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??
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).
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.
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.
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. I 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).
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.I 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.
The 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.
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.
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….It 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.
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?