By Kelley Coleman, Sisters-Tri-ing member, Atlanta
When I registered for my first Triathlon, I did have a moment of panic where I wondered what I’d gotten myself into! I had always wanted to complete a sprint triathlon, just to see if I could do it, and an event titled “My First Triathlon” seemed perfect.
I used to lifeguard, so I felt that the swim portion would be my strength. And I rode my bike everywhere in college, so I thought that the cycling portion wouldn’t be too hard, either. (Boy, was I wrong!). I was most worried about the run. I’ve never been a runner, or even a slow jogger. When I started training, I could barely jog on a treadmill for a single minute without stopping to catch my breath.
I found a training guide online and slowly started building my endurance in all three sports. When I found out about Sisters Tri-ing, I was so excited to see there was a chapter in Atlanta, where I lived! I immediately joined; everyone was so supportive and encouraging. I started to feel like I could really do this!
The first test of my training was the Susan G. Komen 5K race in May. I told Mesha Ellis, Co-Leader of Sisters Tri-ing Atlanta, that I would meet her at the finish line because I had never run 5k in my life, and she would surely finish before me. Much to my surprise, I hung in there with her, and ran the entire course!
Finishing the 5k gave me even more confidence that I could actually finish the triathlon the following month. As race day approached, I tried not to let my nerves get the best of me. The night before, I talked to Mesha to go over my last-minute questions and get one final pep talk.
The great thing about this event was that everyone was running a triathlon for the first time, so we were all a bit clueless. The atmosphere was relaxed, and I felt ready to get in the water and give it my all! The swim was more exhausting than I’d imagined. I didn’t factor in the energy I would use trying to swim around people or avoid getting kicked in the face! Eventually, I made it to the last buoy and began to transition to the cycling portion.
Mesha was there, talking me through it, and I could hear my fiancé cheering from the sideline. I headed out on the bike and tried to remember a tip I’d read somewhere: Enjoy the scenery. I clocked my fastest bike time ever, and was headed back to the transition area…then I ran out of steam.
As I began the run, my legs felt like lead. I couldn’t get into the comfortable rhythm that had propelled me through the 5k. I had to take breaks and walk, but I was determined to finish.
When the finish line came into sight, I sprinted across and received a finishers medal! It might as well have been Olympic gold; it’s still hanging on my dresser.
I learned a few important lessons my first time out: 1) Plan your race-day nutrition ahead of time. I ran out of energy on the run, but a packet of Gu that I’d stuffed into my pocket as an afterthought turned out to be a lifesaver. 2) A good bike makes a difference. Since this was my first race, I just used my sister’s old 10-speed from when we were kids. It’s heavy and doesn’t shift gears well. I made it through, but a better bike would have made things easier. 3) Compete with a friend. I did most of my training on my own, but having Mesha there on race day really helped calm my nerves. I knew she’d done this before so it made everything seem that much more do-able.
Finishing the triathlon was one of the best experiences of my life. I can’t thank Mesha and Sisters Tri-ing enough for all of the support and advice. I’m ready for my next one–as soon as I get a new bike!