink, and go early you’re probably fine!
      Laura recently posted..My first triathlon- recapMy Profile

    • Thanks, Raquelita! I did one open water practice swim, and the life guard there was coaching me through it and said to flip to the back float if I started getting tired or panicking, as it was 30 feet deep! Of course, I was fine in the practice. :) But I’m so glad I remembered his words.
      Laura recently posted..My first triathlon- recapMy Profile

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  12. AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME!!! I am so happy for you that you finished your first tri! And SO STRONG too!! Holy fast bike! Congrats.

    A few things…I definitely highly recommend getting there more than 30 minutes prior to the race. Eeeeek! I would have been freaking out! I usually like a solid hour before the race in tri’s to get transition set up and to warm-up in the swim, etc. I know it was an early morning, but it definitely helps me with pre-race nerves and to get comfortable in the water.

    Also, isn’t it crazy how you thought you were running 8:00 on the run and you were running 7:30’s?! I love that! Your running cadence is different than biking so it always seems like you are running so much slower than you really are!!

    Congrats again! Curious to hear your reflections back on it now that you have had a few days to soak it up?
    Corey recently posted..On Quitting…My Profile

    • Thanks, Corey! Yes- that run was crazy! And you’re right- I will definitely plan for more time next time around. I can definitely see myself doing more, but probably not this fall… need to keep my eye out for a bike, too!
      Laura recently posted..The Fit Mom ControversyMy Profile

  13. You are amazing! Congrats on an awesome first triathlon! I am SO scared of the swim that I can’t even get myself to put doing a tri on my bucket list!

    • Before the race I probably would have said, you can totally do it! Now I understand how intense that swim can be, and I wasn’t even feeling nervous about it. You’re rocking your running, no need to add a tri to the bucket list. :)
      Laura recently posted..The Fit Mom ControversyMy Profile

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