Keeping My Head Above Water – Literally


I am the type of person who thinks about things until I have come up with every possible scenario. In doing so, I can never decide which is the best course of action, because I have thought it to death. Then I just pick one option at random and hope for the best. Case in point: choosing a graduate school.


Ironically, I am also the type of sporadic person that when something sounds good, I sign up for it. Not really prepared, I just flubber away until I figure it out. Case in point: Triathlons.


Who knows where I came up with the triathlon stroke of genius. Ok, I actually do know where it came from – I was looking for the next big hurdle in my fitness journey. Follow this logic: I can run a 5K, I can swim a mile, and I know how to ride a bike…put it together and what do you got? A triathlon! It’s true, I can run a 5K (in like 35 minutes), I can swim a mile (in like an hour), and I do know how to ride a bike (hadn’t done it in oh, 20 years, but hey – it’s like riding a bicycle). Let’s face it – I am no Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps or Lance Armstrong, let alone all three of those guys in one person.


Let me tell you, nothing could have prepared me for last summer’s super sprint triathlon. Between the group swim, the bike ride, and the transition to running, it was my flubbering scenario brought to reality. The swim was terrifying – between getting stuck behind slow swimmers, the fast swimmers doing everything in their power to get over/under/around me, and the sheer number of people crammed in the lane lines – it was like a school of fish in a feeding frenzy! After the shock had settled, only one word can describe my bike portion of the race – disaster. Something happened (if I knew the first thing about cycling, I could at least tell you in more specific terms instead of “something”) where I couldn’t change gears. So I pedaled my heart out and didn’t go anywhere. After 8 miles of constant pedaling, my legs felt like jelly and I had to run 2 miles, in soggy socks and wet shoes. I think I might have gotten lost on the run course, but I can’t be 100% sure. I was a hot mess, and I loved it.


I decided to make 2012 the Year of the Triathlon. I signed up for a triathlon clinic to help me better prepare myself for my next race, but after 2 clinics, some things became abundantly clear:


1) I am a really, really slow runner in the tri world. When the clinic broke into pace groups, the times were 7 minutes; 9 minutes; and anyone who wants to go slow. At 11 minute miles, I might as well hitch a ride on the slow bus.


2) I need a shit ton of gear. A real bike, stuff for the bike – like an air pump and flat tire repair kit and a bike rack, and swim googles, and … the list goes on and on.


3) I can’t just pretend I know how to bike. I need to get comfortable on a bike, bike often and much, learn to change a flat tire, and how to ride in a group. A steep learning curve from my outdated biking skills of 20 years past.


4) While I have endurance in the pool, I have a terrible swim stroke, which makes me slow. Apparently, the S curve with the hand is very bad; breathing every 4 strokes is very bad; breathing from only one side is very bad; and staying on my stomach is very bad. Essentially, everything I had learned is wrong.


So after 2 clinics, the consensus was, “Eh, full speed ahead!” Yesterday, for the first time in a year since deciding to try my hand at triathlons, did I feel like I was in too deep.


At the beginning of the clinic, they mentioned the open water swim practice on the Potomac River in May and the need for a wetsuit. (WTF?!) Did I really need a wetsuit? Will I freeze to death if I don’t have one? I started panicking about wetsuit prices (just another thing to add to the list of crap I needed for a tri). Then I worried if they made LP sized wet suits. (As a 200 pound female, I am way out of “normal” size range for a triathlete of my gender.) Then I started fretting over renting versus buying, sleeveless versus full, and how the hell to get out of the suit in the middle of a race. I barely heard the guy talk during the clinic because I was having a silent meltdown over this latest piece of equipment.


Then we got into the water to learn how to group start. We practiced shallow water and deep water starts. For the shallow water, we did “dolphin dives” where we dove into the water, and sprung off the bottom of the pool into a swim start. I was all over the dolphin diving – in fact, one of the coaches said I was a natural and looked like Flipper! The deep water starts was less pleasant. We first started out with 4 or 5 people in a lane starting the swim treading water. On the mark, we then sprinted to the shallow end of the pool. I was slow, but managed. Then, we crammed all 50 people in the clinic into 2 lanes to more accurately simulate starts. I got kicked, elbowed, and mouth-fulls of water. I floundered. I flubbed. I did what they told us not to do – I panicked. Holy shit! And then we did it again. I got swam over, I got pushed into another lane because I was too slow, and I got more water in the mouth. I went from Flipper to chum.


Between the panic in the pool and the talk of wetsuits, I had a meltdown. For the first time in the year of this bizarre pursuit, did I feel like I bit off too much to handle with this sport. After some moping and tears, I pulled myself together and am back on course! I am not going to be some major name in the Tri world, but I plan to enjoy myself and get some good fitness in while doing it!

Have you ever participated in a triathlon or wanted to?



3 thoughts on “Keeping My Head Above Water – Literally

  1. LP –
    Have you thought of doing team in training? Someone I work with right now went from sofa to tri in six months with them. She also isn’t the typical tri body – you can do it.
    I read a Foreign Service blog – will try to find – about a 45+ year old mom who did a tri using her sons (12 yo) bike!
    I’m thinking you’ll look way better second time around and if you don’t like the huge crowd start – stay out of it. Go to the far end (not on the bouy turn side) and swim there. No need to make yourself chum if you can be a steady dolphin on the edge!
    We’ll have to do some bike/runs before your race. To add to the equipment you need to buy – do you have bike shoes/cleats? Get ’em – makes biking so much easier. Try

    • I naively thought the clinic was like a team in training, but it wasn’t. I may consider doing one next year – I seem to be swamped already! 😀 I love the thought of someone doing a tri on a 12yo bike. I feel like I really missed the boat getting a hybrid and not a road bike, but I still can’t figure out the real difference between the two. Given my cycling experience, I feel better on the hybrid anyway! I will definitely stay away from the crowds in the swim section, and after analyzing pictures from Annapolis’s tri from last year, I think that it is wave start and not a free for all. (I hope!) I don’t have cleats, but it is on my list of equipment to check out! Thanks for the encouragement and ideas! I appreciate them! 😀

  2. Pingback: Wetsuit – 1; LP – 1 | The Adventures of LP

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