If you start running for health or because it is on your bucket list (or to lose baby weight like I did, seven years ago), the first question, real or in your head, is always “are you going to run a 5K?” Once you’ve done that, the question becomes “how about a half?” and when you’ve done that, comes the inevitable: “Are you going to run Twin Cities?” (That, for non-Minnesotans, is short for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon).
And once you’ve done that, what do you do next?
Try to qualify for Boston? (Hahahahahahahahaha! — no way that will ever happen for me.) Try an ultra? (That’s any distance LONGER than 26.2; Breanne has done it.) Switch to triathlons? (No way. Never. Not me. No swimming. Never.)
Well, if there’s anything distance running and marathon training has taught me, it’s never say never. Because if you tri it, you might like it. (I’m so funny — see what I did there? Because no one has ever made that pun before.)
In August I completed the YWCA Women’s Triathlon with my friend April, without whom I would have never dipped a toe in the water. Last winter she signed herself up for a series of four indoor tris put on by the YWCA in Minneapolis and when I saw her first triumphant, post-race Facebook post and I clicked over and impulsively joined her for the last three. (My year of a race-a-month was over and I didn’t have anything on the horizon. I knew without something new I’d be couch-ridden.)
At her urging we did a swim/bike/run-through where I learned that swim caps, while doing nothing for my looks, are essential, and so are tri shorts. I geared up (always one of my favorite parts of a sport) and completed the three indoors, improving with each one and learning that the easiest way to better your time is in transitions (i.e. run, don’t stroll, from the pool to the track).
Now you know now much I love this blog.
I put this photo on it (even better than this one I think!)
And just like with running, once you’ve done an indoor tri, the question asked (by myself if by no one else) is “when are you doing to do a real triathlon?” Indoor is fun, but real = open water and road racing.
Real also = a lot harder. But a lot harder = fear and for me, fear is good. I actually trained, geared up again (buying a bike from a real-biking friend), and even took the YMCA open water swim clinic where I learned, among other things, not to waste my energy using my legs in the water. I was ready(ish), I did it, and it was fun. I wasn’t scared in the water and the distance (which seemed so far a few months ago) was totally manageable. I even finished right at the median pace in a field of 1,200 women.
I’m telling you all this mostly because I want to tell you how awesome the YWCA race is, so that if you’ve ever had that little voice whispering that you should try a triathlon you can confidently sign up for this one (and know that if I can do it, so can you). It’s just the right race for someone starting out — full of happy, supportive women of all ages, shapes, colors, and sizes in all kinds of suits and gear with every kind of bike imaginable. It’s not a race for the elites only. (In fact, the elite wave had maybe a dozen women in it, and they were super-inspiring. Five minute 500 meter swim! Whoa.) And if my time was at the median well, then, you know it’s about the journey, not the clock.
The winter indoor series is great, low-pressure training that will get your confidence up for the “real tri.” The YWCA’s many (affordable) summer clinics and classes help with the mystery and fear — What is transition? How do I do it? What if I do it wrong? Will I get punched in the water? Will I drown?
The super-friendly and unbelievably numerous orange-shirted volunteers are happy to make it a great day for you, and to keep you safe. (There were at least two dozen of them in the water, on kayaks and paddle boards and floating with noodles every few strokes to help you keep on course and cheer you on — or lend a noodle for a rest.)
Results are available immediately and on-site, which was a gratifying surprise, and the post-race food was the best buffet I have EVER seen at a race.
Those are sandwich wraps. Three different kinds,
including vegetable. Yes please.
The port-a-potties were clean (all women = clean biffy floors) and free massages available after the race. There were even flowers for goodness sake.
April and I snapped a few of these photos because really, we were sort of in awe at how great this race was — how well managed, how much fun, how every little detail attended to. We wanted you to know that it would be a great experience. That it’s achievable. That you can do it, because we did.
Tri it. You might like it.
If you go
Find out more about the Minneapolis YWCA Women’s Triathlon and endurance sports training.