Earlier this month despite my most creative excuses (jellyfish and sharks are valid fears), DNF jokes and self-sabotage efforts, I finished the biggest race of my life to date: Galveston 70.3 Half-Ironman. Of course as I write this, I already know it won’t be the last tri or the longest because that’s the deal with us triathletes (wannabe or elite). We can’t stay away from a good challenge. Who else is seeking out and signing up for THREE sports in ONE race for fun? In the words of one of my favorite race signs: “Smile, you paid for this!” It’s true, except for the fact no amount of money can purchase the determination and grit it takes to show up and finish. It’s this exception that makes it all worth it. So in honor of Austin Tri Club, the only reason I felt brave enough to take on this race, I wanted to share a few of my most memorable lessons and stories.
If we fast forward past the nerves, cold toes and stomach jitters of earlier that morning, the swim was hands down my favorite part. All of sudden there were no fancy bikes, helmets and gear. Any pressure I felt from the check-in day before and comments on forums faded away. In a sea of wetsuits and brightly colored swim caps, we all looked the same. Then as we started moving up the dock, the anticipation and excitement in the air was almost tangible. It was infectious and in a curious way, also a little calming. I was ready to face whatever came next and when in doubt, I would just keep swimming (cue Finding Nemo Dory voice). For the first time all weekend, I knew I was meant to be there.
Then, we had to jump off the dock to get to the starting line. Maybe because I had my friend/mentor next to me or maybe it was Pitbull was blasting in the background, but either way, it felt like an adult summer camp and ironically enough the water was going to be warmer than standing outside.
I was joking about something as the buzzer went off - and then it began! Contrary to the spartan wars I had been warned about, our start was far nicer and polite than I expected. As we spaced out, I started to follow the wise “swim slower” advice. It felt ridiculous, but seemed to be working great. Apart from the brief moment when I swallowed too much sea water and wondered if the kayak closest to me was following me as a DNF candidate, the swim flew by and the moment I saw the final turn to shore is a moment I’ll never forget. Pretty sure I smiled underwater the rest of the way. I felt like I could do anything. Literally, “it is all downhill from here” was my mantra for the first 10 miles of the bike. While that was definitely not the case, I will never forget that swim.
Given that adrenaline rush, I am only half kidding when I say I felt like a pageant queen on the bike. Not to mention the miles of fans with signs and cowbells. They may not have been there for just me, but it didn’t matter. This atmosphere paired with some lucky nutrition choices kept me in high spirits (and still grinning) for much longer than I expected. So of course when I dropped my cute new pink water bottle (lesson #99) at mile 20, you bet I got off the bike and jogged back along a ditch for it. I wonderfully had no idea how much the cold wind on the way back would kick my butt.
Which brings us to… THE RUN. The infamous “run.” The ONLY part of the race that I foolishly did not joke about quitting. Now I “get it.” Yet as I somehow propelled my body forward out of transition on frozen toes, I was still very much in denial. With cookies at the first aid station and cheers from the Austin Tri Club tent, I enjoyed the distraction from the fact I was on lap one of three with 13 miles (the longest distance I’ve ever run) to go and burning quads. This instantly changed as I noticed a “Mile 9” sign not applicable me and could’ve sworn some faster runners were prancing. In an effort to refocus, I tried the “walk 30 seconds, run 1 minute” approach for the first lap. It was absolute torture every time I had to start moving again. Not to mention, my walking pace almost made me wonder if I was moving backwards. But if I unexpectedly killed the swim and somehow survived the bike, I had no excuse. With the adrenaline and fast runners gone in the final lap, it was just me. I don’t know if I’d describe it as disassociating or just simply turning off everything to focus on the next step but it worked. The second lap was a blur and by the third lap, it was pure momentum. It was in those final grueling miles,I knew I was finishing this race and silently begged myself to never do it again (LOL).
So in true competitive nature, I will be doing this again since I can’t quite say I’m a full IRONMAN. However, I won't be doing it to prove I'm finally a triathlete. I was a triathlete before I started the race in Galveston, even if I couldn't see it yet. I became a triathlete when I showed up for the Rookie Tri last year with my cheap Schwinn bike and soccer shorts. Just as the half-IRONMAN was significant longer, I had to face my insecurity, fear and anxiety alone when I showed up last year. I didn't have the community I have now, but I did have the drive in me and you do, too. It’s why I’m thrilled to be part of this club and look forward to having fun as we learn more about this sport together. PS, I'm happy to say I confidently mastered the clipless pedals, a week after the race.
This blog post is not sanctioned by the author as a trusted athletic resource or legitimate way to approach your next race. It’s simply an honest look of what it means to listen to the tiny piece in you that believes you’re capable of something seemingly impossible.
It’s only April and this weekend at Ironman Texas will be my second spectathlon of the year – welcome to Texas! Spectathleting is HARD, so I thought I’d share some tips for fellow-spectathletes on how to have a successful day:
Meghann Jones, Spectathlon Champion 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
Austin Triathlon Club is a non-profit social club that promotes triathlon across the Austin area. Our members include triathletes of all abilities, from beginners to experienced Ironman athletes. We are a welcoming and inclusive club, meaning that you can be a member of Austin Tri Club, and still be a part of another team or train with a personal coach. The Club is an all-volunteer, member-run community. For more information and to join, please check out our membership page.
What is the basic gear needed for a triathlon? It is a good question, especially considering the number of equipment choices as you begin the sport.
At any triathlon, you will see a share of $5,000 triathlon bikes, and high-end, $650 wetsuits. The fact, though, is that the vast majority of triathletes are doing the sport using gear they already had, or have invested just a small amount in order to enjoy the triathlon.
Triathletes are welcoming by nature, and triathlon race directors want as much participation as possible – from beginners and elites alike. You can use this useful checklist to make sure you have everything in order for your race day, but you don’t need to overdo it. Here is an overview of the basic gear you will need, leg-by-leg.
The swim leg is the one that many new triathletes get nervous about, but in reality the gear for it is quite straightforward. Most triathletes wear a pair of triathlon shorts (like bike shorts but made for all three tri legs) on the bottom, and females wear a “singlet” on top, while men can wear a singlet or nothing on top. A singlet is a simple triathlon-specific workout top. Some triathletes will opt for a triathlon suit, but you really don’t need to spend that much.
You will want swim goggles, and the race will typically provide you with a swim cap. For warm-water swims, that might be it.
If you are swimming in cooler water – early season, oceans, or northern climates – you may want to consider a wetsuit. You can borrow or rent one, or you can buy one. There is a very wide price range on wetsuits, but usually for about $250 you can get an entry-level triathlon-specific wetsuit. If you aren’t sure if you need one, check with your race director because the answer is often race-specific. Most races we see have some people with wetsuits, and some without.
The bike leg is where you can really go crazy on price, or you can literally spend nothing. It is all about your goals (and your budget!) and how competitive you want to be. In any sprint triathlon, you will see everything when it comes to the bike – people on high-end tri bikes, on good road bikes, on mountain bikes, and on the comfort bike intended to cruise around the neighborhood. There is nothing wrong with using the bike from the back corner of your garage to do your first tri – just be sure the tires are pumped up and that it is in good working order.
If you want to be a bit more competitive though, and see how well you can do in your age group, we recommend using a road or tri bike. The gearing and wheels will be most conducive to having a good, fast bike leg. If you don’t own one, consider borrowing from someone who is about your size, or buying used. In a typical shorter race, we would estimate that 80%+ of riders will be on a road or tri bike. In an Ironman, that figure would probably be 100%.
Don’t forget about a bike helmet – they are usually mandatory – and a good pair of sunglasses to keep bugs and debris out of your eyes. If the bike you are using has clipped or clipless pedals, don’t forget the compatible shoes. As for attire, you will typically just wear the triathlon shorts and top that you wore in the swim (or for men, you may put the top on after the swim).
The run is probably the most straightforward leg of them all. You simply wear the running shoes that you have been training in, and wear the tri shorts and shirt or singlet that you wore on the bike leg. It is as simple as that. Most people don’t have to spend a penny to do the run leg of a race – simply wear what you would at a neighborhood 5K, or on a weekend run.
There you have it. You don’t have to plunk down hundreds of dollars to do a triathlon. If you try it once and get serious about the sport, you can consider investing more. At first, though, it is all about getting out there and having fun!
For additional tips on what to buy and what not to buy, check out The Rookie Triathlon's super helpful blog post, Beginner Triathlon Gear Shopping Check List.
Finally, thank you to Paul from completetri.com for helping out as a guest writer for this blog post. Complete Tri has a wealth of resources including gear reviews, tips, and advice for triathletes of all abilities. All of their information is free, and a portion of their revenues goes back to community triathlon clubs like ours.
Austin Triathlon Club is a 100% volunteer, member-run club launched in October 2017. Austin Tri Club aims to improve the physical fitness and mental well-being of all members of the Austin community through the promotion and encouragement of the sport of triathlon. Click here to read more about our mission and values.
Welcome to the Austin Triathlon Club blog! Through this blog, Austin Tri Club members can share their triathlon knowledge and experiences. If you are interested in blogging for Austin Tri Club, please contact us.