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Sophie’s First Triathlon

Posted on September 10, 2014 at 6:00 am

By Gwendolyn Haley

Sophie's First Triathlon by Gwendolyn Haley | Spokane County Library District

Back in July, I shared that my childhood friend Sophie had invited me to join her in her first ever sprint triathlon. We completed the West Plains Wunder Woman Triathlon on August 17th. Since I’ve already shared a little bit about my first tri, I wanted to get Sophie’s take on her experience. We chatted after a few days of recovery.

Over the last year, you’ve been doing a lot to make yourself healthier. What prompted you to do a sprint triathlon in the first place? 

Well, I wanted to do a triathlon because my friends thought it would be a fun idea.

(And the last one standing of those friends was yours truly!)

So I thought, I’ve never swam before, I haven’t biked in a really long time, say, twenty years? And I’ve never run 3 miles in my life. So I decided, why not?

What was training for the tri like? 

Well, I found an online training plan and thought “Oh yeah, that’s what I’m gonna follow, it only takes 5 months to train for a sprint.” I tried to do one week of it, and I couldn’t. So I scrapped the training plan and focused only on the swimming part and tried to bike and run once a week. I signed up for a 5K run to get my running up to speed, as well.

Sophie's First Triathlon by Gwendolyn Haley | Spokane County Library District

I remember that you were not a swimmer when we were kids, and even as an adult you weren’t enthused about swimming. How did you prepare for a quarter mile open water swim? 

My first thought was that I shouldn’t be doing a tri because I don’t know how to swim! So I said I better learn how to swim, it would be kind of stupid to get out in the middle of the water and drown. I almost drowned as a child, I felt like it might be a good idea to learn. I am, you know, 40, and I thought well, better late than never. So took some swim lessons, realized I couldn’t sink, and then started to learn swim strokes.

(I have to interject here that I am SO proud of Sophie. Over the 4th of the July, she swam about a half mile in open water with me. It was the first time I’ve ever seen her get in the water that far without a life jacket!)

We finished the event in about 2 hours, or so. Let’s talk about the day of the tri. How’d it go for you?  

The tri was challenging. I was sick before the tri and had some respiratory problems. (true story—you had a terrible cough!)  When I got in that water, it was so that cold it aggravated my coughing. I had to swim a lot slower than I planned. So you swam around me in circles because you’re a better swimmer, just to make sure that no one kicked me.

I might have been chanting “Just keep Swimming, just keep swimming” like Dory from Finding Nemo 

There were plenty of kayaks around, so it felt safe and secure. I was happy as all get out to get out of the water and start bicycling with wet britches.

The biking was the best part of the race in my opinion. It was a lot of fun; the course was winding and mostly flat. People were very encouraging. The bike ride was a lot of fun, even though I lost my chain two times on the big hill at the end, but I fixed it, with another racer’s help, while you were zooming down the big hill because you didn’t know I was behind you and stuck on the road.

Sorry about that, by the way! 

I figured you’d wait for me before we started running. When it came to the run, I couldn’t feel my toes for the first quarter of a mile, and once I got my toes, we decided to run and walk. After some Heed and a potty stop, life was great! At every transition we had our 3 beautiful friends taking pictures and cheering us on, and it felt really, really good to get that encouragement. Then we ran across the finish line, with the biggest smiles on our faces we could fake.

I know it seemed like a good idea at the time to sign up for this. Are you glad you did it after all?

I enjoyed the experience and it was a challenge. I hadn’t strung all three events together before. I liked doing it with a good friend who coached me through because I wouldn’t have made it otherwise. It was fun, and there’s a good variety of exercise in the training. Plus, we celebrated with an amazing steak dinner.

We totally earned that dinner. This is the part where I tell you how very proud of you I am! You know, our friends were sniffling and tearing up while they cheered you on because they understood what a big accomplishment the swim was, let alone the whole race. You are amazing and thanks for inviting me to share it with you!

What’s next, Gwennie? We should sign up for another one!

Sophie's First Triathlon by Gwendolyn Haley | Spokane County Library District

Gwendolyn Haley

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