My First Triathlon: A Harrowing but Extraordinary Experience

My girlfriend and I - Post triathlon

This morning my girlfriend and I woke up at 5:40 a.m. and got ready for our very first triathlon.  We cleansed our bowels, chowed down some heavy Cliff Bars, and drove to Hawk Island County Park in Lansing around 6:30 a.m.  There we received numerical permanent marker tattoos, were tagged like cattle, and forced to swim, bike, and run a total of 15.5 miles at the ungodly hour of 8 in the morning.

Yet harrowing probably isn’t the right word, a little too melodramatic, a bit too extreme, but I like the way it sounds and it almost fits.  It was certainly a physically taxing endeavor but I performed better than I expected, finishing in 1:16:13.  I finished my 400 swim in 8:37, which would have been laughable during my high school swim days, the 12.1 mile bike in 38 minutes, better than I expected, and ran a 24:59 3.1 miles, my most dreaded part of the race.  My girlfriend didn’t do too bad herself, finishing in an hour and 28 minutes.  Great for a couple of first timers if I do say so myself 🙂  

Plus, it was a beautiful day for a race.  The water was the perfect temperature, just cold enough to bite but warm enough once you really got moving.  The sun was shining in all its radiant glory, a pleasant breeze rolled across the acres of farmland we rode through, and the atmosphere!  The air at Hawk Island was practically leaking positivity and good will to men (and women).

That was undoubtedly the best part of this frenzied race to the finish: everyone was rooting for everyone else.  I found myself caught up in the spirit of the thing.  A young girl, no older than 14, had volunteered to run the last leg of the triathlon for her mom who had broken her foot earlier in the year.  I couldn’t help giving her a breathless “GREAT JOB!” as I passed her on the trail.

There was a great spread of food afterwards too: veggie burritos, bagels, fruit, cookies, donut holes, more fruit, more burritos, and I was full to bursting on the ride home.  I could definitely improve my times, especially my transitions, and if there’s a next time I undoubtedly will but that’s not really why I would do another triathlon.  Stepping up your speed is a huge part of it but your fellow competitors make the race memorable.

People watching before and after the race is a blast and people that you never thought could outpace you will be beating you by a mile at the end.  One woman in particular, she had to be 60 years old, finished her run when I was starting it abouts, a full 10-20 minutes a head of me, a spry 23-year old!  And the bodies of the people racing are equally fascinating.  You have fat people, skinny people, weird shaped people, old people, young people, bodybuilders… truly amazing.

I could write a lot more about everything: the transitions, the equipment, the subtle strategy of the race itself, but now I just want to bask in my accomplishments and sit around for a few days playing video games and reading comics.  Thank you for signing me up baby, I love you.

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