Road to My First Triathlon

Photo credit to Justyna Prazuch (my friend and awesome IronMan triathlete)


What? When is it? How much is it going to cost? Wait, we have to fundraise? Are we really going to swim in the Hudson? 

Previously I signed up for NYRR’s 9+1 program; 9 race registration fees were already earmarked. Problem number one: it was March and the event was in August. There was no way we could secure our own entry, so we had to join a charity.


Problem number two: I did not own a bike since the first grade. Sure, I like to ride a Citibike once in a while, but those 45 lb tanks weren’t going to help me train.


I exuded the enthusiasm of a baked potato. Yes, I swam on the team in high school. Yes, I ran races regularly. I got two out of the three disciplines down. Still, this was a really expensive proposition.


My friends, Brit and Todd, suggested joining the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team In Traning. Brit completed the NYC Tri two years ago. We attended an information session. Much to our chagrin, the fundraising minimum was $2900.


I wanted to bail just because I did not own a bicycle and the idea of begging for money was foreign to me. However, Brit and Todd talked me off the ledge. It was just another journey, creating memories… snowboarding, skydiving, Tough Mudder, triathlon… My inner child whispered “YOLO” and I committed to the challenge. Besides, we would need to pay a chunk of funds for training if we did this on our own.


If I failed to raise the minimum amount, I would have to start my side gig as an exotic dancer or panhandle on the subway (which neither were appealing choices).


I had to start my mental preparation by reading books. I read You Are an Ironman and Be IronFit. The former was an inspirational book and the latter was more technical. I strongly suggest the first because a feel-good book was what I needed to get motivated. The second book helped with details such as transition tips and understanding advanced stuff such as vo2 max. This book was overkill but it was good to read. If you can save money and borrow from the library, then do it!

At the end of March, I bought my first road bike, a Canondale CAAD10. This lead to more frivolous spending on clips, aerobars and a bike computer. Every new hobby meant buying new tools. I saved some money buying a used wetsuit.


After I got my equipment ready, the road ahead involved putting in the work. Coach Scott Willett of Trilife prepared a 4 month plan that included stretching, dietary and training programs. Every week, there were group swim, bike and run sessions. Because I was doing weekend bike-run bricks by myself, I only attended the swimming practices (I did attend a few group runs in Central Park). Those were tough. Coach Mike Galvan put us through the hurt locker each week at Asphalt Green with swimming drills. Some sessions had less than 10 people. At its peak, there were maybe close to 20.


During July 4th weekend, Brit, Todd and I attended a mini triathlon camp at Lake Placid, hosted by our personal tri coaches (and IronMan finishers), Agnies Zbylut and Sam Cardona.


Swimming in Mirror Lake was awesome. It was serene, beautiful and easy to navigate with the line marker at the bottom of the lake. I am certain it is less than pleasing when thousands of swimmers are jockeying for position during the IronMan. On the other hand, swimming in Rockaway Beach (later in July) was not pleasurable. During the LLS TNT open water swim session, the water was choppy and murky.


For bike training, we rode about 40+ miles in Lake Placid and I struggled. There were strong headwinds and the course was hilly. I respected the IronMan competitors. I also ran a 5k and 13.1 mile distance during the weekend. The course had some steep hills and was not always pleasant. However, the LLS TNT training, coupled with Lake Placid prepared me for my first triathlon. I was confident about an Olympic distance triathlon. I probably could have done a 1/2 iron distance as well.


In terms of fundraising efforts, I met and exceeded my minimum by the following:

  • Conducted a happy hour with raffles (liquor bottles) and a small percentage of bar sales
  • Won my 8 week workplace “Biggest Loser” weight loss competition
  • Groveled friends and family
Overall, the journey was not easy for my first triathlon. Many people I met in the program were first time triathletes like myself. Some did not even know how to swim. With a good support group, coaches and friends continuously helping you train for a specific goal/event, completing a triathlon was possible. Winning was a different story. =) Now that I have the experience and all the gear (the upgrade possibilities are endless), I can sign up for a 1/2 or full iron distance triathlon.
Author: Peter Kim
Former chunky child and couch potato, now adult triathlete. I share my experiences to help you embrace an active lifestyle of swimming, cycling and running.