My First Triathlon!

On Saturday, I competed in my first triathlon.  It was a sprint reverse triathlon.  Whereas most triathlons will begin with the swim, transition to the bike, and finish with a run, this race began with a run, transitioned to the bike and finished in a pool.

It was also a sprint distance.  For an explanation of triathlon distances, click here.  The swim portion for the race in which I participated was only 150 meters since it was in a pool.  Typical times for a Sprint Distance Triathlon are between 60 minutes and 120 minutes.  I had expected to complete the race in about 90 minutes given my training times.  I thought I’d do the run in about 35 minutes, the bike in about 40 minutes, and the swim in about 5 minutes, plus about 5 minutes for transitions.  That’s about 1 hour plus 25 minutes.  I would have been happy to complete my first triathlon in about 1 hour 40 minutes.  It was my first!  I’d just be happy to complete it!

img_0067-fbThe energy before the race was electric.  Ryan said after that I was moving faster in the morning than he’d ever seen me move in the morning.  It was a little chilly and I wanted to stay warm so I was jogging everywhere.  The excitement was contagious.

Ryan was able to stand with me on the side of the road right up until the final horn!  I kissed him right before I started running.  That was neat.

The run was hard.  I truly thought that I wasn’t going as fast as I wanted to go.  It was a slight uphill going north and then a slight downhill going south.  So I was able to push a little harder on the return 1.5 miles.  Perhaps that is what saved me?  Either way, when I finished the run, I felt like I could have pushed harder.  Trotting into the transition area, I passed Ryan cheering for me.  That felt great.  Also, knowing I was about to get on the bike added a little energy to my step as well.  Apparently, I like transitioning.

The bike leg was awesome.  I was halfway through the first mile when a professional-looking guy on a tri-bike said to me as he passed, “Reduce your back gear!  You’re on a slight hill!”  So I said, “Thank you!” and did just that.  He was right.  It’s enough of a hill going north that I needed to be in gear 2 and not gear 3.  I was so grateful for that stranger because it really made my bike leg rock!  Going North was challenging; but I was competitive.  Then as we made the turn to the West and ultimately South again, I gained speed and zipped past lots of people on road bikes.  Me and my little modified mountain bike were flying!  So repeat that twice more and that’s how my bike leg went.  I passed Ryan on the South side twice.  The third time, all I could think about was how my calves had been cramping on the bike and I hoped they wouldn’t cramp once I got off my bike and tried to run to the pool.  I give serious thought to whether I should wear my sneakers to the pool or run the half-mile barefoot.  I choose barefoot.  Also, as I turned down towards the transition area, people were still coming out of the transition area on their bikes, having just finished the run.  Apparently, I was in the middle of the pack.  That felt good too.


At the dismount line, several people stopped all at once and I was too tired to laugh as we nearly toppled all over each other trying to dismount.  I’d practiced my dismounting but not in the middle of other cyclists.  It’s certainly a challenge!

After hooking my bike back on the rack, taking off my sneakers, helmet, socks, shorts and donning my swim cap and goggles, I took off barefoot across the grass towards the pool.  Halfway there, I came upon a girl in blue shorts that I’d been pacing on the bike course.  She too was barefoot and as I passed her I made a joke about how the gravel was horrible on the feet.  She laughed and said, “Heck yeah!” and we both continued our trot towards the doom that awaited me.

I ran into the pool area, unaware of what was about to happen.  While on the bike course, my calves had been cramping.  So I’d been praying that they wouldn’t cramp up during the transition to the swim.  And they didn’t.  Then I hopped into the pool.

Cramp!!  My left leg curled up like a baby fern.  My toes were tight and my calf ached and I had 150 meters to swim.  I was in shock!  What to do?!  I found it difficult and painful to swim the stroke that I’d practiced.  I had no air and no kick to support it.  So I did what felt right: I flipped over on my back and did some sort of reverse frog stroke.  It was slow, but at least I kept moving.  Consequently, I spent about 50% more time in the pool than I’d planned…  But it was nothing compared to the shock I recieved when I got out of the pool!

I hadn’t been able to find Ryan in the stands when I was in the pool.  So many people and I was focused on staying afloat, moving forward, and not sinking due to pain.  I kept moving forward and was strangely surprised and understandably delighted to get to the end of the 150 meters.  We narrowed into one wheelchair ramp out of the pool and crossed the chip mats.  Here was my shock:

The clock read 1:16:44.

What?!  1 hours 16 minutes?!  Really?  I waited around for the results to be posted.  But they didn’t actually get the athena results posted on Saturday morning.  So today they were posted on  So, here’s my actual times:


I performed better than I had expected!!  And I felt great!

The energy after the race was also super happy.  Everyone was congratulating each other and hugging and were super supportive of each other.  Monica met me and Ryan after the race.  We sat on a picnic bench and sipped free coffee from Jones Coffee who were superstars by providing free coffee for everyone.  Ryan and I already love Jones Coffee and we were even more in love with them after seeing them at the event.  Then Monica, Ryan and I went to The Coffee Table for breakfast.  Yum!


I was a little stiff on Satuday night and on Sunday but that’s the extent.  It’s kind of frustrating.  Part of me thinks that I could have pushed harder on the run.  Even though I finished with my prefered time of 30 minutes.  I tend to wonder what my bike time could be if I was using a road bike.  Next time, I’ll have something to chew or sip that will decrease cramping.  Also, next time, I probably won’t be competing in a reverse triathlon.  I intend to train for an Olympic distance race in the fall.  I might need to practice my swimming more.

Anyway, it was a great little event.  I plan to compete again.  I plan to compete in this event again and I’ve learned that I truly, truly enjoy triathlon.  I’m hooked.  Look for me out on the course, I’ll be the one flying by you on my mutant mountain bike.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. stephanie says:

    gillie, you are amazing! i thoroughly enjoyed reading this post!

  2. Amy says:

    Great job Gillian! It was nice to read the play by play. I remember you talking about wanting to do a triathlon in college – props to you for doing it!

  3. Wardeh says:

    Way to go, Gillie! I am really proud of you! (And in awe.) Love, Wardeh

  4. Fay says:

    Good going’!!

  5. Ted says:

    For some reason, I didn’t read this until now. Congrats!

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