So this past Sunday I had my first triathlon experience and let me tell you, it was nothing less than totally and completely a-freaking-mazing!

If you’ve been following me for a while you know that this has been on my list of things to do.  I decided back in January that it was going to happen this year and set my mind to making it happen.  Now I say that like I actually followed through on that…which I obviously did but I can’t take too much credit for it because it ended up being a last minute thing.  I mean, I can take SOME credit but…well…anyway…

So I decided in January that I was going to do a triathlon this year.  I entered a Fat Loss Challenge at my gym where the pot was like $800.00!  My plan was to win that bitch and use it to buy a bike so I could start training.  Fast-forward 8 weeks and it turns out I came in 3rd place.  I had picked out the bike I wanted back in October and began making small payments on it in December to help keep me motivated and even though I didn’t win the challenge it didn’t matter.  My sweet husband had surprised me with it two weeks earlier as a Valentine’s Day present!

I was SO excited!  I was on my way to doing a tri!


But wait!

I had the Spartan Race that I was training for.  That’s why I had signed up for crossfit.  Crossfit was taking up all of my training time.  I didn’t have time to train for a tri too!  One thing at a time, Andrea!  ONE. THING. AT. A. TIME!

This has been a constant battle this year- wanting to do EVERYTHING and trying to figure out a way to not just do them but do them right.

At that point I had less than two months till my Spartan Race so the tri got put on the back burner.

After the Spartan I signed up for another race and then another and then another- I couldn’t stop!  I just kept signing up for more races, none of which were a triathlon.


I got an email from a reporter from the Charlotte Observer asking me how my progress was coming along and whether or not I had done the triathlon I’d told him about a few months prior.  He wanted to do an article on me about my lifestyle change and part of that article was supposed to be focused on the triathlon that I was planning to do…sooner than expected…due to too many other awesome distractions….ugh.

Anyway, I got that email and thought, “crap!  I need to get on that!”  So I registered that afternoon and started training the next day.

Training.  Yeah, so there’s not much training you can do in three and a half weeks but what I realized quickly was that even though I hadn’t been focused on training for a triathlon I HAD been training.  It’s not like I was going from couch potato to triathlete in 3.5 weeks, I was simply changing my event.  I’d been riding my bike to the gym on days when I’d remember and I’d taken it on a couple of ten mile rides just for fun so I felt pretty confident about that.  We also do quite a bit of running in Crossfit AND I had been doing all those other races that involved LOTS of running.  The only caveat was that I hadn’t practiced swimming AT. ALL!

I’ve always been a good, strong swimmer.  A lot of that was probably because I was so buoyant- which as it turns out, these days that’s not so much the case-  in fact during one of my swim training sessions I actually hit my chin on the bottom of the pool because I sunk faster than I realized!


Thankfully, because of good old crossfit, I have developed more upper AND lower body strength than I’ve EVER had in my entire life as well as some decent lung and heart conditioning so when I jumped in the pool for the first time I was extremely surprised at how well I actually swam!

Now there was lots of confusion, brought on by my repeated inability to pay attention to detail, about how long the swim for the race actually was so throughout the 26 days of training time that I had before the race my actual speed and distance kept changing.  But in the end, I shaved a minute off of my 225 yard swim!  That’s pretty insane!

A friend of mine met with me several times over those few weeks and she watched me swim and gave me pointers, tried desperately to get me to BREATHE and held me accountable.  Her help was MORE than appreciated!  Thank you Edie!

By the time race day rolled around I was feeling REALLY good about the swim!  That’s when the other doubts and questions started popping up like, “How do you ride a bike with other people around? Do you use hand signals like you do on the road?”  “What’s proper etiquette for passing others?  Do you say, ‘on the left’ like you do when running?”  “What if the person swimming in front of me is slowing me down?  Can I go around them?”  “Holy crap!  Where will I put my bike?  How will I get on my shoes?  Should I wear a shirt?  Do I need a race belt?  What IS a race belt? How long should it take me to do all of that in the middle of a RACE!?”

Ahhhhhh!  Stress!

Fortunately thanks to friends with experience, a facebook group for triathletes (god I love Facebook!) Google and YouTube all of my questions were answered.

The race was in Winston-Salem, about an hour from my house.  Brett and I drove up on Saturday to pick up my bib and attend a pre-race clinic which basically confirmed all of the things I’d been told by friends and read online and then we drove the bike course…HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!  More on that in a minute.


Race day was finally here.  I had packed all my crap the night before.  Had more crap than anyone would ever need for this type of event but in my defense the weather was WEIRD and I didn’t know if I was going to be cold so I wanted to be prepared!

You don’t need all of those details, this blog is already too long, but suffice it to say that I had winter and summer gear including my fleece lined rain boots.  Yes, it was overkill.

We got there about an hour and a half before the start of the race which was good because I didn’t want to be stressed about how and what and where and anything else I might decide to worry about.  I got my timing chip and got my body marked (which I’m still wearing four days later- not sure what kind of markers those were but they certainly aren’t washable!) and then I went to the transition area where I set up ALL OF MY GEAR, you know, just in case!


I wandered around for the next hour or so waiting for the race to start.

My mom came which really meant a lot to me.  It was the first time she came to one of my races and I was excited to show her how much I’ve accomplished, hoping to make her proud.  (that just choked me up a little…wow, wasn’t expecting that)

When the race finally started at 8am I stood around a little longer.  The way they do pool swims (not sure if it’s the same for open water swims) is to line you up by what they call your “swimabilty rating” based on how fast you can swim 250 meters…not yards…METERS!  (this is why there was so much confusion during my training)  I rated myself a six on a scale of 1-10, 10 being super fast.  Next time I will rate myself a seven because it turns out I’m faster than a six. Yay me!

So after standing around for about 45 minutes, outside, barefoot, in wet grass, in 65 degree weather…IN FRICKEN AUGUST (hence the inability to decide between winter and summer gear)  it was finally my turn to swim!  All of the sixes were called on deck and we stood in a line around the pool.  I tried to figure out the process while waiting but there was so much going on and it all happened so fast that suddenly it was me standing in front of the timing mat with an official’s hand on my shoulder holding me in place so I didn’t…go anywhere?  Not sure if that’s standard protocol but that’s what he did so I stood still until he guided me onto the mat causing something to beep and then guided me to the edge of the pool.  I stood there for a minute thinking, “okay, now what?”  He hadn’t said a word.  I finally turned to him and said, “Do I go now?”  And he said, “yes you can go.”  I was like, “dude!  what the crap?!  ya could have told me!”  Of course I didn’t actually say that out loud but I thought it!

I jumped in and started swimming.  My stroke was better than ever, I felt so strong and calm and perfectly paced.  I wasn’t struggling at all.  My heart rate was felt good and I was thinking, “hell yeah!  I’m gonna kick this swim in the teeth!”  UNTIL…

I get to the other end of the pool and the official starts yelling at me, “GO UNDER THE ROPE!  GO UNDER THE ROPE!”  I panicked!  My heart rate sky rocketed, the adrenaline was pumping.  My perfect swim was over.

Now let me explain real quick– I knew I was going to have to go under the rope.  That’s how the pool swim works.  You zig zag across the pool.  You swim up and down each lane then cross under the rope to do the same on the next lane.  What I didn’t realize was that I didn’t have to swim the length of the first lane twice so when I got to the end of the first lane, having completely the most flawless 25 yards of my life, I was prepared to turn around and go back the opposite direction then go under the rope to the other lane when I got back to where I had started.  Of course thinking about that makes me realize that that method would likely create utter chaos with people jumping in while others swam towards them but at the time that did not occur to me at all.

Regardless, I finished the swim in five minutes and 24 seconds which includes my standing around wondering what to do before I even got in the pool and the time that it took me to figure out how to navigate the ladder and run out the door around the exit timing mat.  I am pretty pleased with that, for sure!

It took me 2 minutes to go from the swim to the bike which was exactly as long as it took me during practice sessions so for once in my life I was consistent.

Next came the swim to bike transition where I decided to forgo the winter gloves and hat (duh!) and simply put on my shoes, shirt and helmet then got my bike off the rack (that required some skill) and jogged it to the mount line.



So real quick, if you touch your bike before you put on and fasten your helmet or if you get on your bike before the mount line, you get disqualified.  So. Many. Rules!

I got on my bike and took off.  Now like I said before, Brett and I had driven the bike route the day before so I knew I had some serious hills ahead of  me.  What I hadn’t realized was that there was a whole other part that we hadn’t driven that had even more hills.

Now, I have ridden some hills but not like the major hill on this course that seemed to go on FOR—EVER! Actually, I just mapped it and it turns out it was about eight tenths of a mile– that ain’t too shabby, especially considering we had to do it twice.  That was by far the most challenging part of the entire race.  I wanted to get off and walk my bike up that beast SO bad but I didn’t, lots of people were already doing it but I didn’t.  I kept saying to myself, “you will not get off this mother effer, you will not get off this mother effer”.   I respond well to my own profanity.  I didn’t get off.  I pushed hard to get to top of that thing getting slower and slower as I went but I knew if I stopped there would be no way to get back on so I did it.  The tops of my knees were burning and my glutes were aching but when I made it to the top I felt like a million dollars.

There’s nothing like that feeling.  What’s so amazing about all these races and Crossfit WODs that I do is that I get to feel that way over and over again.  That high never gets old.

The bike portion of the race took me 38 minutes.  I had expected it to take me 45 so needless to say, I’m QUITE pleased about that.


It’s a good thing that I did so well on the swim and bike because the run, surprise-surprise was my weakest event.  Okay, first of all!  If you have never ridden a bicycle for 38 minutes up and down some steep-ass hills and then tried to run, you have not lived!  Bah!  Seriously, that sensation is the most bizarre feeling in the world!  My legs felt like cinder blocks.  I’d heard about this phenomenon and I’d experienced it a LITTLE but since I had never ridden the kind of hills that we rode that day it turned out I had never gotten the true sensation of what’s called, “bricks” in the world of triathletes.  I can now fully appreciate that term.


So I racked my bike and took off for my run, which lasted all of about 45 seconds…if that long.  I could barely move my legs so I walked.  Now me and walking, whether it’s through the grocery store, a parking lot or IN THE MIDDLE OF A FREAKING RACE is slooooooooooooow.  Brett lovingly calls me the “world slowest human being”.  I don’t know what it is about me and walking but my brain just totally checks out.  My mind starts wandering, I start taking in the sights, breathing the fresh air, listening to the birds, watching the squirrels, reading the shirts on the backs of the racers who are passing me…(insert sound of record scratch here) “WHAT?!  CRAP!  I’m doing a race!  Run, Andrea, RUN!”

I ended up finishing my two miles in 28 minutes and 26 seconds- my fastest race miles yet but still SUPER slow compared to others.  In fact I’m looking at the result online right now and 10 girls who finish within one minute AFTER me, all finished their runs in an average of TWENTY THREE MINUTES!  That means that the only reason I beat them was because my bike and swim were more than five minutes faster.  Good god I am slow!

I crossed the finish line at one hour, sixteen minutes and one second.  This far surpassed my expectation of closer to 1 hour 30 minutes.  Needless to say I was and am quite pleased.


Again, the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing something that is extremely challenging is immeasurable. I can’t see it ever becoming less emotional or anything other than totally and completely joyful.


I am ridiculously proud of myself.  The Ramblin Rose Triathlon was my 13th race this year.  This means that I have accomplished EVERYTHING that I set out to accomplish this year: A Spartan Race (times two), 13 races in 2013,  my personal training certification AND a triathlon.

And it’s only AUGUST!


Having fitness goals and making them happen is what keeps me focused on my progress and not the scale.

I <3 Me.