Two weeks ago, I completed my first sprint triathlon. The difference between a sprint tri and a regular tri is the distance required for each portion. While distances vary with each race, the below is a general rule of thumb (courtesy of TotalTriathlon.com):
Swim: 0.5 mile
Bike: 12.4 miles
Regular Tri a.k.a. Olympic Tri
Swim: 0.93 miles
Bike: 24.8 miles
Run: 6.2 miles
I had been wanting to try a sprint tri (see what I did there?) for the past year or so, and it stemmed solely from flipping through a magazine of up-and-coming races I got with a packet pick-up (I forget which race), looking at the distances, and thinking, “Oh, I can do that.” After all, I had running a 5K down, I knew how to swim, and even a trained monkey could ride a bike.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS.
I actually took the leap and signed up earlier this year when my friend Misty sent me a link to the Tarpon Springs Rotary Triathlon along with the note, “What do you think?” High off my PR from the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in January, I was all, “Fuck yes, let’s do this.”
I found a training program for newbies and marked the first day of training on my calendar.
I bought a race swimsuit and bike shorts from Marshalls.
I trained my ass off.
And I came in last.
Yes, you read that correctly. I finished the race dead last. As in, the cop car that is in charge of bringing up the rear of the race actually followed me for the entire bike portion. I know what you’re thinking: That’s only the bike portion. Didn’t you have a run after that? Surely you weren’t the last person! But I was. I lost so much ground during the bike portion that I could never hope to make up. And I learned a valuable lesson: the bike can make or break a race.
You see, triathlons are expensive activities. I thought running was expensive when I signed up for my first half marathon and found out I couldn’t use my cruddy old pair of Asics cross-trainers I had been using for my 5Ks. Longer distances require actual running shoes. Actual running shoes are expensive (my first pair, Brooks, were $150 – luckily, my parents gifted them to me for my birthday). And when you tack on things like gels and fuel belts, you’re looking at a couple hundred smackers. But that investment pales in comparison to triathlon expenses. Not only do you have running expenses, but you’re also looking at investments for two other whole entire sports. This can run into the thousands of dollars, and the item that jacks up the cost the most is the triathlon bicycle (yes, there are bikes made specifically for triathlons), which can cost said thousands.
Being both a cheapskate and a broke ass bitch, I was not about to drop a couple thou on a bicycle for a sport I wasn’t even sure I would like well enough to continue with. So I borrowed my mother’s 7-speed bike.
My mom’s bike is a fine bike. In fact, she only used it once. But it is not a bike meant for road racing. The entire time, I felt like I was pedaling with lead weight. I was planning to use the bike portion as an active recovery stint so that my legs would be rested enough for the 5K. Instead, I was pedaling underwater (that’s what it felt like, anyway) and sobbing intermittently (compare this with my friend, who was using a loaner tri bike and zipped right past me about ten minutes into the bike segment).
Friends: there is no experience quite as humbling as being followed by a cop car because you’re the last person in a race, all while ugly crying and struggling with an activity you learned when you were five. And all of this may or may not have ended up in the local Tarpon Springs newspaper, as a volunteer told me to, “Smile for the newspaper!” while I was the throes of a full-on crying fit.
By the time I finally got off that godforsaken bicycle, my legs were somehow both completely gelatinized and made of lead, and I was in no condition to run. Also, it was, like, a thousand degrees at this point, and water was literally fleeing my body. I did consider just throwing in the towel right then and there, but after seeing the finisher’s medals, I was determined to get through the final realm of Hell so I could call one of those babies my own. Folks: never underestimate the power of a really badass finisher’s medal. It was literally the only thing that kept me going.
I did finish. I had to be escorted by a race volunteer for the latter half of the 5K (what up, Michelle!), but I did cross that finish line and get my damn medal. I also got a “Top Finisher” plaque, but I’m pretty sure that was an extra they had left over, and they felt sorry for me.
Would I do another sprint triathlon? I would like to. In, like, two years. Or five. And I will be begging, borrowing, or stealing a tri bike.