In the late 90's, I was working for a dot com. Due to the long commute and longer hours, my exercise became non-existent. I purchased a treadmill and started waking up at 5am in order to fit in a 3 mile run. This routine went on Monday through Friday for about 6 months until I killed the treadmill. I decided to join a local gym near the office. The idea was that I'd get up early, beat traffic, run outside and use the gym to shower and dress. This was the perfect plan. In fact, I managed to get to work early and get a head start on everyone else.
One day I came into work and a fellow co-worker started asking about my workout routine. I think at the time I was up to about 5 miles on the longer run. He started talking about a "tin man". I asked what that was and he said it was like Ironman but smaller. Not really knowing anything about triathlon I asked all of the questions everyone asks. Which event comes first? How far? You really think I can do this? And before I knew what I was saying, I agreed to it. Then I realized, I hadn't been swimming since I was a kid!

By the time the end of the day rolled around, we had 13 people from the office signed up for the event, a
local sprint triathlon. We had about 8 weeks to prep and it sort of became an office betting pool as to who would be the first of the group to cross the finish line. Other than a few advantages here and there, the odds were pretty even until one in the bunch bought a real road bike. As soon as that happened, he became the office favorite.

One afternoon before the race, a bunch of us went down to the local pool to see if we could still swim. Hey, it's been years, I thought maybe I'd forgot and drown. Plus, it was open water and 450 yards of it. Deciding that a standard crawl stroke was out of the question, I decided to breast stroke my way through it. My day at the pool showed me that I would not die so at that point I was pretty much ready to go.

Not really knowing what the proper tools are for triathlon, I show up on race day with the following: Trek
mountain bike equipped with giant nobby tires, baggy North Face hiking / water shorts, Asics wife-beater athletic shirt and some sort of trail running shoe which I now believe were too small for my feet.

From the parking lot, I could hear someone shouting over the loud speaker. "The first thing you want to do is RACK YOUR BIKE." Rack my bike, got it. I do what the man says, I then sign in, get body marked, get my swag and now what? You have to wait. The price you pay for being early is waiting. But everyone from work starts showing up and we gather together like scared sheep except that we're not supposed to be scared.

A few minutes before the race, they have a pre-race discussion for the first-timers. They explain what the course is, passing on the left, the water stops, a few other tidbits of information, and finally they discuss the swim start. For those of you who have never participated in a mass swim start, you should pay close attention when they want to explain this to you. The bike and run are pretty much what you think it is but the swim start is absolutely beautiful and it's absolute chaos. Their advice to me and my advice to you is stay on the outside and toward the back unless you know what you're doing.

Seconds before the start, we're all in the water, waiting for the start, peeing (probably) and BANG... we're off. Everyone takes off swimming. My friends and I are doing our best attempt at swimming. My breast stroking is working out as planned albeit a little on the slow side but it makes for an interesting view of the whole thing. I see one of my friends has switched to the back stroke. Fortunately, he was going slow enough not to collide with anyone. And before any of us drown, we are out of the water and now this is where the event really takes place.

Transition goes horrible but I think I manage to get everything where it was supposed to be and I'm off on the bike leg of the course. The bike course is pretty simple, it is basically a big square around the park where the event takes place. I pass a co-worker and her brother who have decided to do it together but other than those two, I don't know where anyone else is. Back at transition again, I drop off the bike and head out on the run. It's a trail run with a series of figure eights with a few small hills thrown in to make it interesting. By now, I'm dying but I don't know where anyone else is and I'm racing against the clock.

The end is near, down the remainder of the trail, across the parking lot, through the grass, I'm on the park path, I can see the finish line, I really kick it up a notch, I cross the finish line and he shouts my name and calls me an IRONMAN... oops sorry, different race. I finished! But I immediately start scanning the finishers, am I the first? I don't see anyone I know... I think I'm the first. Woohoo! I'm the first. A minute or two later another and another. And slowly we all come in.

Any time anyone asks me about doing a triathlon, I tell them the same thing. One of two things will happen when you do your first triathlon. You'll either say, "Man, that was the hardest thing ever. I will never do that again." Or if you're like some of us, you say, "Man, that was the hardest thing ever, when is the next one?"

That was my first triathlon and man was it a blast. There will be other races but there will never be another first. Following that race, I decided a road bike would be more suitable... and then the obsession begins.