My First (low budget) Triathlon

Posted: May 14, 2010 in Marathon, Triathlon

I’m officially crazy.

On May 4, I signed up for my first-ever triathlon. People train for months, sometimes even years for these things. I gave myself 18 days. I’ve been thinking about doing one for a couple of years, so that should count for something.

The race is the 11Global Olympic-Distance Triathlon at Reynolds Plantation.

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I discovered this race a couple of months ago while searching for triathlons in the Southeast U.S. This is a relatively new triathlon series, but from what I can tell it looks to be a well-organized, well-run series.

First and foremost it’s an International or “Olympic” distance, which I think should be somewhat manageable for me. It will be hard, but not impossible, I figure.

The race is scheduled for May 22. I had thought about signing up for it back in March or April but couldn’t pull the trigger. On May 4, I went ahead and signed up. What the heck, I figured. There were a couple of problems that immediately jumped out at me, however.

1. I don’t own a road bike.

2. I haven’t done much swimming in a long time.

Problem # 1 was quickly solved when a neighborhood friend said I could borrow her husband’s used Tri bike.

It’s a Cannondale Trisport 600.  I first had to determine if it would fit me. So I stopped into a store to get measured. Sure enough, the bike is 54 cm, a perfect fit for my 5’9″ inch body with a 30-inch inseam. Jackpot!

Next, I need some shoes. Since I don’t want to spend a ton of cash for something I’m not sure if I want to continue doing, I stop at a Play it Again Sports store and find a pair of used size 8 bike shoes for the low, low price of just $18! Jackpot # 2.

I then go over to the local bike store, Roswell Bicycles, and pick up some clips that match the bike’s Look pedals. I’m in bidness! (as the kids say). The clips I need end up costing just $15! Woo-hoo. I grab a couple of water bottles for the bike while I’m there, too.

Getting back on the bike has been a fairly easy transition. Some of my thigh muscles have been hurting more than usual and the saddle has rubbed me the wrong way a few times, but it’s nothing that I can’t get past. I used to ride a LOT as a teenager and in college on a Specialized road bike I had. I absolutely loved it at the time and find myself really excited to get back on the bike after about 20 years. Thankfully, my running has kept me in decent shape and the hills don’t prove to be too difficult on the bike.

For my second ride, I decide to get right after it and map out a 26-mile ride, followed by a 6-mile run.  The ride included a bunch of flat sections and several hills. Getting used to riding in a forward position with my arms on the Aero bars takes some getting used to, but I pick it up pretty quickly.  I ride back to where I parked my car, jump off the bike, throw it on the bike rack, slip on my shoes and take off on the run portion.

If you ever want to know how a newborn calf feels, ride your bike for a long time, then try to run right away.  Holy Jell-O legs, Batman! For the first mile, my legs are as wobbly as an 11-month old baby’s. Finally, I settle in and bang out 5.5 miles. I end up cutting the run a bit short because I needed to get home. But it was comforting to know I could do the distances without a problem.

Next, I have to figure out a place to swim. I decided to go up to the local Lifetime Fitness and get in some laps using a complimentary 7-day pass. (Not sure if I’m going to join here, but I have been making good use of the pool over the past week.)

Ugh, I quickly discover that the swimming part is going to be my toughest challenge.  I suspected it would be, but I had no idea just how hard! I quickly tire after just a few laps.

I got back two more times on my own and work hard to focus on my breathing and technique. This video from Ironman champion Dave Scott is helpful.

Eventually, I enlist my neighbor for some help/advice.

For our first swim, we meet at LA Fitness at 5:30 a.m. Ok, so she just finished a 70.3-mile half-Ironman 6 days earlier and she’s already back at the pool! I have found somebody crazier than I am. I decide to bring a wetsuit for this swim. (I borrowed a sleeveless wetsuit from another neighbor who has done several triathlons, continuing with my low-budget theme.)

I have NEVER worn one before and I desperately wanted to see just how much it was going to help me in the water. As soon as we get in the pool, I feel myself floating. Awesome! This is a HUGE relief for me. However, the wetsuit isn’t going to actually do the swimming for me. I still have to work on my stroke and breathing. It’s HARD work. I feel like I did when I first started getting into running. I am not in “swimming shape” at all.

Still, I’m not so out of shape that I can’t get through the workout. Kate is like a dolphin. I’m jealous of how effortless she is in the water. Sigh… She tells me that she did a lot of breaststroke in her first triathlon. I’m relieved to hear that. Her advice (which I plan to follow): “Don’t push yourself on the swim.” My plan is simply to finish the swim and then attack it on the bike and run. I am looking forward to catching and passing people on the run! (I hope).

Next, I am planning a few more long rides/run before getting back in the pool at least 3-4 more times before the race. Either way, I’m happy I decided to challenge myself, even if it might be a tad bit crazy.

  1. barbie says:

    exciting! i cannot wait to hear how the tri turns out and how you do and of course, if you get hooked!! good luck with training. I too am trying to learn to swim again… it is a swift kick to your butt!! Good luck!!!

  2. mikebuteau says:

    Thanks for the support Barbie. It should be fun. Nerve-wracking, but fun.

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