My first triathlon - Kristie Thomas

It isn't hard to get excited by the report below by Kristie. She radiates such infectious enthusiasm that it makes us all feel good about her achievement and first triathlons.

About 3 ½ years ago I decided that I was going to run a half marathon.  My brother in law, Will, suggested that I run a 10km first.  Then over the evening and as more wine was consumed (drinking was the only endurance sport I took part in at that time) we started talking about longer races and Ironman came up.  Will then proceeded to tell me that when you are training for an Ironman you at times have to work out TWO TIMES in one day?!!?!  I thought you would have to be crazy to do such a thing.  Then Will told me that if I ever signed up for Ironman he would give me a bike and sponsor my entry.   You should probably know that Will is one of the owners of the Bike Barn.

A few days later I went on line and got the Sun Run Learn to Run 10 km program and started down the road that would eventually lead me to becoming addicted to running.  Then last summer after I ran my second half marathon (and got 3rd in my age group) I hurt my knee and I couldn’t run for just over 3 months.  What was I going to do??

So what did I do?  I bought a swim suit, not a cute little bathing suit that I would wear at the beach, but an actual suit made for swimming.  And I started swimming once a week maybe.  It was exercise, but it was no replacement for running.

Then I met Sarah Brown, she and Alison Bernat were talking about how amazing Cliff bars were during long rides, and I remember Ali saying that she found her wetsuit for Ironman and compared it to a woman finding her wedding dress.  I thought they were both crazy.  I told them about Wills Ironman offer and Sarah looked at me like I was crazy and asked me why I wasn’t doing it.  According to Sarah I told her that I didn’t want to do triathlons because I would have to take off my eyelash extensions.   That was in July.

The last Sunday in August 2010, I was in Penticton watching Ironman and watching some of the people run by me. I thought I can do that, then when I saw a blind man with one leg run past I was inspired and convinced, I mean really, if he can do that why couldn’t I?

Although I had decided to do it, I didn’t line up the next morning, When I heard my future training buddy Becky Roberts signed up on line, I thought that I would try to see if any spots were left… so at 6:30 am on August 31st I signed up for Ironman.  I was so excited I was shaking.  Then the reality set in.  I had never swam in a wetsuit or ridden a road bike.  What the hell was I doing?

Now fast forward 8 and a half months and I am getting ready to race my first triathlon.  The Oliver Sprint was not something that I had been planning on, but then 3 weeks ago my coach told me that I should do it, and as we all know, if your coach tells you to do it, you do it.

As May 15th got closer the fear began to set in.  What if I suck at this?  What if I fall off my bike?  The lake is cold!!  What if I can’t do this?   What if I am the last person to finish??

Race day, I woke up excited and ready to become a triathlete!   Things were going well; I had prepped everything, made my water bottles and was set to go… then the freak out started.  I was convinced I couldn’t do it (even though I had done then entire course on Wednesday night).  What am I doing?  Can I really do this?  What if I suck? What if I am the last person out of the water, or the last person to finish the race?!?!  Okay, Kristie, calm down, you can do the run, you can run 5km, that’s easy.  You can do the ride, you rode 20km yesterday, and you can do this.  But the swim, you should really work harder in masters, you are screwed on the swim.  Relax, this is your first race and you only get to race your first triathlon once, so enjoy it, and you can always lie about your time.  Okay, get dressed; let’s get the show on the road.

I have watched a few triathlons and am quite good at being a spectator.  I can carry a wetsuit and give great calming words of inspiration, but getting MY bike out of the car I freaked out (again).  I don’t know where to go; I don’t know what to do.  And my heart rate was at 101 bpm.  Fortunately, I had my always calm Dad with me, so he asked someone where to go, so we lined up.  As I was waiting to get my race package and talked to some people in the line and a lady asked me why I was doing this as my first race and I told her “because I signed up for Ironman” she politely responded with “Oh, so you’re crazy”.  And I started to believe her.

I was marked, I had a timing chip, my bike was racked; now it was time to put my wetsuit on and warm up.  I love my wetsuit, I now know what Ali was talking about, I feel sexy and like a super hero in my neoprene.

Alright, time to get in the water. Fudge that lake is cold!  As my feet, hands and face started to go numb I knew I was as ready as I could be.  Back on to the beach we go, one last puff on my inhaler and the race began!

As I fell into my rhythm I started to feel better and better and I imagined I was at VAC swimming with Matt, Becky and Sarah.  I could hear all the words of wisdom from Natasha and George, just to name a few.  I was doing it.  I was swimming.  Before I knew it, it was time to turn around and head back in, half way there, keep up the good work.  One buoy left, try and swim straight, OMG there’s the shore!!  When do I stand up?  Okay, I’ll start running now.

My fingers were numb so I couldn’t get my swim cap off and I saw the time clock 13:55… there must be a mistake, they forgot to start the clock, I’m not that fast, I was swimming slow.  WOW THIS IS AMAZING.

Swim cap off, wetsuit was a bit of a struggle, but once I got it off I was ready to go, bike shoes on, helmet, sunglasses, race belt, let’s go!!

On the bike I was trying to keep a steady pace and not go too fast.  I was feeling good.  Then when men were passing me on bikes with disk wheels I was feeling really great about my swim and forgot to concentrate on my bike.  I snapped out of that with about 8km to go passed a few people and then the bike was over!

Time for the run!   Rack bike, helmet off, change shoes, and off we go!  I gained a few places on the run and was feeling great about my rhythm.  I had a huge smile on my face, I was having fun and I knew that I wasn’t going to be the last person to finish the race!  I felt GREAT!   Then I could see the LETC jersey in front of me, I was gaining on her!  I didn’t want to push myself too much and burn out so I kept it steady.  1km to go, okay, now I can push it.  I can hear my family cheering for me, I look up and say hi to my niece and I hear my coaches’ wife yell “FOCUS KRISTIE FOCUS” okay, time to sprint.

And I passed the finish line at 1:18:49.  I was the 5th female to finish, and I was told I was at least 3rd in my age group!  AMAZING!  I AM ON TOP OF THE WORLD!  I didn’t suck; I don’t have to lie about my time.  I might actually be good at this sport.

I found my family, hugged them, it is amazing to have so much support.

Then someone told me I was FIRST IN MY AGE GROUP.  SERIOUSLY!?!   Me? This day can’t get any better.  Not only did I finish my first triathlon, I enjoyed it and I won a medal.

To top it all off, I was getting text messages and Facebook love left, right and centre.  The support was unbelievable.

I know that I can’t expect to win my age group in my next race, but I will enjoy knowing that I won it in my first and was less than one minute behind the first female.  But most importantly, I CAN DO THIS, I don’t suck at it, and I have so much love and support to cheer me on!