As I’ve been updating my blog, and specifically the About Me page, I realized I’ve not yet told you all my story from the first triathlon I ever did.

I didn’t get into the sport until I was out of college and actually living in Germany. I was a kids camp director and my work had a certain ebb and flow around the camping season. I was downright board a points in between camps and I had a lot of freedom to work on special projects like redesigning the website etc.

One of the things I discovered to fill my time was jumping back into riding bikes. I had ridden a lot in college (as a touring rider… not a racer) and I rediscovered my love for the bike. My natural inner competitor took over and I wanted to race. I realized that I wouldn’t be able to do a cycling race due to the steep learning curve, so I got with a coworker and we signed up for a triathlon together.

On this journey to my first race, I learned a few things about the sport.

1. Anyone can do it
The allure of triathlon is that there really is something for everyone. A sprint tri is only 750m swim- 12mi bike- 3.1mi run. And honestly, you can find some non-standard races that are ever shorter than that. A lot of races in the States do a 500m swim… and even some that do a pool swim! But there are a variety of distances all the way up to a full Ironman. There are also off road races and if one of the three sports is not your cup of tea… try a Duathlon, Aquathon or Aquabike!

2. It doesn’t have to be expensivetriathlon transition area
There is a certain stigma to triathlon (for good reason) that it is an expensive sport. Bikes that cost more than my car, wetsuits that cost as much as my bike, and $150-200 shoes are not uncommon to see at races. But I trained for my race with the swimsuit I had and a $10 pair of goggles (I still use those too). I rode a borrowed mountain bike, and ran with my plain old running shoes. I didn’t use any fancy nutrition and didn’t even think about buy a wetsuit. (ok… I did think about it because the swim was in the Baltic Sea in October… but the cost made me just man up and swim without it.) If you are just getting into the sport… use what you have a upgrade as your budget allows.

High Point Sprint-Swim Exit3. Swimming is harder than it looks
My wife reminded me of this when I was open water swimming last weekend. We lived on a lake in Germany, and that is where I did 100% of my swim training. My first time out I planned on just swimming out to the “no wake zone” buoy and back. I had been told the water was chest deep all the way out, so I feel that was a safe bet. I started swimming and got tired about halfway there (maybe 100 yards?). I went to put my feet down and quickly realized I had been given wrong info. I had no idea how far the bottom was and I never touched it. I panicked, swallowed a bunch of nasty lake water, and doggie paddled back to the dock.

I sat there thinking about my life until I could muster up enough strength to do it again. Another trip halfway and back ended the same and I made my way back to our apartment. My wife found me 10 minutes later in our bathroom almost passed out from exhaustion and trying not to puke my lunch up with all the lake water I swallowed.

I’ve come a long way since then… but I will always remember that first swim workout! (and my wife will too!)

4. Simply finishing makes you a triathlete
This is the most important thing. You don’t have to complete an Ironman branded Iron distance race to be a “real” triathlete. You just need to finish. That is what is awesome about this sport. Just finishing is enough to be successful! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

I actually never got to race that one in Germany. My buddy had to bail due to a health problem and I had no ride to the race. I completed my own mock race on the same day and was proud of how far I had come. That was enough to catch the fever and I’ve raced every season since.

How did your first race go down? What did you learn? I’d love to hear your experience so let me know in the comments or on Twitter!