Chicago Triathlon / Cory Albertson – First Sprint!

5 Observations from a First-Time Sprint Participant, by Cory Albertson

I recently participated in my first race, the sprint distance at the Chicago Triathlon. Just a few months ago the notion of completing a triathlon seemed unthinkable. I have my girlfriend Kimberly to thank for getting me into multi-sport. We are both graduate students with a lot on our plates so joining her to train for a triathlon seemed like a good way to spend time together. I hadn’t expected that I would enjoy the experience so much that I’d be the one rallying her to do the next one!

Our coach, Dave Sek, asked if I would blog about my experience my first sprint in Chicago sprint. In my experiences as a professional poker player, avid skydiver, and fantasy sports expert I know that I’m bound to come across horribly novice writing to an audience of experienced triathletes. Hopefully this post will stir memories of when you were equally green in multi-sport.

  1. The spread in performance is staggering. I’m a statistics guy. Throughout the race I repeatedly thought about the mind-blowing spread in performance abilities among competitors. I was flying past people in all three legs of the race and also being flown past. That the whole event initiates in neatly organized waves seems almost impossible to believe within 10 minutes of the gun going off. It was like chaos out there, and scrolling through race results only further compounds what a cornucopia of abilities and experiences participants have. For my part, I did nothing but exacerbate this element; just one of the 49 competitors in my wave who finished ahead of me spent a shorter proportion of their race on the bike than I did. In other words if a disparity in performance between the bike and the other sports could get you on the medal podium, my career as a triathlete would be off to a decorated beginning.
  2. The swim is not that big of a deal. Like probably every beginner triathlete, the only part of this race I was really concerned about in any meaningful way was the swim. I’m not by any means a great swimmer and the open water gives me some anxiety. The Chicago race presented two major elements I had zero experience preparing for: substantial waves and narrow confines with other swimmers. It should have been enough to rouse a good deal of nerves but watching Kimberly navigate the swim in the International distance put me at ease. “If she can do it for 1500 meters, I can do it for 750,” I thought. Ultimately, it ended up being no big deal and was actually quite a lot of fun.
  3. The days before and after a race are reasons alone to do triathlons. So wait, you’re actually supposed to lay around bingeing on carbs before race day? Yeaaa… I can get into this.
  4. Having a coach really helps. Hats off to Dave Sek for helping me complete this first race. I didn’t start training until about six weeks before the race. Having a coach who is planning and monitoring your workouts and available for training questions made a critical difference. To many of you reading this, completing a sprint is little more than a warm-up to your weekend. But starting from scratch as a triathlete just a few weeks before race day was a little daunting. When I registered for the event it seemed like I was doing so for another person. And in a sense, I was. In just a few weeks of training for this race I noticed considerable differences in appetite, sleep patterns, appearance, and mood and energy levels. I’m not sure I could have seen through to these changes without the training foundation laid out by Coach Sek. Thanks Dave!
  5. Our bodies are pretty incredible. I hope each of you stop once in a while to appreciate just how amazing it is what your body is capable of. For me, that was the greatest reward of this experience. During the run in Chicago, people were dropping like flies. It was supposedly the hottest day of summer. All around, participants were stopping to walk as conditions were in “red” levels. Jogging past them, albeit not at a particularly impressive tempo, I gained a greater appreciation for what the physical form is capable of. Although I could feel a bit of fat sloshing around my belly and waistline, I thought to myself, “I don’t have a perfect body. But it is a pretty good one. After all, it is allowing me to do all of this!”

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