First Triathlon- DONE!

The past week has been a whirlwind of triathlon preparation
and panic positive thinking. But I’m
happy to announce that I have officially completed my very first
TRIATHLON! As many of you know from my last post, I was NOT
expecting to do a tri so soon, but boy am I glad I did it. It was
worth ALL 6 days of diarrhea!

I decided to
take the day off from work on Friday, mainly to sleep in a little
(in case I couldn’t Friday night!) and to do some last minute prep
and packing for the big day. With the help of a few tri pros, I put
together the essentials.

Lindsey, Meghan and
I drove out to Tarpon Springs late afternoon on Friday to pick up
our race packets. We were happy to be able to see the transition
area was already set up, and were able to ask a few questions and
gather some details for race day. At this point, a tad bit of freak
out mode had set in, but I was trying to avoid it with big toothy
smiles all afternoon =D

We had a yummy
dinner at Sweet Tomatoes- veggies plus lots o’ carbs), then headed
back home for a good night’s sleep. We knew our 4:15am wake up
calls would creep up fast!

I had no problem
falling asleep, and no problem waking up in the morning. I felt
rested from my nice little day off, and felt pumped about the whole
thing in general. I had baked some banana bread the night before,
so I forced a few slices down (waaaay to early to eat) and drank
some vitamin water. Lindsey was at my place before I even had my
shorts on (eek!), but I was able to get everything ready and we
were on the road by 4:45. After a short stop at Meghan’s house, we
were able to get the caravan on the road by 5:15.

We got to the park around 5:45, and realized how
DARK it was (note to self: add flashlights to tri list), but we
were able to set up anyway. Lindsey walked Meghan and I through the
ins and outs of transition set up, and luckily, because we were so
early, I was able to get an end space- meaning only 1 bike next to
me instead of 2!

During all of this set up
and preparation, a moment of panic set in. I developed a major
stomachache, but I was able to tell it to shut the hell up, and
calmed down! We realized what a beautiful day we were going to have
for this tri as the sun came up, and also noticed how incredibly
CALM the water was! (score!) We lined up and got “markered up” then
grabbed our time chips and strapped them on our ankles. Even after
taking a shower I can still see the number 313 all over me! Oh, and
they also put my age on my calf with a nice big V… for
Virgin…as in TRIVIRGIN! HA! That definitely loosened up my
tension and helped me to start enjoying the whole experience.

Our wave start time was at 8:09, giving us
plenty of time to mingle with the other athletes, scarf down
breakfast #2, visit with family and friends, and do a practice swim
to get warmed up. My parents, Meghan’s husband, Laurie, Michele and
Kristin came to cheer us on (complete with signs!) and Gene, Deb’s
husband, was our official photographer, so needless to say, we had
a great support system all throughout the race.

At around 7:40, we decided to head down to the beach for a
practice swim. As you know, the swim battle is something that I
fight daily, but when I saw where the buoys were positioned, I was
actually feeling a lot better about things. The buoys were no where
NEAR as far as I thought they were going to be, AND, it was low
tide, meaning no great depths to fear. (hooray!) Now, for those
participants scared of sea grass, well I felt sorry for them,
because at times, the grass was so thick and so high, I couldn’t
even see the sand. But, the water was amazingly clear (AND I had my
spiffy new goggles) so I had no problem seeing where I was headed
at all times.

I climbed back on shore,
feeling panic-free, and waited until our wave was ready to jump in.
We were able to take some funny photographs, and once again mingle
with our “spectators”. For a few moments, I really did feel out of
place- like people were saying “why is SHE here” or “boy, she’s
going to get in OUR way”. I mean, there were some heroes here- real
power athletes, Kona style, with $15,000 bikes complete with
sponsors. All of that can really, REALLY freak out someone like me
who’s plus-sized, on a makeshift hybrid bike from Wal-mart, with a
big ol’ scarlet V written on her calf. But, I was totally wrong.
Everyone was so warm and welcoming, and even went as far as calling
ME a hero for even attempting a triathlon. It definitely made me
feel like I had ventured into a very accepting sport… for life.

By 8:00, I was feeling good, amazing, excited,
anxious! I was ready to get into that water and start swimming. We
watched and waited as the first three waves roared through the
shore, around the buoys and through the Gulf. By the time the 2nd
wave had started, some swimmers were already finished! (X-Men?)
Before I knew it, my purple-capped body was standing ankle deep in
the Gulf, ready for 400 yards of splashing, arm-aching, endurance
testing fun. I positioned myself on the outside of the group, so
that I wouldn’t be “run” over, prepared the stopwatch on my watch
to start, then waited for the buzzer that would signal our wave to

Within minutes, I found myself, face
in, swimming through the grasslands. My breathing was under
control, my body was moving in the right direction, and the only
thing I was thinking about was the purple cap in front of me. I
literally focused on this lady’s cranium until I rounded the 2nd
buoy. I didn’t look at the shore. I didn’t look out into the
horizon. At times, I think I may have even had my eyes closed
(ha!), but before I even realized it, I was rounding the 2nd and
final buoy, and heading back to shore.

That’s when it happened. Shark!

My arms started to give way. I
looked up and realized what a long way I still had to swim to get
back to the shore. Lindsey was side by side with me the whole time,
so of course she pushed me to keep moving, but let me tell you…
that was the most difficult 8 minutes of my life! We were able to
run the last 30 yards or so of the swim because of the low tide
(thank you moon), and by that time, I was happy to be on my feet
because my arms felt like Twizzlers. During this last little run
through the underwater meadow, not only were my arms
non-functional, but I also began to feel ill. In fact, so ill, that
I thought I was going to provide the fish with some food, right
there in the water. Luckily, I was able to hold in any projectiles,
and make it onto the beach.

That’s it. The
swim was over in a blink. (success!)

slunked over to T1, threw on my helmet, shuffled on my shoes (tri
laces ROCK), sipped some water and pulled out. I had brought some
snacks with me to refuel during transitions, but I didn’t think I
would able to hold anything down right at that moment.

Lindsey waited for me to mount, then off we went.
In all honesty, the bike wasn’t all that rough. In fact, it wasn’t
much different from our usual training jaunts out at Ft. Desoto.
Lindsey, with her fancy shmancy bike computer, was able to give me
some motivating audio cues like “flag pole”, “turn around” and
“fort” to help move me along. Meghan had predicted the hardest part
was going to be passing by the Greek bakeries in downtown Tarpon
Springs. Let me tell you… it WAS. Buttery phyllo dough crisping
up in the morning… the best smell you’ll ever smell (well, on a
bike anyway).

The second most difficult
part was the “hilly” terrain. Apparently, and I never realized
this, Tarpon Springs has a few hills here and there. Pumping those
legs up a hill is NOT an easy task-especially when you’re carrying
extra weight. The good news? What goes up, must come down (thanks
for noticing, Newton). And honestly, before I even realized it, we
were already back in the park, heading to T2. It was an incredibly
fast ride, with beautiful scenery, cool shady spots, and volunteers
with smiles and positive attitudes at every corner. I was
exhausted, but still alive! (and all belly contents intact!)

Lindsey and I were able to catch up to Meghan
while on the bike ride, and rolled into T2 together. I dismounted,
threw on my infamous Wally world yoga bermudas, stuffed a half of a
PB&J in my mouth, grabbed some cold water, snapped on my
race belt and off we went. My legs gave me the finger as we
approached the start of the first mile. Unfortunately, mile 1 was
absolutely shadeless, making the heat an unwelcome visitor. So far,
we had had great weather and cooler temps, but by the time we
started the 5k, the sun was beating down on us. We were excited to
see the shade approaching as we completed the first mile. I decided
to jog from mile 1-2, then an additional 1/4 mile back towards the
causeway. Lindsey and I were making GREAT time on the run, and were
having an awesome time listening to all of the cheers and kudos
from passerbys and volunteers.

We waved
goodbye to the shade, and said hello to my parents as they met us
for the last stretch of the 5k. The sun felt even WORSE on the way
back, but I knew I was only a few tenths of a mile away from
completing my FIRST triathlon- a goal I never dreamed I would
achieve in a million years. As we came off the causeway and rounded
the parking lot, the cheers and kudos became more and more
frequent… especially when the finish line came into sight.
Lindsey and I decided to run that last few hundred feet, and
crossed the finish line to crowds of onlookers hooting and
hollering about what a great thing this “virgin” had just

So…. was it worth

100% YES. I truly had a
blast. I didn’t realize what my body could do and how much fun I
could have putting it to the test.

So… will I do it

I’m thinking about #2
RIGHT as I type this. Addicted? You betcha.

So… any last minute
words of wisdom?

Kill the “I
can’t” attitude, throw any self-doubts about your image in the
garbage and just get your ass on a training program… NOW!

So…are you
still scared of deep water?

unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to test out any fears today,
because the swim wasn’t all that deep, but stay tuned to the next
episode of A Girl’s Gotta Tri and see just how far I can go!



As you already know, I have just signed up for my first triathlon. Thank goodness Meghan and the rest of the training group will be there to:

A. Cheer me on
B. Slap me around if I freak out about the deep water
C. Not laugh at me as they pass by and I’m vomiting (or passed out)

On Labor Day, Meghan and I decided to take a little road trip out to Tarpon Springs to check out the course, and back out of become more comfortable with what we had gotten ourselves into. Little Sean was with us too, but he was much more interested in sleeping than exploring!

By looking at the online maps at www.tarponrotary.org/TriDetails.aspx, the course looks scary, long, and all in all HORRIFIC (well, to me anyways). But in person, the beach really isn’t all that terrifying. In fact the water didn’t resemble Loch Ness one bit! The bike route (which we decided to drive) seems doable and the run is almost completely in the shade (woot!). Our biggest concern, and I quote “will be riding by the Greek bakeries” -Meghan.

After our little investigation, we headed to downtown Tarpon Springs for some yummy Greek treats. I hope that these places aren’t open during the bike ride, because I’m liable to wheel right through a store front and pick up a Spanakopita.

So, here I am. T-3 days until “liftoff”. I’m planning on hitting the pool tomorrow for one last swim, and possibly a short bike ride around Al Lopez in the late afternoon. Then, it’s rest, nutrition, and mental health days so that I’m in the right frame of mind to do this without having to be admitted afterward.

Send the positive thoughts my way. Let’s do this!

*If you’d like to come and cheer me on, spectators are welcome into the park, but you would need to arrive no later than 7:15am, as the park will close at 7:30am for the race. Parking is all throughout the park and along the causeway that connects the park to the beach. Parking at the beach won’t be permitted, as that is reserved for athletes and the transition area. You will be able to park on the causeway or inside the park then walk along the causeway to the beach to watch the swim portion. Here is the link and directions to Fred Howard Park. See you there!

Transition area

It’s official!

Causeway starting the bike/run.

Swim area!



It was a perfect day for tri-training… blue sky, calm water, motivating friends, old and new. Meghan came along today to meet the group (I think she’s hooked on this tri thing for sure!). We got there super early, because we both had to leave around 10:30, so we decided to get our bike in first, swim with the group, then head out.

We got to Ft. Desoto at around 8am. The humidity was SO low, that the temps actually seemed a tad bit cooler. We jumped on our bikes and rolled away.

Our 10 mile jaunts seem to get easier and easier each week and today was no exception!

We finished just in time to meet the rest of the group for the (dreaded) open water swim. Deb, Lindsey and Deb’s husband Gene (the Olympic swimming hopeful!) met us in the parking lot and off we went. Of course, my jellyfish legs barely carried me to the shore. I wasn’t used to biking THEN swimming, but I couldn’t avoid it. My first tri was LESS than a month away, so every second in the open water was vital.

The water was pretty calm, and the tide was low, which was a nice surprise. (low tide=shallow water… hello my friend!) We slapped on our gear, set the goal and off we went. Well, I immediately realized how unbelievably DARK the water was that morning. It was overcast too, which made things even worse.

Dark water makes for not such a happy swimmer.

I immediately freaked out (I’m good at that), and started the erratic breathing crap, and the rest, as you know, is history.

I wasn’t even in deep water, but the disorientation (and dark shark shaped shadows) get the best of me every time. Luckily, I had the support of the group there to baby-step me through the first 200yds (pathetic!). The next 100yds Lindsey swam with me and it wasn’t as bad. I worked on keeping my legs moving, and making sure to not touch the sand (not even 1 little tippy toe… rats!).

The second 100yds on the way back, Deb and Gene has this bright idea (right) to do a diagonal swim into the deep, then back to the shore (fools!). Suddenly I noticed Lindsey follow them out to her own death, then Meghan, who was still standing beside me, gets it in her head that she’d like to get eaten too and somehow twists my arm into following her out to the restaurant.

After a 3 minute hem and haw session, and 1 minute of begging Lindsey (who is now in Mexico) not to move from the spot she’s in, I suddenly found myself swimming, with Meghan, out to the deep. I kept my face out of the water the ENTIRE time, making sure I was actually swimming towards Lindsey and not towards my impending doom. I didn’t think about how much darker the water was getting, and I didn’t even think any dangling thoughts. I just swam. Before I knew it, I was treading water next to Lindsey and Meghan, still alive, with all limbs still attached.

Success! (finally!)

After lots of kudos and praise, we headed back to shore. Still keeping my head up and out of the water (allllll the way back) I made it back to the shallow water (yes!).

We climbed onto the beach, re-hydrated and did it again. This time, we went straight out into the horizon. And this time, I didn’t hesitate. I just swam.

Meghan pulled ahead with Deb, and Lindsey stayed by me and we swam out to catch up to the others. I STILL didn’t put my face in the water. I was too scared to even look. I just focused on moving and getting to Meghan and Deb. I was relieved to see that after a short amount of time, we were just a few feet from them.

I had done it, again! Deep water, kiss it!

Out of the corner of my teacher eye, I saw Lindsey motion to the ladies to go deeper. Luckily, teacher mode is usually ALWAYS on and I spotted this sly attempt to get me to go out further. (Brat!) All that laughing made me take in a big ol’ gulp of seawater, but I survived, once again, and found myself treading water with the ladies, laughing it up and enjoying the whole experience (no, no drugs or alcohol were used in the making of this open water swim).

Once we caught our breath, we decided to head back to shore. Well, I certainly wasn’t going to be the last one out there, so I threw my face in the water (yes, really) and high tailed it back to shore. You know, I must have been in some delusional, black out state of mind, because I don’t even remember seeing anything, or even thinking about dark shadows. I just (deliriously) did it! Before I knew it, we were back on shore, and I was prouder than ever of my first deep water swim.

We started chatting about upcoming tris, and I started talking about Siesta Key and how I’d hope I’d be ready for that race. Then they started talking about how difficult of a race that is for someone’s first tri, and how Meghan and I should think about doing the Tarpon tri with them next Saturday. I didn’t think there was ANY chance of me doing a tri within a WEEK, but somehow Meghan and I found ourselves registered for the race within hours.

If we weren’t all crazy we’d all go insane.

So here I am. Less than a week from my first triathlon. I know it will be better doing it with friends, I know I can do the bike distance (13 miles) and a 5k is no problem. Maybe if I throw myself in “swim for my life” mode, I’ll be OK. At the very least I’ll have Lindsey and Meghan in my swim wave, since we’re all the same age. Maybe I can secretly tie a rope to one of them and they can just pull me through the water.

I’ll need to check the rules and see where “ropes” are mentioned.

I’m definitely in shock (still), and hopefully by Wednesday I’ll be in “excited” mode. I ordered a tri belt that should be delivered by Thursday, and I’ll be heading to Fred Howard park this week to check things out and pick up my race packet.

If you’d like to come out and cheer me on, I’ll post the spectator information soon! I’m not sure what the rules for guests are just yet, but I’ve sent out a few emails and I’ll post as soon as I know.

Until then… here’s hoping for no sleepless nights!