Friday, September 17, 2010

Interview with a(nother) first time triathlete

"I'm tired of saying 'I can't.'"

My friend Amy is not athletic. Well, she wasn't until recently. She had struggled most of her life with plantar fasciitis but overcame that chronic pain and impediment to activity after surgery a couple years ago. Since then, she has been thinking about doing the Danskin Women's Triathlon. There was just a small catch - she didn't know how to swim. Plus, she was just plain scared. 

Amy and I had lunch this week so I could interview her about her triathlon experience but I only got about two questions in. Amy just unravelled her whole story, from birth of the idea to ... (I don't want to spoil the end!). The rest of this entry is a summary of her tri training, race, and post-race activities. 

Last year, Amy thought about signing up for Danskin but fear got the better of her.

This year, she mentioned her idea of doing Danskin to a friend, J, and they both decided to "just do it." Amy realized that she didn't have any more excuses for not giving it a tri.

Beginning in February, Amy started to train on her own. She ran on a treadmill and went on Sunday bike rides with her partner in crime, J. Amy conveniently didn't think about training for the swim. She was in blissful denial about the fact that she had an open water swim ahead of her.

In June, J signed Amy up for a Sally Edwards triathlon camp and it became apparent that Amy had to face reality. She had to get into the water. At this point, she could have just bailed on the whole idea. But she didn't. She told herself, "I'm not going to give in to being fearful."

Enter Coach Laurie and her triathlon training group at the Y.

To say that Coach Laurie's program is intense, is an understatement. On Amy's first training day, she took on a brick workout. Biking down (and back up) miles-long, very steep Avalon hill taught Amy that she needed to learn how to shift on hills. She didn't think she could make it back to the Y but when she did, it wasn't the end. They immediately set off on a run! The second workout was a lake swim. This was the dreaded activity but Laurie helped Amy overcome her anxiety and followed Amy with a noodle the entire time.

The summer progressed and Amy completed two workouts per week with the tri training group and did workouts on her own as well. She kept us all updated via Facebook, totally blowing me away with the workouts she was completing.

Eventually, race day came. Amy got to the start at 5:30 am but her wave didn't start until 8:00 am., which gave her plenty of time to think about her upcoming event...

(Amy on left)

When the swim began, she walked up to a Swim Angel and requested accompaniment. The Swim Angel volunteers are a great feature of the Danskin Triathlon, making this an excellent venue for first-timers (note: Danskin was my first triathlon, too, in 1993, the summer I met Amy). Amy reported that the swim was about as difficult as she expected but she managed to breast-stroke the entire course. 

This is what a transition area looks like for 3,500+ participants. 

Next up, bike. Amy was looking forward to the bike but for one big hill climbing from Lake Washington to Interstate-90. She surprised herself by cruising up the hill without too much difficulty. In fact, the whole bike leg was easier than she expected. One thing though - she wasn't comfortable grabbing her water bottle while biking and so she did get a bit dehydrated.


After a strong bike leg, Amy set off on her run. One foot in front of the other. At this point, the sun was high and it was a HOT day. Amy was THIRSTY by the time I found her but was encouraged by the sea of women going through this event together. Women passing each other were giving the high-five and words of encouragement. There were also a number of volunteers out to help cheer the women on their way. Even a drum circle at the base of this killer hill toward the end...

The best cheering squad of all though, was the family. Husband, son, and daughter gave this super-Mom big hugs just after she topped this hill. Then, it was a downhill half mile to the finish!

Amy finished strong. I was tearing up as she crossed the finish line. She didn't let doubt or fear control her. And what was she thinking after the long summer of training and accomplishing her goal of completing her first triathlon?

"I didn't want this to just be a checked box on my bucket list. I want to keep going. I want to improve."

So a month later, she completed ANOTHER triathlon, the Cottage Lake Triathlon! This time, her two cuties participated in a kids-tri and they all got to share in the glory.


Next up?

Well, she has already signed up with Coach Laurie to continue training through the fall. Amy's goal over the winter is to learn how to put her face in the water and do the crawl stroke so that next year she can improve her swim time and confidence. She's even contemplating running the Seattle Half Marathon over Thanksgiving weekend. 

What are Amy's tips for other first time triathletes?

  1. If you're not a swimmer, start swimming right away. Get help and do open-water training sessions.
  2. Rent a swimming wetsuit, it helps with buoyancy. 
  3. Train consistently and do brick workouts.
  4. Watch another triathlon before your event so you can see how the event runs. 

Until next year, keep your eyes out for Amy as she tears up the pool with her new crawl stroke!

If you made it through this whole post and want to read about another first-time triathlete, check out my friend Sarah's big race this summer HERE.


  1. Alma - I love you so much!!! thanks for interviewing me. I didn't realize really how hard I worked for this, but seeing it in print from you brings it all home. And I did talk a lot, but I was excited.

  2. Great inspiring story. Way to go, Amy! I'm scared of the biking portion. Maybe I will get over my fear next summer. :)

  3. This story is just FANTASTIC!! Congrats to Amy on her amazing achievements!