Triathlon 101 – Step One: Commit

Tandem Electric Bike Around Angel Island
The last time I rode a bike was renting this tandem electric bike to ride around Angel Island for my mom’s birthday. Not a triathlon approved bicycle, I’m sure.

What in the world did I just commit to?

I went on a run a few weeks ago with my fitness twin, Lizzy (both of us were born on March 10th, although I am 5 years older).  We run regularly once a week for an hour or so.  We’ve both run a marathon before (for me, it was a one-time 26.2 miles when I turned 26 years old).  Yeah, so I’d say we’re average runners.

Lizzy told me that she started taking swim classes in the start of September (and like me, she had never officially swam a lap before), and she had worked up to swimming a mile each class.  And… with this new “skill,” she had a goal of training for a triathlon.  Not just any triathlon, but the Ironman one day.

Lizzy knew she could share this with me because I would understand.  I know she can do anything she puts her mind to.  I know this goal is attainable.  She can absolutely do it.  No doubt.

Problem is, this is where the twin factor comes in, because now I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Ok, obsessing about it.  A triathlon?  I’m turning 40 in 6 months and do I want to do one too?  It was like a switch in my head that I never knew was there.  And now that switch was ON.

  • No, I don’t swim.
  • I’ve never swam a real lap before.
  • I don’t even have goggles.
  • I never go in the ocean when I am at a beach.
  • I really really really do not handle cold well.
  • No, I don’t ride bikes.
  • When was the last time I rode a bike?
  • I don’t even know how to switch gears.
  • I don’t have a helmet.
  • Forget the helmet, I don’t even own a bike.

Thoughts and thoughts kept circling my mind.  More and more No’s.  More and more stop being crazy.  More and more why do you want to torture yourself?

But just one YES.

A persistent, determined, gritty YES, I can do it.

No!!!  Stop!  Ok, what exactly are the distances of a triathlon?  Let’s get realistic here.  Approximate distances:

  • Sprint: 0.5 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, 3.1 mile run
  • Olympic/International: 0.93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike, 6.2 mile run
  • 70.3 Ironman: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
  • Ironman: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run

Given that information, I gave myself a “test run.” After teaching a cardio dance class (I equated it to a short 3 mile run), I took a 40 minute indoor cycle class (covered 14 miles), and then attempted to swim.

Ok let’s break down my swim.  It was a 25 yard pool.  I put on my 7-year-old daughter’s goggles.  I swam 2 laps (back and forth), and could not breathe without huffing and puffing.  I had to adjust my goggles every other lap until I found the right fit so that water wouldn’t leak in.  By then I probably had gone 10 laps (with stops), and I was OUT of breath each time.  I looked around me and all the swimmers around me were lapping nonstop, until finally the lady next to me rested.  I humbly asked her to give me some breathing tips.  She told me to work up to “bilateral breathing” which means taking a breath every 3 strokes and switching sides.  Right stroke with breath, left stroke, right stroke, left stroke with breath, right, left, etc.  I tried.  And failed.  I couldn’t breathe to my left without flailing or gasping for air.  Ack.  So I asked another woman for advice.  She said to just breathe every 2 strokes on my right to start and build endurance.  Then work on drills for my left after.  Ok.  By then I had barely survived 20 laps and basically concluded the triathlon was not possible.  But I was determined.  I wanted to swim for the entire hour.  So I took the 2 stroke breath technique and told myself to slow down my strokes, keep a steady, calm yoga breath, and just go as long as possible.  No rushing.  Yoga breath.  “Just Keep Swimming.”

Miraculously, from 20-66 laps, I did it.  Over half a mile nonstop swimming.  Somehow, breathing often and mentally calming down helped me find a rhythm, and that’s what worked for me.  I was shocked I did it.

Which meant, I can do a triathlon after all, well sort of, if you count a pool swim, an indoor bike, and a dance class.

Ok, so IF this really is possible….. then a triathlon is a huge investment!  It’s not just a one time thing.  With running you can get a good pair of shoes and clothing, and you’re off.  A triathlon requires a lot more upfront costs on things that you should be using again and again.  I thought through what I might need (Note: this is from a Beginning Triathlete point of view):


  • Water cap
  • Goggles
  • Swimsuit
  • Wetsuit


  • Triathlon padded shorts
  • Fitted top
  • Helmet
  • Wrap sunglasses
  • Cycling shoes
  • Bicycle


  • Running shoes
  • Socks

Yes that will add up.  But at this point, doing a triathlon was something I just couldn’t shake off.  I justified the cost as an early 40th birthday present to myself.

Moving on.

Researching races.  Conveniently (or absurdly), there was a local race in a few weeks.  The Marin Triathlon Sprint on November 3rd, 2018.  A perfect test to see if I could truly survive the cold water and swim, ride a bike, and then finish with a run.  And if it works out, the goal is doing an Olympic triathlon in the Spring, followed by the 70.3 Ironman in Santa Rosa July 29th, 2019.

So that’s where I am at today.  I am in too deep now to backup.  At the very least, I signed up for the Marin Triathlon Sprint.  What I choose to do after is uncertain.  But this is a start.  And we all have to start somewhere right?

I am terrified people.  I am really scared of the water and I don’t want to let anyone down if I can’t do it.  Please pray for me.

And a teeny tiny part of me is excited and giddy.  I am determined.  I am focused.  I am proud of myself for trying to conquer some major fears of mine. I can do it.

Time to go shopping.

Original post written on October 12, 2018.


1 thought on “Triathlon 101 – Step One: Commit”

  1. I love this! Congrats on your mission to do this! Your thoughts on triathlons are exactly what I’ve been thinking for YEARS! But, I have not had the courage like you, to take the final leap into actually doing it. And that’s a GREAT 40th birthday present to yourself! I’ll be cheering for you!

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