Five lessons learned from my first Olympic distance triathlon

I did it! I did it! I did it!

Tori finishing her first Olympic distance triathlon Here are the numbers:

  • Swim 1500m 38:33
  • T1 4:10
  • Bike 45 km 1:51:45
  • T2 1:45
  • Run 10 km 1:05:28
  • Total: 3:41:39

A solid back-of-the-pack performance!

Three weeks ago during my first open-water tri – the sprint distance at Shawnigan Lake – there were several achievements I left “locked” for next time. I think I did well in learning those lessons this time around, during the Subaru Victoria Triathlon.

Lesson #1: relax and trust your training

Achievement already unlocked πŸ™‚

Yep – I got this one down. I was more excited than nervous going into this race, and having the Sprint under my belt helped. Also helped that the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for Sunday’s race: warm but not too warm and no wind with a few clouds.

I got butterflies the day before the race when I took my bike out to set up in transition area overnight, but those went away once I got in the water for our 10-10-10 pre-race workout (10 minutes each sport, just to shake out any nerves and warm up the muscles).

The swim wasn’t as fast as I would have liked (I was hoping for 36 minutes) but I think I went wide trying to avoid all the bodies in the water. Swimming over and through a bunch of other people is something I’ve practiced with the team, but am not comfortable with quite yet. I didn’t find anyone to draft.

Here’s the best part about the swim: no nausea, no dizziness, no confusion at T1. I attribute this to earplugs. I had scoured the triathlete discussion boards and found I am definitely not the only person who gets dizzy in open water, and this was the #1 tip. (My friend Erin also told me that during Ironman races she takes a quarter of a Gravol pill to cut her nausea. If I ever do a Half or full Iron distance I’ll try a training swim with gravol if needed.)

Lesson #2: be redundantly, excruciatingly early to set up transition area

Achievement unlocked πŸ™‚

I was up at 5, out of the house by 5:30 and set up in transition area by 6:15, a full hour before I had to line up on shore. Being relaxed and ready is so much better than being panicked.

Lesson #3: know your strengths

Achievement still unlocked πŸ™

Is this one ever really achieved for any of us? I know I have so much potential deep down, but I still found myself during the first half of the bike saying things to myself like:

  • Why the hell am I doing this?
  • This is hard.
  • Legs tired already; maybe I’ll just finish this stupid bike course and not do the run.
  • You know, I can just quit.
  • I could just do this race and never do an Olympic distance again.
Tori on the bike

By the end of the bike portion I was back in my happy triathlete zone.

Obviously I talked myself out of it. This was all during the first 15-20K of a tough bike course with lots of hills at the start. Also, this was not the time to be discovering that Shot Blocks make my tummy sore, and I can’t chew waffles while I’m breathing hard. Thanks be to awesome triathlon race organizers who had two aid stations with PowerGels available. After the first gel kicked in I was saying things to myself like:

  • Well geez louise, this is a RACE, it’s SUPPOSED to feel like I’m working my ass off!
  • This is one of the most beautiful bike courses in triathlon. Enjoy the day.
  • I know the humiliation of just quitting would last forever. Even if I get two flats and/or have to walk the run course, I know I’m going to finish this race, because that’s just how I roll.
  • Shut up legs!

By the time the course flattened out, at the airport, I was fine. I spent much of the last half of the bike in my drops (no triathlon bike for me just yet) trying to make up time. Once again, the bike turned out to be my strongest of the three sports and the part I enjoyed most about the day.

Lesson #4: make it so you don’t have to think at transition area

Achievement unlocked πŸ™‚

My transition times could use some improvement, but in general I didn’t think about it, I just switched from one sport to the next without second-guessing my choices or looking around for gear. I’ve also mastered the art of getting my wetsuit off while still standing. Practice makes perfect!

Lesson #5: Bricks are your friend.

Achievement unlocked πŸ™‚

I felt great on the run pretty much right from the start. No side stitches, no legs feeling like they were someone else’s. I was tired, for sure, but that was because I had already been exercising for 2.5 hours by the time I got to the run. It didn’t stop me from pulling off a respectable (for me) 1:05 for the 10k run. Astonishing considering how little I’ve been running lately, compared to when I was marathon and half marathon training.

Triumphant smile at the end of the race

After the race I went for a dip in the lake. Ahhh! All photos by Connie Dunwoody by the way – she always brings out my biggest smiles. πŸ™‚


I can’t wait for the next race. I’m not sure when it will be, but I know I want to do the Banff Subaru triathlon in September. No definite plans yet. Stay tuned!

*Note: This post has been edited from its original version as of May 2015.


Team TriStars with their medals

TriStars who got on the podium – and that’s not all of them – my team is awesome.


7 thoughts on “Five lessons learned from my first Olympic distance triathlon

  1. Stephen Harris

    Great recap, Tori. I’m with you on all 5 points. For me, speeding up the run (bricks are your friend) and speeding up the transition would move me from bottom-third of the age group to top-third, no question.

    My swim was great – 27:16. Bike was mid-pack – 1:29:20. Run was slow – 1:01:56. Trans were AWFUL! T1 – 5:59, T2 3:29. But, since I wasn’t really concerned with time, I wasn’t aggressive in trans. But for sure, next time, I know what to do (and not do).

    I’m now planning and training for the next race I want to do: Nelson, on the August long weekend. Hoping I’ll be 20lbs lighter by then too, which will help speed things up greatly!

    Looking forward to more great team support and group training with TriStars. What a fun, supportive group, eh?

  2. Tori Post author

    Hey Stephen – congrats – you did great! TriStars is such a good team, I’m glad we’re on it together! When I did the Beginner Tri for MS in April, I did the transition practice they offered the week before (or was it the day before?) and got tips from the experienced people on how to set up fool-proof transition. It really helped. I’ll be going to Penticton Challenge as a spectator and probably doing Banff next. Maybe Metchosin if it’s not sold out yet. Good luck in Nelson. πŸ™‚

  3. Colette Scrimgeour

    Thanks for posting this Tori, learning from others experiences helps me to improve mine. You did it! You finished it! Congratulations!!

    I can’t wait til my dream becomes a terrifying reality (lol)…

  4. Tori Post author

    It’s terrifying but totally worth it Colette. You’ll get there sooner than you think!

  5. Denise McGowan

    This is all so impressive Tori! Jumping into an Olympic 3 weeks after Shawnigan…what can I say, you are a natural Triathlete!

  6. Tori Post author

    Thanks Denise! Now if only the bicycle fairy will bequeath me a speedy carbon fibre TT bike that will float up the hills… πŸ™‚

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