Five things I learned in my first triathlon

On July 14th I competed in my first triathlon. I was happy to do my first one in Pewaukee, my hometown. This particular sprint was a 1/4 mile swim, a 14 mile bike, and a 3.1 mile run. For my first competition I am happy with my results and extremely optimistic about where I can take this. Training for this triathlon was something I had never done before and I’ve learned a lot in the last four months.

1. Anything can do a sprint triathlonFord Ironman World Championship  13 October 2007When I began thinking about competing in a triathlon, I was a runner. I knew running would be at the end of a swim and a bike, but I knew I could hold my own. I didn’t have experience with competitive bike, I knew a lot of my leg strength from running would translate to the bike and I’d be ok. But the swim was going to get me. You see I have really bad shoulders. They dislocate easily. Why do I mention this? Because I want to paint a picture of how training makes these competitions possible. Yes, I have extensive running experience under my belt but with proper training, you can get to the finish line of a sprint triathlon with 8-10 weeks of preparation. My competition distances are listed above. It may seem long to you but I guarantee I can get you to the finish line (and have you smiling on the other side!).


2. Community makes it better

In preparation for my triathlon, I talked with a couple friends who I knew had some experience. I talked with Tim Murphy specifically about the bike. I didn’t have more than six days training because I was borrowing a bike. So I asked him his opinion and he gave me some nice pointers. Then closer to the race I had some questions about gear and he was very helpful. I was also chatting a little bit with Deann McIntosh who has over a dozen triathlons under her belt including a half Ironman! She helped me understand the transition area, when to get to the start, and she really put my mind at ease on race day. I became better friends with these two throughout this process. It’s something we have in common now. As I said, I borrowed a bike from Mark Anderson. Not just any bike: the bike he used for Ironman a few years ago! Is that a great friend or what?! I’m so thankful for his generosity (and trust). After reading my blog posts about the triathlon experience, he suggested we compete in a couple next summer. So now I’ll have a training partner! In those same blog posts I mentioned getting in a run with my friend Todd who has two Ironman competitions to his credit. We’ve already talked about getting our old training group back together to do a couple more this fall. This is after four months of training – all by myself. With very little effort I’ve been able to surround myself with wonderful people and that, as you might imagine, is a huge benefit to this type of training. To each his own, but training with people and talking about the whole process has been a very rewarding aspect of triathlon.

3. Competition with self is strong

I’ve had a hard time explaining this one. I’ve competed in over ten half or full marathons. I’ve never entered a race trying to compete with anyone but myself; I’m not even that fast. But I’ve always tried to better my time. So over here in triathlons, I had a new competitive juice flowing through the veins. I was building on what I already had (the run), and I was competing against myself in this multi-sport event. I think that’s what it is – it’s the multiple sports at the same time that makes this such a challenge and so competitive. Maybe it’s this: “anyone can swim, anyone can bike, anyone can run. But can you combine them all together and compete?” When I got done with the competition, they give you the results in five categories: swim, transition 1, bike, transition 2, and run. Five components that beg to be improved. “Boy, if I could get get that bike up to 22mph, I’d be in the top 15!” See where this can lead…?

4. Katie rocks
Y’all know about Christian, right? Our totally awesome 9-week old boy? So add in Sorin and Norah running around too, it’s been busy in the Schiefelbein house. Yet as the race was nearing, Katie kept pushing me out the door to get a quick run or bike in. The week of the race she had me to a dry run so IC could experience a little what all three events would feel like. There’s only so many hours in the day – I’ve been crazy busy since finishing school and working harder around the house with family. Katie is burning the candle at both ends with Christian. And she pushes me out the door. Grateful doesn’t even begin to explain my emotions on this.

Teri Hatcher, Nabil Kazi

5. You may be surprised at the fun you’ll have
When my sister-in-law Amy did her first triathlon, she said her favorite part of the training was the swim. I remember telling her that that won’t be the case with me. Remember my bad shoulders? I was convinced that I would be on a mission to survive the swim; get out of the water without injury and don’t be in last place. Well, after a couple months of a masters swim class, my technique improved by leaps and bounds. The learning was fascinating to experience. Ready for this? It’s currently my favorite part of the triathlon. It’s fun! It’s a challenge. And with the right coaching and motivation, you too will be surprised at how much fun you can have improving on one or more disciplines in triathlon training.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

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