My first triathlon

I was always vaguely interested in doing a triathlon.  It was one of those things in the back of my mind that I thought sounded fun and intrigued me.  But, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t really envision it as a solo mission.  I clearly needed a push from an outside source. 

A few months ago my dad forwarded me an email for a discount on a sprint triathlon.  I think the only thing he wrote in the body of the email was “are you joining me?”

A few things went through my mind as I entertained the idea…

  1. It was in Nor Cal, so I’d get to make a trip home out of it. 
  2. It was the weekend of my dad and sister’s birthdays, so I’d get to celebrate with them.
  3. It was a sprint distance, so the commitment wouldn’t be insane for my triathlon initiation.
  4. It was in late July, so the weather would be nice.
  5. It was a flat course, so I could do reasonably well.
  6. It was a few months away, so I would have enough time to do a bit of “training” before the event.
  7. It was something my dad was willing to do with me, so I’d get to bond with him and he would be able to show me the ropes since he’d done one before.
  8. It was something different, so I’d be inspired to change up my current fitness regime.

And with that, I agreed to do it.

I never thought I’d grow to love cycling more than any other exercise.  I never thought running would be the part of the training that I’d enjoy the least.  And I never thought the swimming leg of the tri would be my strong suit.  But this was the case on all accounts. 

Leading up to the triathlon, I had no training plan.  I don’t recommend this. 
If I’m being honest, what started as excitement (for the unknown) turned into anxiety.  It was the swimming leg of the tri that really caused my stomach to turn.  I mean, I did swim team growing up, but I quit back in high school and I hadn’t done laps in well over a decade.  I didn’t even own the proper gear!  The event soon became a mental burden and I was constantly making excuses to avoid getting in the pool.  Eventually I bought a suit, cap and goggles, but they sat in the bag with the tags and wrappers still in tact for nearly two months after I purchased them.  I’m not sure what my problem was, but it was like I had a road block preventing me from simply taking the first step and getting in the pool. 

My bicycle accident was actually the straw that broke the camel’s my back (literally) and thus forced me to put a pause on the running and biking for a while…leaving only swimming as a form of exercise.  With only 2.5 weeks until the triathlon, I finally went for my first swim.  I was surprised at how it came back to me.  I wasn’t racing against anyone, so I had no basis for comparison, but I felt good in the water.  On my first swim practice I swam 1/2 a mile and on my second I made it a full mile.  And that’s all the swim “training” I did.  

Cycling was far more fun for me.  I wanted to be on my bike more than I wanted to run, which was weird since I mainly consider myself a runner.  No big deal though, I’m sure it’s just a phase.  The only real issue I had was after my crash.  Getting back on the bike post-injury was more of a mental exercise than anything else, but I did it.



Eventually the big day arrived.  My dad and I went to pick up our packets the day before, which is when I learned that almost everyone else would be wearing a wetsuit.  Up to this point I hadn’t taken the temperature of the lake water into consideration.  Hell, I was just trying to get my mind wrapped around the distance, I really didn’t need any extra psychological factors to mess with my head.  My dad didn’t have a wetsuit either though, so we decided to simply tough it out.  It’s not like I had much of a choice, I definitely wasn’t going to buy a wetsuit the day before the swim!  The water temp was on my mind the rest of the day though.

The unknown is what makes me nervous (this is the case for all aspects of my life).  I like to be prepared, I like having plans, and I always turn to organization to calm myself.  So the night before my dad and I packed our gear up, pinned our numbers on our shirts, pumped up our bike tires, prepped the things we would need for the morning, and laid everything out to streamline the morning.  This helped me a little bit, but as I went to bed, I was pretty anxious.  I tried to clear my mind and not think about the race at all, but it was hard. 

When my alarm went off in the AM I was immediately in game day mode.  The routine was familiar.  In fact, it was almost like old times with me and my dad up before dawn getting ready to drive hours and hours for a soccer tournament.  This time we didn’t have to drive as far and I wasn’t the only one about to exercise. 

I had green tea with a splash of soymilk in a canteen, but my stomach was in knots so I only had a few sips.  My mom and sister accompanied us to Pleasanton but the entire car ride was a blur because I was just trying to not think about what I was getting ready to do.  It was a chilly morning and getting in a lake was starting to sound insane.  Who am I kidding, it IS insane.  Who in their right mind finds sport in such crazy behavior??  Fortunately I was able to deflect a bit of my nerves by making fun of my very hung-over sister.  😉

My dad and I had ignored the recommended arrival time (1.5 hours of pre-race prep seems excessive) so almost all of the transition stations were occupied by the time we got there.  We picked out a spot by a tree, set out our things and waited.  The international distance had started already so we began to see them emerge from the water and seamlessly strip to nothing and hop on their bikes.  They had crazy aerodynamic helmets and bicycles that weighed less than my breakfast.  I, on the other hand, had no wetsuit, a mountain bike, baggy shorts and a t-shirt.  Lemme tell you, nothing says amateur like a helmet with a visor on it.  Ha! 


With only a few minutes until go time, my dad went off to pee and on his way back decided to feel the temp of the water.  When he said it wasn’t too bad, it was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  Maybe people would think I was a badass without a wetsuit?  Or maybe they would continue to think I was an idiot.  Either way, I didn’t care since I now knew I wouldn’t die of frostbite.  Joy!

We stripped down to our suits, made our way to the water, and said goodbye to my mom and sister. 


But not before they could take a thousand photos of us looking ridiculous.  For the record, the age they wrote on my leg is wrong and I’m not 29 years old.  I’m not sure why they felt the need to round up, but I didn’t enjoy it in the least.  Yeah, yeah, age is just a number whatever.  I’m still not looking to race to 30 any faster than the next 20-something female.


I put my cap on and went down to the lake and was thrilled to discover the water wasn’t too cold (it was actually colder outside than in the water).  We both got in and waded our way to the starting buoys.


My dad’s heat (the old geezer group) left before mine by 5-7 minutes.  They are the ones in the baby blue caps.  And then it was time for my group (orange caps).  At this point I had zero nerves.  I was pretty happy in the water.  I had no expectations for my performance, so it’s not like I had any pressure to go fast.  I just had to swim the course and come out the other side (breathing preferably).  Not exactly Olympic goal setting, huh. 


My dad and I had already agreed to do the entire triathlon together, so I knew whoever finished first would be waiting for the next person.  We decided to meet at our transition spot and then start our biking together. 

When the announcer said “go” I put my head down and started freestyle.  I was way on the outside because I figured that was the least likely location to get kicked in the face.  Well, it was still pretty crowded.  In fact, I couldn’t do much actual swimming until half way to the first buoy. 


Once the swimmers thinned out, I realized starting on the outside was a stupid plan because it made my distance even longer.  Oh well.  You live swim and learn.  I also realized that swimming freestyle in a lake meant constantly looking up to see if I was staying on course.  It was very different from doing laps in a pool with lanes.  I felt like I was really inefficient because my strokes were continuously interrupted as I picked up my head to see where I was relative to the course.  And I kept getting off track too!  I know I wasn’t the only one though.  Everyone seemed all over the place.  It was pretty amusing. 
The course was 3 sides of a big square.  We headed out on one end of the lake’s bank, turned right, turned right, and then swam into the bank again at a different point.  I swam freestyle for the entire first and second lengths…but by the third I was annoyed with my zig-zagging so I did some breaststroke which was slower, but at least allowed me to see where I was going.  It only lasted a brief amount of time though, because freestyle is far more efficient (read: faster). 

When I was able to stand, I looked into the crowd standing at the edge of the water and saw my mom.  Yeah! 


Then she pointed to my right and told me that my dad was right next to me…oh hey dad!  Didn’t see you there! 


How perfect that we finished at the exact same time. 


I learned later that I was actually one of the first girls out of the water.  Cool!


We hugged, then got in trouble for loitering at the water’s edge (silly race officials), and jogged to our bikes. 


We weren’t the fastest in changing, but we also weren’t in it to win it. 

IMG_1515 IMG_1516

My sister was yelling things making fun of me (like I don’t know my bike has a kickstand…thanks Marie). 




But surely…


We transitioned from wet to semi-dry and bike ready. 


And off we went.

I learned two things on this leg of the event, (1) mountain bikes are SO MUCH more work than road bikes and (2) my dad is a badass on his bike.  Going into the tri, I knew he would be far better than I on the bike, but I never thought I would be as hindered as I was simply because I was riding a clunker from the 90s (which I was).  Everyone else had their slick wind-resistant gear and there I was in my baggy clothes acting like sails in the wind.  My dad was patient though and we chatted a bit while we rode along.  He taught me tips and the rules of the road.  He also taught me what drafting was, which I had never considered until some woman accused me of doing so 3 minutes into the bike ride.  Ummm…are you serious lady?  What about me screams professional to you?  Is it my helmet with a visor?  Or maybe my bike that weighs 10 times yours?  Or how about the running shoes I’m wearing that don’t clip into the pedals?  I’m sure all of these factors are what lead to her thinking I posed a real threat to her.  In reality, my “drafting” was simply me sticking close enough behind my dad so we could talk while still letting the faster riders pass us.  I hope she felt like a moron later. 

The ride was nice, despite the fact that I was working hard to pedal while my dad was coasting along.  Clearly investing in a road bike is in my future. 


Since the course was mostly flat with only a few small hills, I was still pumped for the running portion when we finished cycling.  My dad was not quite as stoked.  His knees aren’t what they used to be, so he tries to stick to low-impact forms of exercise.  Too bad running is unavoidable in triathlons.  At least that leg wasn’t too long.  It was still hard on his knees, so we went really slow. 


We passed the 1 mile mark and kept going and going and going…and no other mile markers were anywhere to be found.  We were both a bit confused.  Had we gotten off course?  Were we accidentally running the full triathlon distance?  I was fine to keep going but my dad was already asking the water stations for Sierra Nevada, so I knew he didn’t have much left in him.  We finally saw the end before us though.  And the last few yards felt oh-so-sweet. 


Crossing the finish line with my dad was so special.  I’m really glad we committed to doing this together.  Beyond the sense of accomplishment that goes with completing any race, what made this one especially awesome was sharing the experience with my dad. 


It was also so FUN.  I attribute this to the fact that I went into it with a whole different mind set as compared to previous running races I’ve done.  I had no expectations, no goals, nada.  I just wanted to have a heart beat at the end.  And since there was no pressure, I was able to enjoy myself in the moment. 


After we took some photos, we collected our things and loaded up the van.  Just like old times, in the family van, hot and sweaty and exhausted from a busy morning of exercising. 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments (46)

  1. Red Deception

    Woot! You are awesome, strong hippie-athlete! Kudos to you on fishing with your Dad!

  2. Red Deception

    A ha ha… I meant “finishing” not “fishing”.

  3. Lindsay@LivingLindsay

    I loved reading this!! I’ve been playing with the idea of doing a sprint triathlon, but so wish I had someone to do it with. I love your attitude going into it and I also love that you didn’t have all of the “gear”. You don’t have to have the best of the best to do great and you proved that. It’s so great that you and your Dad did this together. I would probably start crying if someone accused me of drafting – haha. First of all, I would have had zero clue what that was. Second, I tend to get really wobbly on a bike when someone else is super close to me. I clearly have some work to do if I ever decide to do a tri. But congrats on finishing!!

  4. Andrea @ Onion in My Hair

    Elise – what an amazing post! I loved reading every word! The way you kept describing you gear – running shoes without clips, baggy shorts, visor and all – oh man, I was cracking up!

    Congrats to you and your dad!

    And BOO to the person who wrote 29 on your leg! 😉

  5. Christine (The Raw Project)

    Awesome post and great pics! Congrats, you rock!

  6. Gavi @ Gavi Gets Going!

    Congratulations on your first triathlon! And seriously, you guys are incredible for doing the swim with no wetsuit. I just did my first sprint tri last September at Pacific Grove (near Monterey), and I loved it, too. The sense of accomplishment I felt after finishing was unlike anything else! Congratulations to you and your dad–what a special experience! 🙂

  7. Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles

    What a fun father-daughter bonding experience! Between this post and the last I’m convinced you have the healthiest family in history. I agree, it’s so much more fun when you don’t have expectations! My first 5K was just like that. Congrats on finishing, getting through the swim, and getting back on the bike after your accident!

  8. Abby @ Abz 'n' Oats

    Beautiful post! 🙂 I love the part about the lady accusing you of drafting. lol. What a cool experience to share with your padre!

  9. Pure2raw twins

    girl you are amazing!! congrats to you and your dad. And I am so impressed by your dad doing this too, I could never get my dad to do anything like this. What a great experience to have shared together.

    get rest girl , you deserve it


  10. Mary @ Bites and Bliss

    VERY cool!! That’s so awesome you did a triathlon. Like you, I’ve always been vaguely interested in it. Who knows, maybe I’ll follow in your footsteps one day and do one, too!

  11. Natalie @ cinnamon bums

    wow, amazing!!!! congrats on a huge accomplishment! triathlons are seriously hardcore! i really enjoyed reading every word of this recap, i felt like i was right there along with you. what made it so special was that you did it with your dad – and i thought that was so coool! i am really close to my dad as well, and he’s the one who taught me to play tennis and do a lot of other active things. my favorite photo is the one of you and your dad crossing the finish line. seriously. so. awesome.

  12. Jess

    I love that you did a triathlon with your dad! Looks like you guys had a great time : )

  13. Laura

    yay, congrats!! i take it from the title that you don’t anticipate this being your last triathlon? 🙂

    i started doing triathlons last year and it’s weird how addictive they become – i did my first one with a bright teal bike from 1970 and now i’ve basically escalated to one of the clip-in-shoe people. except my helmet still has a visor too. i didn’t realize how dorky that was until you pointed it out.

    and fyi, any USAT event, they put your age as whatever age you are turning in that year (i’m assuming your birthday is in the coming months?). it’s weird and I’m not totally sure why they chose that as a rule, but it is really depressing.

  14. Emily

    I loved reading this! Congrats to you and your dad! 🙂

  15. Elise (Post author)

    you are exactly right!! im already looking into future tris!!

  16. Lenna

    Thanks for the recap! You are my hero!! I have always wanetd to do triathlon, but I am a bit scared I would fail, my condition is pretty bad comparing to all the people who participate in triathlons 🙂

  17. Adam Deane

    This was such a fantastic post! I love that fact that you had no expectations going in and you were able to enjoy the tri so much!! AND WITH YOUR DAD!! That is the coolest. I ran one race with my Mom a couple years ago and it was still my favorite!!

  18. Libby

    Great post! I just finished my first sprint tri this summer, and I can so relate to your thoughts on yours. The elites and their pointy helmets are so intimidating!

  19. Lauren

    I think it’s great you did it to spend time with your dad and didn’t get all caught up in the competitiveness! I’m positive that made it 10x more fun! 😀 Congrats!

  20. Nikita

    Aww! What a fun and sweet experience! I’ve been toying with the idea of a triathlon for awhile, so it was really interesting to read this!

  21. Elise (Post author)

    it was a pretty ludicrous accusation, but made for a funny story after. it was really fun, you should consider finding someone to enter with you…breaking into the sport with someone else is the way to go.

  22. Elise (Post author)

    oooohhh monterey would be so pretty! did you have a wetsuit then? is that water cold?

  23. Elise (Post author)

    hahaha…well i was (slash AM) really lucky. but thanks.

  24. Elise (Post author)

    thank you abby!!

  25. Elise (Post author)

    thanks love. it was a really awesome experience. im resting up for sure 🙂

  26. Elise (Post author)

    find a friend to sign up with you and DO IT! its a blast. seriously.

  27. Elise (Post author)

    awww…thanks natalie!

  28. Elise (Post author)

    yes!! haha those pointy helmets are so silly looking. i bet they look at my gear though and are equally as amused.

  29. Elise (Post author)

    hey nikita! i highly recommend signing up with a friend and just doing it. so so fun.

  30. Marci

    Congrats Elise and dad! That is so cool and special to do it together. I’ve never done one, but it’s on my bucket list I think! Looks fun and challenging.

  31. JL goes Vegan

    What a great experience to share with your father! I had to laugh about your oh-so-right opinion on the bike. My first triathlon was at Bear Mountain, on a hybrid, and it was HARD getting that heavier bike up the 2.5 mile incline! Eek!

    Congratulations to you!

  32. hippierunner

    You did a triathlon!!!!! Awesome job Elise. I loved this race recap, sounds like you had such a great time doing it with your dad. I like this because it showed it doesn’t have to be all or nothing when you do an event like this, it can be fun even if it’s not taken sooooo seriously. 🙂

  33. allpointswhole

    Thats awesome!! I love it! I just had surgery from my bike accident so I would love to hear about yours…

  34. laurasplanet

    is it sad that I almost cried reading this??? (and laughed at parts too…) Miss you guys! xoxo

  35. Elise (Post author)

    awww. we miss you too laureea.

  36. Sarah

    I loved reading this, so much. Truly, I enjoyed the details you gave about each leg, what you learnt from it. And I especially enjoyed reading about the special relationship you have with your dad and how beautiful that is. Sorry to sound like a sap, but it was such a great post. Loved it.

  37. adrianna

    fantastic recap! congrats to you and hippie dad 🙂 great job!

  38. Melissa S

    Congratulations Elise! What an awesome accomplishment!! One of my friends and I are planning on doing a triathlon next spring. Do you have any words of wisdom after rocking your first triathon?

    On another note, I was just reading one of your older posts, the post where you packed your food stash for your trip to Europe. I am flying this week and planning on packing a ton of food for the trip. I have to eat a gluten free diet so I know my options at the airport will be very limited and very pricey. How did your oatmeal bakes hold up? Did security give you any issues about bringing alot of food with you on the plane? How did your salad hold up without being refrigerated?
    Congrats again 🙂

  39. Elise (Post author)

    i had no issues with the dressing being too wilty or anything, but then i do like soggy salads 🙂
    as for the oat bakes, security didnt give me any problems. they are a solid baked good though, so they are totally legal. its the yogurt/hummus/nut butters that i was more concerned about bringing with me.
    however, they didnt seem to care about any of the food i had. i have brought in full tubs of hummus and they havent said anything. now, i certainly dont advertise that i have a big bag of food, but i think they understand that people going to the international terminal have long travels ahead of them (or they cant be bothered to get their pants in a bunch over some hippie’s healthy fare since they have real bad guys to catch).
    they’ve had to put my bags through a second time before and they STILL didnt even go through it or confiscate my eats.
    so my advice would be to act like it aint no thang (ie dont alert them that you have anything). and worst case scenario, they take your hummus or nut butters because they qualify as “gels”. hope that helps!

  40. Elise (Post author)

    ps words of wisdom for the tri…find a friend to do it with you and go in with no expectations. if you treat it like a fun weekend activity it will be just that.

  41. Ryan

    Congrats Elise!! What a great recap–you and your dad are so cute to have done this together!


  42. Katie

    OOOh I’m so proud of you!! You really inspire me to get over my fear of swimming more than one lap and train for one myself. I get the WORST race anxiety, so I think it would take a major mental shift for me, too – but probably in a way that relieves any pressure like you did. Good for you!

  43. Melissa S

    Thank you so much Elise!

  44. janetha @ meals & moves

    Dude! GOOD JOB! And I have been to that triathalon before. My brother in law did it and I was there at the finish line! So funny to see the same place on your blog. Goooooood for you! xoxoxoxo

  45. Jenny

    Congrats on finishing your first triathlon. Your picture and summary about how special it was to commit to the race with your dad brought tears to my eyes. I love it!

  46. Jaime

    Thank you for sharing this experience! I am doing my first triathlon (a sprint also) in one week and my nerves are crazy! I know I can bike and run no problem but thinking of the swimming makes my mind go absolutely crazy! Thanks for making it seem not as bad as I am imagining!

Comments are closed.