Sunday, August 9, 2015


Before turning 30 and moving cross-country decided to rock my world in tandem, I managed to finish my first-ever triathlon, one of the few bucket list items that was there unfailingly for almost 15 years.  I wish I would have written about it sooner, when every little detail was fresh, but I wasn't ready yet.  I wasn't ready because I knew that the words I will try to write can never capture how much that whole experience meant to me, and how special that day was.  So I waited to write my "race report" if we even want to call it that.  I wasn't out there for time, I was out there for the fun of it, and the experience.  And now that I have nothing to talk about other than moving, yet am desperate to avoid that topic under every circumstance, I figured now was as good of a time as any to talk about the race that fulfilled a long-time dream.

As with any good race, it didn't start on race day:  It started long before that with weeks of consistent training.  I followed this training plan leading up to my race.  I knew that between school and work that there would not be a lot of spare time for training, and that a lot of the plans seemed to jump in too fast.  For me, if I don't ease into something new, I get injured, so the totally-beginner nature of this plan really worked well for me.  I would say that on average, I got in 4-5 workouts a week.  It was really hard for me to keep up with all of it, so I tried to focus on what I knew would be the hardest for me - the running.  I have been swimming and cycling for the majority of my life now, and so completing the needed distances came pretty easily to me.  This triathlon was long for a sprint, especially on the run, which was 4.3 miles.  Much longer than a standard 5k run leg for a sprint tri!  I decided to run primarily on my lunch breaks, a strategy that served me really well in marathon training last year.  It's the perfect way to break up my day, and I have to take a lunch break anyway.  I prefer to keep it productive if I can.

I did do something pretty different with my run training, though.  I tinkered a bit with heart rate training, particularly the MAF method of training.  For me, this meant that when I "ran", my heart rate shouldn't exceed 150.  Which, by the way, is extremely tough to do.  My pace slowed dramatically using this approach, and I'm not sure I saw the greatest results from it.  At the same time, I am a slow responder to training, and was only running a couple of days a week.  The more you do this training, the faster you improve (it's ridiculously gentle, you could run 6 days a week at your MAF heart rate and not be killing yourself).  I want to try it again while training for a running event, and see how I do with it.

As for cycling and swimming, it was fit in where I got it.  I was lucky enough to live on the bike course, so  I was able to train on the course a lot.  I swam mostly in the pool until the last few weeks when I switched exclusively to open water swimming.  I had several panic attacks during open water swimming practice, which was pretty terrible.  Figured out later that the water temperature and the restrictiveness of wearing a wetsuit was what was causing the panic attacks.

Anyway, enough about training.  It happened, and it tended to be run-focused.  The day before the tri, I skipped work (because I'm a rebel... or, because I have a glut of PTO.  You decide).  There was a race meeting, and I knew that I had a bunch of errands that I wanted to run.  The race meeting was actually super helpful, as the Race Director and the Emcee gave a ton of good advice for first-time triathletes about things that would help make any race successful.  Even though I have spent a lot of time trying to learn about triathlon, I had not heard many of these tips before, and I really think that they made a world of difference in my race.  I picked up my packet at the race meeting, and headed off to finish all of my other little errands,  among them getting a new running hat.  I had misplaced my running hat, and really wanted to be able to wear one.  I managed to find one that matched my tri-top, which I was pretty thrilled about.

On race morning, I was up at 4:30am.  Yeesh.  Race mornings are always so darn early.  I've learned that the earlier I get up, the better that I race, because I have more time for drinking coffee and letting some food digest. There's also a ridiculous amount of gear required for a triathlon, and I wanted to leave plenty of time for loading everything in the car and for setting up my transition area.

Setting up transition.  It was PACKED!  You can't see it yet, but one girl had to move her bike so that our handlebars were almost overlapping... it was pretty darn chaotic.  Once everything was set up, Ammon and I walked down to the water to watch the olympic distance race start, which was about 30 minutes ahead of the sprint distance.  Let me be the first to say, a 1500 yard swim seems short in a pool, but when you see it in its full stretched out glory, it is a humbling sight.  Watching people plow through it like it was nothing as so cool.  However, I only got to watch about 10 minutes before I needed to get in the lake for my own warm-up.  One of the tips they gave at the pre-race meeting was to get in the water early and let your core temperature come down closer to the water temp.  We were super lucky that the lake was 78 degrees (about the same temperature as a standard lap pool), and so I made the last-minute decision to not wear a wetsuit, even though I had trained with one.  Instead, I just wore my tri-shorts and tri-top, which was the perfect strategy for me.

I had the most awesome race number.

The swim start was pretty casual.  The men started 3 minutes ahead of us ladies, so we just stood there at knee deep, waiting for the bullhorn to sound.  In addition to not wearing the wetsuit, I also made the somewhat controversial choice to swim primarily breaststroke, and only sprinkle in freestyle here and there.  I'm not super comfortable with open water swimming, and I knew that this strategy would give me easier sighting capabilities. 

Overall, the strategy worked really well:  my total swim time, along with 1/4 mile run uphill to transition ended up being about 21 minutes, a middle of the pack time for the swim leg.  I spent about 2 minutes in transition before heading out on the bike course.  It's a weird feeling getting on the bike soaking wet, and I was thankful that it was something I practiced.  I had told Ammon, Shae, and her husband that I was guessing that my bike time would be somewhere between 55 minutes and an hour and five minutes, based on training rides.  However, I definitely underestimated how good I was feeling!  Practicing on the course so much had me riding much faster than anticipated, so fast in fact, that Ammon, Shae, and Eric almost missed my arrival back at transition!  I ended up having a bike time of 52 minutes, which was the 3rd fastest bike time for my age group.  Woot woot!

The ONLY picture of me from the bike section that Ammon got!  Next time, I'll tell them to to look for me much earlier on :-).
After another 2-3 minutes in transition, it was run time!  Shae was originally going to do the triathlon too, but bowed out due to an illness halfway through the training cycle.  When it came time to run, she asked if she could tag along, and of course I said yes!  It was nice to have a friend there to motivate me through the hardest part of the course for me.  At the end, I was just so ready to be done, and she wouldn't let me quit.  She just kept telling me to run faster!

At this point, she was literally yelling at Ammon that he should tell me to run faster too.  We were super close to the finish line, but in my haze, it still felt really far away.  All I wanted to do at that point was walk.

Thankfully, I didn't walk, but ran across the finish line to a total time of 2 hours, 11 minutes, and 43 seconds.  My goal going in was to come in under 2:30:00, and I am really proud that I crushed that goal.

Not only did I crush it, but I had so much fun doing this triathlon!  At about mile 2 of the run, I looked at Shae and told her, "this is so much fun!"  Which is something I never say when running, but when the run has a swimming and cycling warm-up, I guess I feel differently.  I will definitely be doing more tris in the future:  I was supposed to be doing one at the end of this month, but deferred to a race in VEGAS in April.  Let the good times roll, right?

And at the end of the day, I had done what I had always wanted to do:  I became a triathlete.


  1. What an amazing accomplishment, Kristen! You totally knocked your goal out of the park, that is awesome. :) Congrats on becoming a triathlete!! :)

  2. I WANT TO DO THE VEGAS ONE WITH YOU!!!!! Please give me info. And tell me all about wetsuits and other equipment that I will need. I've got a bike, but it's a hybrid. Do I need a road bike?

  3. Oh, and I'm so proud of you! You totally rocked this thing!

  4. Wow, congratulations! Your time was amazing and I'm so glad all your hard work paid off! Maybe 911 is your lucky number! :)


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