Real Life. Real Talk – Stumbling My Way Through
I was first introduced to triathlons in 2016 when I watched my best friend do the Augusta Half Ironman (HIM). She was hurting due to needing neck surgery but was determined to finish the race. I was amazed at her athleticism and endurance. Of course I wanted to try it! I knew how to swim and I was already a runner. It had been sometime since I had been on a bike, so my friend let me use her smart trainer, bike, and Zwift setup to try it out.
I found out that even on a trainer I really enjoyed it! I went to the local bike shop to check out their stock. Everything was beyond my price range, but fortunately they had a road bike on consignment that was my size and that I could afford. I had no idea if it was considered a good bike, if it would serve me well, or how to take care of it, but I figured it was a start.
Time To Educate and Compete
At this point my friend started educating me about more things related to competing in a triathlon. Gear, such as specific shoes, shorts, and onesies. Also bike fits, different types of nutrition, gels, goo, and powders to add to your water. She explained electrolytes and the need for salt. Pickle juice was touted as something athletes drank. Pickle juice?! Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed by all of it.
For the next year, I started acquiring the necessary items, what I considered the basics, as it’s all a bit expensive to dive into too deep too quickly. I wanted to make sure I could do it and I would enjoy it before investing a lot of money. Finally, in 2017, I did my first ever triathlon. It was a sprint distance. The swim was in a hot gross pond that gave me conjunctivitis in one eye, the bike was great, and the run was a trail run which was a little rough on my knees. Still trail runs are not my favorite. Overall, I loved it! I felt super accomplished crossing the finish line and I couldn’t wait to do more!
I signed up for my first HIM in Augusta, GA. It was close and having watched my friend do it I knew what was involved, basically. I trained more, did more races including my first Olympic distance triathlon, and in September I finished my first HIM. It was a hard one and I was proud of myself, but it left me doubting whether I could do another one, especially one that was hillier or a more challenging course, because I felt destroyed after the first.
I continued to try new things, new nutrition, and better nutrition considering I had snickers peanut butter bars on the bike for the Augusta HIM. My feeling was that I could have done better in that area. Getting as much information from my friend as possible was helpful but I also felt stuck. I wasn’t very comfortable at talking to other participants at the races, as I was feeling embarrassed at my lack of knowledge.
Stumbling My Way Through And Getting Comfortable
Only recently have I made a friend at races who I am wholly comfortable with and can ask anything without feeling shy or ridiculous. And she introduced me to a new team that I joined, once again stepping outside of my comfort zone. I’m so happy I did. I have been able to meet some of the women from I Race Like A Girl in person, some I have interacted with online, and it is nice to have a community to freely ask questions and get feedback without judgement.
From the beginning I have felt I was stumbling through and barely figuring triathlons out. While I have been doing bike rides for over 3 years now, I just learned how to ride down a hill in a position that leaves you feeling more stable and without needing to apply the brakes as much. I’m hoping someday I won’t need them on most hills, but I tell myself one step at a time. On the same ride I was given instruction on how to switch to the small gear and back so I will no longer have to power through uphills. There’s so much to learn and it can sometimes be difficult to connect with those who are willing and able to help due to it being a sport that is done solo much of the time.
I am glad I have finally made some triathlon friends and found a team. I have also realized that I’m not the only one feeling that way and now I have others to stumble with! There’s a lot to the world of triathlons and it can be intimidating and confusing, but they are so fun and empowering I encourage others to join us. Like most things, they’re better with friends.