Women’s Wednesday: Six Years. Don’t Blink. Lisa Ingarfield’s Triathlon Journey

Six Years. Don’t Blink.

This week, Facebook popped up a picture of me crossing the finish line of my very first triathlon. The slightly blurred, yet triumphant photo brought a whole host of memories flooding back to me. Six years ago, I embarked on a journey that has ebbed and flowed, curved and carved in ways I could never have predicted. I distinctly remember saying to a friend that I would NEVER do a 70.3 distance triathlon, because why would anyone want to do that? Well, with a few of those now under my belt, I blush at my then rigid response to the prospect of trying the long course distance.

Crossing the finish line at the 2011 Denver Triathlon

In preparation for my first triathlon, I scoured the internet for how-to videos on transitions, swim nerves management, and race strategy. I had zero idea about wetsuits, and ordered an ill-fitting “shortie” online and cycled a few preparation miles on my trusty Rock Hopper mountain bike. I did practice swimming in open water (thankfully), but even with a few swim lessons under my belt, I still breaststroked most of the swim. Putting my face in the water for a solid fifteen minutes did not seem appealing to me at the time. I came out of the swim to T1, ecstatic that I had conquered a swim in Sloan’s Lake without a flotation device. I took off my shortie, dried off, put on bike shorts, bike gloves, ate and drank something, and then meandered out of T1 about 5 minutes later. I hopped on my mountain bike ready for the ride around Denver and down to Mile High Stadium, where T2 was located.

A short time later, I rolled into T2, racked my bike and headed out on the run – in my bike shorts. Yes, I forgot to take off my bike shorts and only realized this about a half mile into the run. The run – at that point my “strongest” discipline, largely because it is the one I had done the most – went fairly well despite the extra padding on my rear. The course was short and had me finishing the 5K in 23 minutes or something ridiculous like that, which is a time at that point, I had never run before. And there we have it. My first triathlon, six years ago this week.

In the years that followed, I discovered brick workouts, chamois cream, tri suits, stretchy laces, and the benefits of using a road bike over a mountain bike. I joined an all women’s triathlon team, hired a coach, took more swimming lessons, swam more in open water, got a better wetsuit, and saved my pennies for a road bike. I even made a few age group podiums. All in six years. One blink and it’s 2017. For those six years of learning, mistakes, hilarity, and achievement, the one thing I didn’t do nearly enough is reflect on my journey.

Looking at the picture of my first finish six years ago, reminds me that I haven’t really taken stock of how far I have come. I therefore recommend that we all take the time to reflect on what we have done more often than we probably do. Don’t wait for Facebook or some other social media platform to prompt you. We infrequently take the time to pause and review our journeys, whatever they may be. This means we never fully appreciate all the gains we have made, or challenges we have overcome. We just go, go, go without so much as a quick glance over our shoulder. We blink and everything changes. Wherever you are in your triathlon quest, don’t miss the actual journey to your goals because you are so busy focusing on what’s next. I blinked, and now, six years later, I am a triathlon coach myself and headed to my fifth 70.3 and I am not quite sure how that happened.

Boulder 70.3 2015 – Finishing a long course triathlon I said I would never do…

I remember the feeling I had when I crossed the finish line for the first time six years ago. My heart swelled with pride in my ability to race a triathlon. I felt so badass. Do you remember the feeling you had when crossed your first finish line? Dig down into your memories and pull the feeling back to the surface. That feeling fades the more races we do. Our increased level of comfort with triathlon shouldn’t decrease our feelings of awe and satisfaction on finishing every race or workout, but it does. Hang on to your first finish feeling tightly, because it will help you remember where you have been, as well as where you have the capability and power to go.

Lisa Ingarfield, PhD is a runner, triathlete, USAT and RRCA certified coach. She owns Tri to Defi Coaching and Consulting and provides organizational communication consulting services. She is a freelance writer specializing in issues affecting women in sport and in life. She is also a member of Vixxen Racing’s 2017 women’s triathlon team.

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