An old college friend used to say to me about some questionable habits of his, "hey don't knock it till you try it... you don't have to try it but don't knock it till then." It's an attitude I've definitely adopted since then... while I'll try most things, I try to take the philosophy of not being too critical or too praising of things I have little to no experience with.
That was one of many thoughts going through my head the night before the rookie triathlon. I was trying the same routines I do before all races, laying out my gear to make sure I didn't forget anything... wow that's a lot of stuff... what if I get something wrong? I'm horrible at tying my shoes, usually triple knotting them for running and now I'm relying on being able to pull something tight. I've never run or biked without socks. Wait, I've never done a swim race, wait I've never even done a bike race, all of those were just rides! Are these nerves, excitement, how am I going to relax enough to get to sleep? Oh yeah, they don't allow music in the events, what am I going to think about the entire time?
Usually for races, I get there as late as reasonably possible because while the atmosphere of pre race excites me, it also builds up nerves so I put off but at the triathlon I got there pretty early for many reasons. (I am easily amused at the way people try to be inappropriate, so a bumper sticker about a threesome made me smile). And the smile helped the nerves calm down to set up my transitional spot. Luckily my friend Julian was there giving me some guidance on how to do that to make the transition as smooth as possible. There were bikes on the "rookie" racks that were way nicer than some of the ones on the veteran bikes (there were also some basic ones, some fixed gear ones (a term I learned), some mountain ones). For a guy whose spent most of his last two years with cycling as his primary form of transportation due to the biking restriction, I've not paid that much attention to bikes since I got mine used. I noticed for the first time how there were triathlon bikes where the gear shifts were at the end of a long extension so you can shift while being the most wind efficient and apparently where you sit a little in a bit of different position so that your legs are more prepared for running. Anyway, I put down my bike, the helmet, the glasses in one area and the running shoes and the running bib in another. (There's a lot more rules in triathlons than in road races, running is stay on the course; triathlons, transitions happen here, you can't get on the bike till here, you have to be off by here, this is how you have to pass, have to wear a swim cap, your bib has to show during the run etc)
The start is a staggered start between the open division (the really fast people), the veterans division (3 or more triathlons) and the rookie division of the rookie triathlon with the men and the women starting in different waves. .300 meter swim... when I first heard about it, not being much of a swimmer, I thought well 300 meters can't be that much. I can run that in under a minute... But wait I can't walk on water so much less run on it. There were people there who were like me, just wearing normal shorts or bikinis (no I wasn't wearing a bikini). But people with a little more experienced in swimming were wearing things specialized in it from very little swimsuits to full bodysuits (it was an interesting experience to watch people take those off as they ran or to laydown in a spot after the swim and see volunteers taking their bodysuits off... giving a whole new definition to people tearing off your clothes).
Finally when it was time to start... I got in the water. People had warned me that I'd probably get slapped by people who were swimming by, not to let it bug me. It happened a few times in the first little bit with me ignoring most of it until one guy incidentally caught his finger in my shorts and pulled them down for just a split second (and he hadn't even asked for my number!). I was amazed as I tried to look up efficiently to not get lost towards the turn at how quickly some of these guys glided while mostly I was thinking, don't die, don't die, don't die oh yeah breathe. While it felt like forever swimming is not my thing but as soon as it was done, I was relieved and while most of my wave was jogging or walking up to transition I ran pretty hard.
The transition to the bike was fairly smooth and seeing the bucket Kiana had made for me got smiling again after the swim. Then the cycling started in and out of the wind, up and down hills, I pedaled the fastest I ever had. There was a certain beauty to being a bad swimmer... not a beauty to being a bad swimmer but the result that came from it... On the bike ride from very early on, I was passing people getting the instructions of saying "on the left," "on the left" right as often as I had the breath for it (on certain uphills, I imagine it was questionable to many people including myself whether it had been said out loud). In the end, on the bike, I got passed by only one person with about a half mile to go who was within eyesight as we both went into transition and I left it before he did.
The run was supposed to be easy for me... It was my forte but they weren't kidding that the legs feel funny going right into it after a bike ride. I had aimed for a sub six pace on the run but when I looked down at my watch when I thought I was pumping it I was at 6:15 and I was just getting started. I decided to stop looking at it and to just give it what I had. I'd see a few more people I had to pass along the route to keep moving up and so something had to be working.
When I got to the end of it, there were friends and cute girls cheering for me. It wasn't the most tired I've ever been after an event by far but it was a very different feeling all around. I'd watch some more people finish. The results would eventually come and I'd realize just how bad of a swimmer I was. There were people who had beaten me by over more than a minute per 100 meters of swimming... I know it's not quite the same but even world class olympians would only beat me by a few seconds in 100 meters of running so I felt spanked even more metaphorically than I had in the lake.
In the end when the results were posted, I had come in 57 minutes and change. I had come in 114th on the swim, 5th on the bike and 1st on the run (my pace would end up being 5:38 there). This would result in me getting 2nd overall out of the rookies and 1st in my age group. If I have to be a rookie, it's nice to take a rookie trophy home. The next day I was surprisingly sore both upper body and lower body. My friend who said don't knock it till you try it was right. While I'd never knocked this threesome of swimming, running and biking but I had a lot of fun tri-ing it out.