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“Tri (Harder)” is a series of posts by Kaelyn Riley, editorial coordinator and executive assistant to the founding editor for Experience Life. This article is the last in a series that documented Kaelyn’s first-time experience training for the Life Time Triathlon.

When I started training for the Life Time Triathlon in March, a few seasoned racers I know seemed quite certain that my first event wouldn’t be my last. I’d probably get bitten by the “tri bug,” they said, and before long I’d be entering multiple races each season, shelling out several hundred dollars for my own fancy wetsuit, and maybe even preparing for my first Ironman. Once you start, conventional race wisdom seems to dictate, it’s kind of hard to stop.

Privately, I envisioned my first race going a bit differently. I couldn’t quite see myself diving headlong into a second event mere moments after finishing my first. And because I have a small cynical streak (really, don’t we all?), my imagination in the weeks before the big Saturday race mostly went something like this: Dive into the lake; promptly get kicked in the face. Jump onto my bike; forget how the brakes work. Approach final moments of the run; trip over my own shoelaces. You get the idea.

In reality, the July 11 race involved a little bit of both. Gratefully, none of my imaginary doomsday scenarios came to pass — there were no embarrassing pratfalls, no kicks to the face. Actually, the whole thing was kind of awesome.

Without question, I made a few newbie mistakes. I didn’t do a great job of pacing myself, especially during the swim, when my nervous energy was the most heightened. I took my time in the transition area. And once I’d completed the bike portion, I was so exhausted that my run was really more like a slow, steady jog.

But I kept jogging. I made it to the finish line, sweaty and exhilarated and entirely unscathed, in more or less the time I’d expected.

[callout]I made it to the finish line.[/callout]

My greatest feeling at the finish line (and still now, two weeks later)? Gratitude. For the ability to enter a race like this in the first place. For the other first-timers I met in line before running into Lake Nokomis, who were kind enough to say distracting things. For the lifeguards in the water keeping their eyes peeled for flailing swimmers. For the hundreds of volunteers camped out along the bike course, cheering and ringing bells and handing out cups of water. For a moment while biking over the Mississippi River, when I looked up from the course and across the water and took just a few seconds to feel happy and honored instead of nervous and scared. For a girl I heard saying to her friend, who was struggling near the beginning of the run, that she shouldn’t worry — that she’d come in last before, and it still felt really great. For good energy, kindness, and community.

I don’t think I’ve been bitten by the tri bug. I can’t see myself doing this multiple times per year, and I definitely don’t think I’m Ironman material. And yet, this whole thing kind of started with a desire to challenge that tiny cynical voice saying that I wasn’t triathlon material. I think it’s always worthwhile to challenge our inner cynic.

[callout]If I did this once, I can probably do it again — better, maybe faster, and a little stronger.[/callout]

Mostly, I’m doing that basking-in-the-glow thing. I feel proud and exhausted and excited to get back in the gym, eventually, to continue the work I started in my training program. I want to keep strength training, and I want to keep swimming. After so many weeks of cross-training, I doubt I’ll ever think of cardio the same way again. And, happily, I do think I can detect the faintest little hopeful voice drowning out the small cynic in my head, saying that if I did this once, I can probably do it again — better, maybe faster, and a little stronger.

Thoughts to share?

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