I have been fairly quiet so far in regards to my first Triathlon experience of the season, perhaps because I needed a bit more time to reflect on the various aspects of the event and how I felt afterward. There were a lot of wonderful pieces of my day that all fit together to make it exceptional. Some of these pieces were just fleeting moments or completely random interactions or scenarios I never expected would make the whole day just a little more special.
For instance, I probably could have walked to the location of this Triathlon, maybe I should have even ridden my bike, but instead, I took the O-Train. The O-Train to a Triathlon! How random and neat is that? Even better was that I met another young woman on the train heading to the same event, and it was her very first time so I got to share some of my knowledge and personal experiences which helped to reassure her. We even got to cheer each other on as we crossed paths several times during the race. I look forward to seeing Andrea at future races since she totally rocked this one.
Of course, my sporty friend Sarah was there to support her various friends and myself. I don’t think a race could feel quite complete if Sarah is not there to participate or cheer us on! Little does she know, now she probably can’t ever miss an event, haha. It wouldn’t be the same. Speaking of supporters, this is the first event my husband was able to make it out as well, and it was always a pleasant surprise when I spotted him in the crowd as I came out from the water, dashing out of transition, or during my many loops of the course while cycling or running. He even doubled as my own personal photographer!
Other special moments included seeing fellow Bushtukah Ambassador Theresa who ran her first (I believe) triathlon and even won second place in her age category. It is just extraordinary to be around so many people who are enjoying the same experience as you, sharing their excitement and positivity with those around them. I even encountered a familiar face as I exited the water, I don’t recall her name, but we first met all the way in Muskoka after we had to exit the water because of lightning. We discovered we were both from Ottawa while shivering inside waiting for when it was safe to get back in the water and start our race.
Could this day have been any more special? It sure was! I also got to race using a road bike for the first time. A friend (Matt) from my Iron North Fitness community loaned me a bike for the season, since buying a road bike is a super pricey endeavor. It was exhilarating to get to ride so quickly so effortlessly, compared to when I ride my hybrid. I may have struggled to get my right foot clipped in at the start, but was it ever fantastic to have the option to both pull and push on the pedals!
The first race of this season was drastically different from my first race of last season (my first Triathlon Race ever in fact). Last year I listened nervously as Geordie gave us his speech and had us recite something like “I am sorry for touching your body,” since we were bound to get touched or touch others while we all frantically started swimming with our adrenaline overflowing at the start of the race. On that day, I struggled through a 200m swim only months after I had one workshop with Geordie, in which he taught me how to swim with my head in the water for the first time. This time around, I’ve been training with him once a week, and he was there to lead us in a stretch, to give me a high five before I entered the pool for a warm-up lap, and to reassure me just before I started the race. He said as a reminder for me to remain calm, “find your zen and then swim.” The result? I was calm, I swam 500m in 14 minutes, which is a drastic improvement from 17 minutes for 200m last year. I didn’t panic. I wasn’t last out of the water and my biggest issue was trying to safely pass swimmers in front of me. It still has not completely sunk in that I just completed my longest swim in a Triathlon to date (last year the furthest I swam was 350m) and it wasn’t a struggle.
So what have I learned from this experience? I learned, of course, that consistent practice and dedication will drastically improve skills and comfort level. What I truly took away from this experience is the sense of community and family I have found myself a part of. A lot of my training is solo. Many of my struggles are alone, but when I get out there and do what I’ve been preparing for, I have friends, family, coaches, fellow athletes, complete strangers, right there with me. Once you get there, you are never alone, and there is always someone rooting for you. You are part of a grand family that just keeps on growing.