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I am a triathlete.

Meet E11 athlete Petra! Petra is a first time triathlete who was kind enough to share what goes through a first timer’s mind.

I was a runner, but now I am a triathlete. It happened a week ago, but I just can’t stop thinking about it.

I suppose that’s because I’m still somewhat fascinated that I did it. It’s the same sort of feeling that I have when I think about turning 40 in less than a year. I know it’s going to true, but I just can’t believe it.

About a year ago I found myself in a real running rut. Every run felt forced. I didn’t want to lace up my shoes. I made lots of excuses that I felt guilty about it later. In a serendipitous moment, I found myself sitting at my one cousin Megan’s wedding, meeting an cousin’s girlfriend – who was an awesome badass triathlete. She was so encouraging and inspiring that before the band played the last song, I had promised her I would do a triathlon. I’m not one to break promises… but…

I had a couple problems. I hated running, I couldn’t swim a length of the pool and never learned to ride a bike as a kid. But I can do this, right? Right? (I am nothing if not optimistic.)

I got myself a bike, a swim teacher and joined a triathlon facebook group. The running started to feel less forced, I was able to swim a few lengths of the pool without stopping and I started to figure out how to hold the bike upright. I was making some progress, but I struggled to fit in enough swim, bike and run workouts. I felt directionless and wondered, “How do these triathlete beasts make this happen?”

About that time, one of the people in my facebook group mentioned that their super awesome coach was accepting new athletes. I jumped on the opportunity and it was the best decision.

Because after months of preparation I found myself standing in clothing I didn’t even know existed months ago ready to take on my first triathlon.

While setting up my transition area, an announcement came over the loudspeakers “Due to rough water conditions…” and suddenly my first triathlon turned into my first duathlon. I was so bummed, but I remembered Coach Jenni saying to me, “Something isn’t going to go your way, and you will handle it with grace.” And she was right. Because I became a duathlete that day; and it wasn’t what I had trained for, but I was well trained for it. I felt proud of my accomplishment that day, but it wasn’t what I set out to do.

Fast forward through another month of training.

My first triathlon – Take Two.

The day before the race when I picked up my bib, I got the race number 11. I figured this was a good omen for a great race. Would you like to have a constant reminder of my coach and teammates with you while setting off on this new adventure? Yes, please!

While setting up my transition area, an announcement came over the loudspeakers “Due to rough water conditions…” OH NO, NOT AGAIN. But the voice continued, “we will not be swimming in the lake today, we will be swimming in the bay.” My heart leapt, and then I realized, Crap, I actually have to do this.

Unquestionably the swim was the hardest part of my day. Sighting is hard, swimming direct into the sun was hard, all the people around me was hard, and of course in all the excitement, I started out too fast. At one point, I was feeling exhausted, a few other participants were going over to kayaks… and I’ll admit it seemed like a nice idea. And then I remember my teammate Shawnee, who is not currently medically cleared to swim. When I heard this news, I had told her that I was dedicating all my swims to her until she could get back in the water. And so I started to swim for Shawnee, (because I’m not one to break promises, remember?)

Right arm “Shaw,” left arm “nee,” right arm “Shaw,” left arm “nee.” I kept repeating her name with every stroke and I settled into a rhythm. It just got easier, it wasn’t about me anymore. (Isn’t being part of a team awesome?)

Running into transition, I remembered Coach Jenni telling me to think about everything from head to toe. I took a few deep breaths, wetsuit, goggles, swim cap off; helmet and shoes on and grabbed my bike… And I was off.

I’m an anxious biker, I never learned as a kid. (Parents – please teach your children to ride a bike now, it will make their triathlon dreams so much easier!) It’s all stressful for me, although I have come so far from the bruised knees I started with… but standing at the bike mount line I felt like everyone was staring at me, and, well – I got on the bike and started easier than ever. That start was just the start of something awesome, the bike went really well for me. I even got into a state where my mind started to wander a little, started thinking about the banal things of life, errands and laundry, my mind wandered to my cousin’s wedding anniversary the next day.

“Oh my gosh!” That’s where I got this crazy idea. I was going to sneak in achieving this goal in under a year. I started thinking of all I had conquered, and how far I had come, the people that had supported me. I even started to get a little teary eyed and had to remind myself that crying on the bike wasn’t my best idea.

Before I knew it I was back in transition racking my bike and running back out again. That was the moment I really knew I was going to do this. A 5k? I eat 5ks for breakfast!

The run wasn’t easy, I had just put in a solid effort in the water and on the bike. And I hadn’t had enough to drink on the bike (remember, nervous biker, not really willing to take hands off handlebars to drink, yet!) But this run certainly was more joyful than the runs I had forced myself to complete the year before. I was on the verge of realizing that goal, to become a triathlete. Nothing was going to stop me.

And when I came around the bend, and saw that I was going to finish under my goal time, that made the day a whole lot sweeter.

I am a runner.

I am a cyclist.

I am a swimmer.

But most importantly – I am a triathlete!

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