To Tri or Not to Tri

I had my first experience with triathlons this past weekend. I’m a complete tri-virgin. Sure I’ve read my running/tri friends race recaps and their training plans but none of it made that much sense. I was definitely a little nervous going into the trip.  It IS the dark side, ya know. The side that runners don’t, shouldn’t, and won’t typically go to. So, what did I think? Here are the 5 things I learned this weekend.

1. Triathletes and Runners are the same.

I’ve always been intimidated by the sport of triathlon. I have plenty of runner friends that have transitioned over to the dark side and love it. But to me, it’s scary. I don’t swim or bike. I just run. And I can talk about running for hours and hours with my running friends. Tripeeps are no different. It was hours and hours of tri gear, bikes, shoes, races, previous races, goals, and competitive talk. It was a bit of a foreign language to me, but as the weekend went on, I learned a bit more and the sport started to make sense. We are all athletes, just with different passions. But seriously…who knew there were so many types of pedals, wheels, and helmets??IMG_7256

2. A LOT goes into a triathlon.

Not only is the training more intense (in my opinion, anytime you do two workouts in a day, that’s more than a long run) but the prep work race weekend is, too. Call me insanely spoiled and maybe lazy, but I’m a big fan of being able to grab my race packet and chill the rest of a race weekend. Triathlons take a lot more planning. Gear for transition 1, transition 2, fuel for the bike and the run and getting it all to the race and then to the transitions. I felt like we ran around non stop on Saturday trying to get it all done (which doesn’t lead to a well rested, race ready body).

First, Rich and his friends got up to do a practice swim (he wanted to do a bike and run too, but ran out of time later in the day). IMG_5359

Then, we were off to the expo. We picked up all of Rich’s transition bags (which aren’t clear by the way- not the same security as running events) he bought a few things, and then we grabbed lunch. im1.shutterfly-1 IMG_7235

IM Raleigh 70.3 is even more complicated than most tri’s because it is a point to point race. It was 4pm on Saturday and we still had to take his bike to T1 and he had to prep all of his transition bags for the next day. IMG_7254

By the time we finished, we had an hour to rest before dinner with some friends and it was lights out by 9:30 or 10. We got up at 4am to take the T2 bags, get on the bus to be taken to the start, get to the start, drop of T1 bags, put on sunscreen, wetsuit and wait for his actual wave.

YEP. A LOT more work than throwing on my running shoes and heading to the start line.

3. Ironman is a series, not just a distance.

Sooooo, It’s pretty embarrassing to admit, but I felt like that “oh how far is a marathon” person. I had no clue that there were other 70.3’s that weren’t called half ironman’s. Ironman is kinda like the Rock n Roll Series of triathlons. They just put on tons and tons of races across the country but there are plenty of other 70.3 race distance options, Ironman is just trademarked. Go ahead and stamp dumb across my forehead. Please tell me I’m not the only one who didn’t know this…

4. Cheering is the most fun but all triathletes look alike.

I was up at 4am just like the athletes. I took the bus with Rich to the start and waited for him to race. Waves and waves (corrals and corrals) of swimmers all dressed in black wetsuits, goggles, and just a different color swim cap for each wave. REALLY hard to tell who is who when they are dressed the same.IMG_7260IMG_7265 IMG_5370 IMG_5376I started a timer on my phone to guesstimate when Rich would be out the water. It was exhilerating to finally see him and then sprint to the end of T1 to wait for him to hop on the bike. His transitions were fast, so it was like speed work for me (I had plans to run while he was biking, but that didn’t happen due to time constraints).IMG_5392 IMG_5397

Since all spectators had to wait until the last person was out of the water (two lane road out of swim area) to be taken back to T2, I was able to see some of my other friends transition.IMG_5418I made it back just in time for the T2 exchange and it was the same process. Cheer, run to end of transition, cheer, move on.

IMG_5426 IMG_5428The run part was the easiest since it was a double loop. I was able to see him 3 times on the run. I LOVED cheering for the run part. I’m used to saying “Good job, runners” but felt odd, so just stuck with “Keep it up” and “You look great.”

A few more things to note about spectating:

It’s hard to cheer with other spectator friends. My friend Kelsey was watching her boyfriend, too. He was in an earlier wave, so she was always ahead of me until the run where we could actually hang out and cheer together.IMG_7280

You can’t “support” on tri’s. I thought this was interesting. I am used to the sherpa aspect in running- carry the hydration, run along for a few minutes for support, etc. You cannot do that at all during a triathlon.IMG_5455

Also, It would be great if brands chose bright colors for their tri kits. I swear to you, everyone looks the same!! Go bright or neon…NOT grey, red or black!

5. I have NO interest in doing a triathlon.

Everyone told me that I would leave the weekend wanting to get a bike and hit the water and sign up for my first event. Do I want a bike? Yes, to get around my neighborhood. Would I swim for cross training? Sure. It’s great for cardio and endurance. BUT, I have absolutely no desire to get into triathlons. I have a goal to finish another 27 states before even considering anything else.

I was so incredibly proud of Rich and the rest of my friends that were racing…but….IMG_5480It honestly all overwhelmed me. I will be the BIGGEST supporter, cheerleader, and fan and tag along wherever I can with my sparkle skirt, camera and cow bell….but it will stop there. No tri’s for me. For now.

yes, I changed clothes. Originally in running gear and switched to cheer gear once I realized I ran out of time to run.


Are you a triathlete or a runner? If you’ve done both, what do you call yourself? If you are a triathlete, what’s your fav: swim, bike or run? If you’ve never done a triathlon, do you have any desire to do one? Ever spectated a tri? 

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  • I did 2 sprint triathlons and the equipment side of this sport is crazy, not only does it cost a lot but also I was always worried during the race it will break. Running was always a relief for me, that’s when I knew I’m a runner.

  • I’m a swimmer turned swimmer/runner, and I have less than no desire to get into tris. Once I did the swim part on a 70.3 distance relay, and that’s when I realized what a huge production they are (exactly like you described). I think it’s awesome for others – just not for me. Re #3 – Even after being around tons of triathletes at the pool, I didn’t know about the distinction until I read this WSJ article – so you are not alone.(

  • Haha, skin tight tri-suits + light colors = way more butt-crack than you want to see! I tried on a pair of pink tri shorts once…and put them back immediately. Bad idea. Anyways, glad you had a good time cheering! It’s a crazy sport, no doubt.

  • It was so nice to see you guys this weekend, Rich is like the pinnacle of Triathlon, he’s been so motivational to me over the past few months, because you said it, it is so confusing and convoluted at times. I’ve been a runner for 11 years, I love races, but after I got injured last fall pretty badly, the cross training my physician recommended let me to consider triathlon. Didn’t hurt that Ironman is in my hometown of Louisville. So I just signed up for Raleigh and Louisville last November on a whim. Not the smartest decision, but I have to say, I love the community and I really love the bike. I like the swim when my legs aren’t trying to kill me with cramping.

    At this point, since Ironman Raleigh is my only Triathlon experience, I still definitely consider myself a runner primarily since my A races this year aren’t Ironman Louisville or Raleigh, but the JFK 50 mile race in November and Rocky Raccoon 100 mile race in February. So much easier to strap on a backpack, a handheld, some Hokas, and just run for hours and hours. Those transitions freaked me out big time, I ended up packing way too much and forgetting to put 90% of it on. And then ants getting into my nutrition at T2 really created a major party foul. But I did have an absolute blast at Raleigh. I had more overall fun during the 6 hours, than I have during a 6 hour ultra, so I might be making the shift.

  • I have negative zero interest in doing a triathlon either. Biking is fun for about 20 minutes and I hate swimming. Plus, like you, I’m pretty lazy and there is just too much investment, equipment, etc. I can barely keep track of my Garmin.

  • Um, I’ve done one sprint triathlon, but I call myself a runner. I don’t think I’ll every call myself a triathlete. I mean, at times, I call myself a cyclist and very rarely, I call myself a swimmer, but never “triathlete”.

    Shhh, don’t tell – cycling is my favorite part of a tri because I am actually pretty good at it.

  • At first I was just a runner, but in 2010 I did my first sprint tri. Now I have completed all distances up to a full ironman 140.6. I love every minute of it, the key is to have a great group of people to train with, especially on those long bike rides. My fav is the swim because I grew up swimming! I also volunteer a lot during the triathlons I do not compete in. I cannot wait to volunteer at IMChattanooga and IMFL this year!

  • You look great and I love that sparkle skirt. And I agree with you this sounds totally overwhelming! Small world – I swear I went to church camp like 15 years ago with the guy behind you on the bus picture….I think his name is Joseph. Weird huh?

  • Love, love , LOVE triathlons! I was a runner in high school, but got lazy during my college years. In April 2013 my mom decided she wanted to do a sprint triathlon and I was so inspired by her. I decided to start training that very day and four weeks later we did a sprint tri together….last year we ended up doing six together. It has sincerely changed my life forever. I’ll be competing in my first half ironman in 35 days!!

  • It sounds like you were an amazing spectator!!! Yes, there is a whole lot of training and gear that goes into triathlons. It still boggles my mind really!

    I started off as a runner, but then bought a road bike to toodle around on and commute in to work. It didn’t take long for me to really enjoy biking and I wanted to race a duathlon. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of duathlons around here so I figured if I really wanted to try racing multisport I’d better get in the pool and start swimming. I was blown away by how friendly the fellow atheletes were at my first race. What a great community!

    I call myself both a runner and a triathlete! It just depends on what time of the year it is and what I’m training for. I love that triathlons are more complicated. It is really hard to figure out how to figure out how to have the best bike to set yourself up for your best run. There is a lot of problem solving required on the race course and that is what keeps me coming back to triathlon! I’m still trying to figure out how to race a good 140.6…so that is my big goal this summer!

    Happy Friday!!

  • I don’t want to “tri” either. Biking and running after swimming (being all wet and don’t they chafe??) sounds terrible.
    S has done a bunch of tris, mostly sprints. But, I felt so bad, he did 70.3 on a point to point and he was so fast, we missed him at the bike to run transition. It was in Sunriver and the lake is difficult to get to, but I just knew we’d see him at the bike to run. It was so sad to come to the transition area and see his bike already there with him nowhere to be found.
    I’m glad you had fun! That Rich is a cutie!

  • Hey hey! I love this!! I knew you wouldn’t be intrigued to tri after being there! Haha…I had a feeling you would be like WTF with all this gear/logistics!! But I am so glad you got some exposure to it and get a little feel for what it is all about…because it is SO MUCH FUN 🙂

  • Rich IS a cutie!!

    I did that one local sprint-tri last year, and i’m doing it again this year. I kind of tossed around the idea of doing something longer, BUT, I realized I don’t really like the bike, and since I don’t like it I don’t really want to spend money to buy a fancier bike than the hybrid I have. I also hate the order of events – it makes NO sense to me to swim first. The race I did is a reverse, so you swim LAST, and the finish line is right out of the water.

    And even for the sprint, it was SO MUCH STUFF to keep organized.

    Swimming is really great for cardio, and – I pinky swear – it really really works out fatigued legs, which is great. But until there’s a reverse 70.3 invented, PASS.

  • Glad you had fun! When I saw the title of this post, I thought I was going to be able to say “I told you so.” Ha! 🙂 Loved your spectator outfit. Two thoughts on your takeaways. I don’t actually think runners and triathletes are the same, although there are certainly some cross-over and similarities (and I can say that because I’m in both camps). I think the running community is way more welcoming and supportive than the tri community. That is not to say the tri community isn’t — it is a wonderful community too, but I think there is a more inclusive mentality when it comes to running than there is in the tri community. That has just been my experience. There can be a level of judgement on what kind of bike you have and helmet and if you have race wheels or you don’t. It can be tougher than just having a nice pair of running shoes 🙂 As for the IRONMAN brand thing, it has become like kleenex … give me a kleenex … you know its a brand, but it has become the way you describe races and that is ok. Beach2Battleship was not an offficial IRONMAN branded race, but we still say training for a half ironman, so don’t feel bad 🙂 Another thing the tri community is er, interesting about … is it an “M-dot” race or not? There are many people who won’t choose a non IRONMAN race. So many nuances in our sport. Glad you learned a lot. xoxo

  • You know I’ve done tris, but since my last one was almost 2 years ago, I just call myself a runner now. I use the bike for cross training and would like to get in the pool more than once a year for the same cross training purpose but I have more running goals I want to cross off my list before I venture back into tris. (Not that you can’t do them at the same time, but for me it just hasn’t worked that way yet.)
    Batch has spectated many of my tris and he’s in your camp, he’ll support/cheer but has ZERO desire to experience it first hand. He’s favorite response is always “if I’m swimming, there’s a beer in my hand” 🙂
    So glad you enjoyed the race and go to experience it though! 70.3 is no joke and IM does it BIG! xoxo

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