TriRidgefield Race Report: From Mini-Panics to Finish

I swam. I biked. I ran. I did it – my first triathlon. Here’s the race report.

Dan and I were both doing the tri and needed a sitter. Is 5:30 AM too early to ask the babysitter to arrive? Well, I did, and she said sure, and she’s super awesome (this will be important later).  It’s kind of like having a date night, but with bedhead. Luckily the TriRidgefield Sprint Triathlon is only 10 minutes down the road. We had packed the night before, and the stars were in alignment because miraculously neither of us forgot anything. Murphy’s Law will dictate that in future races that are much further away, we will forget something.

The first thing you do when you arrive is to check in and pick up your timing chip. The chip is gets strapped on your ankle for the whole race and records your times for each event and transition as you pass over mats on the ground. My chicken ankles (chankles?) are apparently quite small and the strap barely had any velcro to hang onto. Mini-panic #1. I call it a mini-panic, because I only had a brief urge to vomit.

Next, you get “inked” with your race number and age (!) on your arms and calves with a sharpie.

triathlon race number transition

For the record, I am not 522 years old, but HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE??


My friend’s husband was the volunteer with the sharpie. Not awkward at all.

Hmmm, so this is really happening. Mini-panic #2.

Next, we headed to the transition area and set up our stuff.

triathlon transition

It’s just a nightclub: It’s uncomfortably crowded, there’s music blasting, and people are wearing lots of neon and spandex.

Here’s my layout:

triathlon transition

Hint: IKEA bags make great triathlon gear carriers, because much of it is wet. No allen wrench needed.

Dan’s bike is on the left. Mine has the wetsuit hanging on it.



Not only were we next to each other, but we shared a water bin (to rinse our feet off). Awwww. Isn’t that what most people do on a date?

I kept playing the first transition in my head over and over: wetsuit off, shoes on, helmet on, eat gel, bike & go. Is everything ready? Mini-panic #3.

I met up with my friend and colleague Rina, the one who waited patiently while I rescued a turtle on a recent training ride, and she set up on the other side of me. I could tell that Rina, who is not a tri-newbie like me, was a little nervous, too. This caused Mini-panic #4.

first triathlon, transition

Nervous Nellies.

Some of you more astute readers might be thinking, “That’s not the tri-kit (race outfit) that she modeled for the Living Room Triathlon Fashion Show and Wetsuit Try-on. What gives?” The rest of you not-as-astute people are all now like, “Why do I care what she’s wearing?” Well, it matters because it made Mini-panic #5 happen. You see, a few weeks back at the Run Like a Mother 5k, I was asked last-minute to pace/lead the races – first in a police car, then on a bike. In the days afterward, I had a few conversations with Megan Searfoss, the founder of the RLAM race series, and next thing I know she’s making me an offer I couldn’t refuse on a sassy new Run Like a Mother tri-kit. Megan, a 7-time Ironman (IronWoman? Not sure, I’m just learning the lingo) was emcee-ing this race. Knowing I was wearing her brand, her baby, I didn’t want to embarrass myself by not finishing or otherwise panicking. So in essence my fear of future panics led to Mini-panic #5.

Time to get the wetsuit on and head to the beach to warm up for the swim. I knew that in order to avoid another open-water panic attack like I had at a practice earlier in the week, I knew I needed to get into the water, get used to the temperature and compression of the wetsuit, and stroke around a bit. Luckily, the water wasn’t as cold (at least the top 12 inches of it wasn’t as cold) and while I still hated the way the wetsuit felt in my chest, I was ok. My goggles started to fog, so I spit in them and seemed to do the trick. After warming up and using the bathroom (I’ll give you one guess where…and any triathlete that says they don’t do it is lying) I clambered out of the water and waited for my wave to start. Strangely enough, not panicking!

I watched the older men (Dan) and the younger women (Rina) start their waves, and I was a little nervous, but not panicked. I was in the 5th out of 6 waves to start, as I am an “older” woman, as branded by the number on my arm. (The wave behind us was for the swimmers on a relay team – this will be important later.) They gave us a 3 minute countdown, then 2, I checked my goggles, 1 minute….deep breaths…I positioned myself to the back and side of the group…the ten-second countdown…then GO! But I did not go.

Ha! Fooled you. That was actually part of my plan. Not wanting to be in the crazy pack of confident swimmers getting kicked in the face, I counted to ten, then made my way into the water. Apparently, that was a common plan, as many others women also waited and entered when I did. I was now stuck with the pack of unconfident swimmers, getting kicked in the face.

Despite being kicked (it was more of a push with a foot) I was able to swim the front crawl a bit, but I just couldn’t find my rhythm and every so often I would breaststroke or do the head-out-of-water crawl like my mom used to do at the pool when she didn’t want to mess up her hairdo. I didn’t panic, but I wasn’t groovin’, either. I would say I was just very uncomfortable, both mentally and physically. The pack started to thin out, and at one point I almost ran into another woman backstroking the completely wrong way. We both popped our heads up and she said, “Which way do I go?” so I said, “Follow me,” and I put my head in the water and kept going. A few strokes later, I felt something touch my butt and skim up my back. I looked up to find a guy, a relay swimmer, practically swimming over me. He must’ve realized what he did and pulled away from me quickly. So, I’m thinking, I got kicked in the head, I told an errant racer which way to go, and I just got felt up by another swimmer…and I’M STILL GOING. And just like that…I found a rhythm. I was about halfway around the course when it happened. A mantra of calm and smooth, calm and smooth stuck in my head, and I just kept going and and going and going and I’m passing people and holy crap I’m still going and breathing and grooving and passing more people and I can see the shore and now I can see the bottom and I’m…DONE WITH THE SWIM! I did not panic!

As you run out of the water, you have to try and get the top part of your wetsuit off to save time. Here’s me, all happy that the swim is done, and awkwardly trying to get my wetsuit off whilst running in sand. It’s not hard at all.

triathlon swim

The look of sheer relief. (Photo credit: Ridgefield Bicycle Company)

There was a long, barefoot run into the Transition Area for T1 (that’s tri-speak for the swim-to-bike transition) , I got the rest of my wetsuit off and immediately forgot what I needed to do. Duh. I manged to pull myself together, put on my socks and shoes, take a gel, put on my sunglasses and helmet, and grab my bike. I exited the transition and approached the mount/dismount line (can’t ride your bike in transition for safety reasons) and off I went, soaking wet. I was in the right gear and everything. Yay me.

The bike portion was 13 miles around the north end of Ridgefield, riding through both my neighborhood, the one I used to teach in, and the one I teach in now. It meant that I saw TONS of people who came out just to watch bikes whiz by, many of whom I knew. I even spotted my daughter with the sitter – they had walked a half mile to the intersection to see me and/or Dan. Even though they saw us for about 2 seconds each, hearing, “Go Mommy!!” was priceless. The sitter was worth her weight in gold, gold! I tell you!

In the days before the race, one of my 1st grade students said, “Mrs. Barlow, I don’t think I can be out for the race but I’m gonna make you a sign.” And she did.

triathlon signs bike


I am seriously teary at this point – I’m about 45 minutes in and the happy hormones are a-flowin’. I pass a few people, I got passed by a few, but it’s all good. Marty McFly (my bike) is performing beautifully as we race through the space-time continuum. I really loved flying through intersections that I would normally have to negotiate with giant SUV’s. As I approached the last 2 miles of the bike course, it overlapped with the run course and it’s all downhill so I’m flying…flying, I tell you! I LOVE the downhills and I even downshift and pedal on them, to go faster. It’s a little nutty and I can’t explain it. I may not be able to power up the hills skillfully yet, but my husband doesn’t call me “No Brakes Nancy” for nothing. I passed a lot of sissies people on the downhills.

I approached the dismount line (one of the more dangerous places in a race – Rina got nailed by someone who didn’t realize she needed to dismount her bike), and as you can see, I’m not panicking!

triathlon bike transition

I’m only moderately pleased here. (Photo credit: Ridgefield Bicycle Company)

triathlon bike run transition

Marty McFly has earned his keep. Photo credit: Ridgefield Bicycle Company

RUN TIME. Let’s burn this mo-fo. I rack my bike, switch my helmet for my favorite race hat, take another GU, and promptly forget my race belt with my number on it. Oopsie. So I’m not quite burning the mo-fo down yet. Anyway, after grabbing my race belt, I headed out, and I’m still smiling, because it’s RUN AND DONE, baby!

traithlon beginner transition

I’m so close to finishing…no whammies, no whammies! (Photo credit: Ridgefield Bicycle Company)

The run course was basically uphill for 1.5 miles, then downhill for 1.5 miles. Of course the muscles in my legs were arguing with each other for the first mile, since they were used to being on the bike, but they sorted it out and I killed the hill. Another cool thing was that part of the course was out-and-back, so I got to slap hands with Dan when he was heading into the finish going the opposite direction. A triathlon version of hand-holding, I suppose. How romantic.

I felt pretty good the whole run. During training, I was coming close to hitting my 5k personal record, and I had hoped if I really pushed it I could break my record within the triathlon itself. But honestly, I wasn’t thinking too much about that, because I was almost finished. My friend Chris (of Chris and Erica fame) captured this finish-line video. Be sure to listen to Megan, the MC, the whole way. She does a great job,IMHO. Also be sure to take notes on my trademarked linebacker-style of running.

Well, there you have it. I still can’t believe that’s me crossing the finish line, or in any of these photos above. That thing about having you age sharpied on your arm? I came to realize that out of all places I’d want to wear my age (literally) on my sleeve, it’s as a participant in a freakin’ triathlon. Take that fourth decade! I’m a triathlete now…

first triathlon triathlete finisher

…and I didn’t panic.