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Prior to meeting Mr. Ironman himself, also known as Jesse, I had set a goal for myself: complete a sprint triathlon. After throwing down hundreds of running miles, the allure of cross-training’s ease on the body and improving at multiple sports appealed to me. However, the last time I had tried swimming for exercise was during college, and I hadn’t done very well. My aerobic endurance wasn’t very good, and I found swimming a lap or two to be exhausting. The only biking I’d done was on a spin bike or beach cruiser, and I wasn’t sure how well that’d translate to biking on the road.

Smiling during the run after grimacing on the bike

Smiling during the run after grimacing on the bike

Unlike diving into running races headfirst with a half marathon, I decided to ease into triathlons. Jesse and I chose the Napa Valley Sprint Triathlon due to the distance from our apartment and how manageable each leg of the course seemed to be. I started swimming at a local pool, surpassing the length of the race distance relatively quickly into my swim practices. I still don’t own a bike, but I figured my general fitness would translate well when I rented a bike for race day.

When race day came, I was more calm than I’d expected, but looking at the distance between buoys on Lake Berryessa terrified me. I made it out of the water in one piece and faster than I had expected. As Jesse has told me, spending hours in the pool will only reduce your swim time by a few minutes, time that could be more easily made up during the transitions, bike, or run.

When I started on the bike, which was the first time I had ridden the bike rented from Sports Basement, I knew I was doomed but tried to have a positive attitude. The bike didn’t fit me at all: the seat was too low but also made me arch my back. I couldn’t have been more uncomfortable, and my legs could not generate any power. The 15-mile bike was a terrible experience for me, which Jesse saw on my face immediately when I pulled into the transition area (after he had already finished the race and placed second in his age group).

Jesse very kindly joined me for the four mile run, cheering me up by insisting I was “chicking” everyone. It’s true, no one passed me on the run, and I was happy to have my self-esteem built up again after feeling so terrible on the bike.

Next up, I plan on tackling the Olympic distance Wildflower Triathlon in May in preparation for Vineman 70.3. I learned through my first triathlon experience that a wet suit does about half the work for you when you’re submerged in water and to procure a proper-fitting bike sooner rather than later.