I was sitting here a couple of days ago talking to myself, trying to figure out what blog post I’d been forgetting to write when it dawned it me: I needed to write a recap of my very first triathlon!
On January 5, I participated in the Life Time Indoor Triathlon Series. I signed up for it with my friend Tikima because we wanted some triathlon experience as sort of a baseline test for June, and we weren’t ready for anything in open water or outdoors just yet. This was perfect because it was indoors, timed, and simulated a lot of the basic challenges of a triathlon, i.e. transitioning, endurance, competing in a swim, etc.
The night before the race, I laid out Flat Lex. Man! There was a lot more stuff to layout than for a road race! Because we had to transition into dry clothes after the swim, I really had to make sure I had everything I could possibly think of needing for the race. That includes a sports bra, underwear (I’m not going commando, playa), a quick-drying towel (I’m in love with this one – affiliate link), shoes, a water bottle, a tank top, clothes to change into after the race, headphones, and, I don’t know, my entire wardrobe?
Since the race was run in waves, I was fortunate in that I didn’t have to wake up super early for the race. I actually got a chance to eat breakfast, drink some coffee, and relax before the race.
The location of my Life Time Indoor Tri was at the LifeTime in Gaithersburg. This place is HUGE, and they even have a gigantic parking garage. It almost feels like a fitness… mall. I was so happy I arrived early because I needed to ease my nerves and also figure out where I was going and what I was doing.
The check-in team gave me a lot of information, wrote my number on my arm, and gave me a swim cap and a race bib. This was my first time ever having my bib number written on my arm, and I’d never received a swim cap as part of a race because I’d never participated in a race swimming! So, of course, this meant that I needed to take a Boomerang to document this:
This 75-minute indoor triathlon was run in waves, and each wave had about 10 people. When I entered the locker room, there were some other participants in transition. It was good to see how the time was passing, and one pair shared that we should pin our bibs to our shirts for the bike/run now, that way we wouldn’t have to do it later. This was a great suggestion, so I’m glad they shared this tip!
I set my locker to a very easy code so that I could just run in and spin a couple of numbers without having to really think about it. I pulled out everything I needed to change into, and I figured out how much time I would really have to change into my clothes for the remainder of the race.
At this point, I think it’s important that I share the official rules, per the Life Time Indoor Triathlon Series website:
“The indoor triathlon is based on time rather than distance — meaning you receive points for going further in a specific period, not going faster over a fixed distance.
The total event lasts for 75 minutes, consisting of:
- Swim: 10 minutes in the pool
- Transition 1: 10-minutes (move from the pool to the cycle studio)
- Bike: 30 minutes on an indoor bike
- Transition 2: 5-minutes (move from the cycle studio to treadmills)
- Run: 20 minutes on a treadmill
Participants are graded on a curve. The furthest distance in each category gets the most points (the actual number is based on total participants) and the shortest receives one point. Your “score” for the discipline is based on the points you achieve. All three disciplines count equally toward your final score. Therefore, your rank and score will not be determined until all participants have completed the event. Transition times are fixed between events and do not count toward participants’ scores.”
Now that you’ve read the rules, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, shall we?
Since there were five lanes and 10 athletes per wave, everyone was paired up and shared a swim lane. I shared a lane with my friend Tikima, which was comforting because I’m not sure how I would’ve done it if I’d had to share it with a stranger. We had just a couple of minutes in the pool before the race started, and those minutes really felt like seconds.
When the countdown started, I had a million thoughts running through my head. At “3…2…1… go!” I forgot how to swim. 😟
As panic set over me, I streamlined off the wall, came up for air, and started “lifeguard freestyling” as I call it. Then, I started some variation of an above-water breaststroke/frog stroke, a.k.a. my signature swim move. When I touched the wall on my first 25m, I was out of breath, but somehow managed to touch the wall around the same time as basically everyone else in my wave, so I felt good about that. As I came back down the lane, I quickly realized that these efforts were not sustainable. I did a little bit of backstroking, more Alexis-stroking, and a lot of almost-wheezing.
During the swim portion, the challenge was to see how many laps I could swim in 10 minutes. If you make it halfway down the lane, that counts as a full lap. My goal was to get in 10 laps. Yes, I set the bar low, but I’d honestly never raced in a pool before, and I still had terrible swim form and barely knew how to freestyle. I set my goal at 10 and hit that goal. Honestly, I would have exceeded that goal by at least another lap or two if I hadn’t panicked so much. The panic found me out of breath and resting on the wall on more than one lap.
I was really disappointed about the swim, and honestly a little embarrassed, but I knew that I couldn’t let that drag down the rest of my race experience. I had two more legs to complete, plus I had a wardrobe change on deck!
With 10 minutes to transition, you really had to dry off as much as possible and change quickly. The pool was on the ground level, but the designated area for the indoor bikes was on the third floor. I contemplated taking the stairs but thought better because excuse me, I’m a triathlete! So, up the two flights of stairs, I went, and made my way to the bikes.
One frustrating thing for me is that I was told not to wear my indoor cycling cleats from the pool to the bike. Now, you guys know I wear my TIEMs almost all the time, for the primary purpose of being able to transition from the bike to the streets or just walking around the gym. Frustrated little rule-follower that I am, I packed my regular cycling cleats and cross trainers, and running shoes. Come to find out, I could’ve worn my TIEM’s all along. [At the check-in desk, I was told not to wear cycling cleats because they didn’t want anyone slipping on the stairs. Jokes on them. I can slip on the stairs in any given pair of shoes.]
Once we arrived at the bikes, I had to change my shoes and set up my bike, and I only had about 3 minutes to do so. Fortunately, I had used a Stages bike just a few days prior, but unfortunately, I was never set up properly on the bike, so I knew that my fit was going to be a little off. Nonetheless, I knew I could ride the bike for 30 minutes with a reasonably close-to-accurate set up without much discomfort.
I got dinged a little on my distance for the bike portion because my bike tracker wasn’t started correctly, and nobody noticed until a few minutes in. I don’t think it would have made a huge difference, but it might have resulted in a few extra points for me. All in all, I was not disappointed with these results. Once I realized that I could add distance quicker by standing and riding with heavier resistance, I basically did standing hill intervals for a minute at a time with a minute or two of recovery. (On the Stages bikes, the power output determines the distance, whereas on some other bikes it’s speed or speed and resistance.)
Once our 30 minutes were up, I hopped off my bike, switched over to my running shoes, and headed downstairs for the treadmill. There was a designated treadmill area for the race, which was nice because you weren’t distracted by other people on the treadmill who weren’t racing. We had five minutes to transition, but I felt like that was ample time to change my shoes. The treadmills were pretty straightforward, so there isn’t anything particularly interested to note about my 20 minutes spent here. The only thing I could think of was that my playlist was fire, and my wet ponytail kept slapping me in the back of my neck. (I wrapped it up into a bun at one point.)
Once the time was up, they recorded the distance of each person and sent us upstairs to grab some chocolate milk and Sunchips. That was it. The race was over!
I’m no Ironman finisher, but I’m proud of myself for signing up, showing up, and finishing up my first ever triathlon. I’m officially a triathlete! An endurance athlete! Can’t nobody tell me nothin’!
Here are my results if you care to check ’em out.
This first indoor triathlon was a great baseline test for me. I know my trouble areas and I also know my strengths. My training is coming along great, and my swimming is improving every time I step into the pool. I can’t wait for my first sprint triathlon this summer!
Have you ever participated in an indoor triathlon? Would you want to? Had you ever heard of an indoor triathlon prior to reading this post? Have you ever competed in an outdoor triathlon?