My First Tri

Near my highest weight
I started Weight Watchers on January 5th, 2011.  I was 196 lbs and in not-so-great shape with a cholesterol as high as ever. The worst condition I'd ever been in and nearly the highest weight I'd been with only pregnancy tipping the scales any higher. Working out consisted of taking care of my kids and occasionally going on a one mile killer run to make myself feel like I was doing something good for my body (killer because I felt like dying, not because it was a great run!) I was a foodie and was all about nutrient-dense & organic food, but the addiction was slowly killing and immobilizing me.

Fast forward 12 months: having lost over 35 lbs and had joined the Y, I had just completed a Thanksgiving to Christmas challenge to workout daily and was loving my workouts. I was also getting a little bored and needed a goal to help drive my ambition.  I decided I was going to do my first triathlon and signed up for the SheRox Sprint Tri in Naperville for June 10th.  

Over the course of the last 6 months, I have taught myself how to swim and have poured endless hours into training my body for this race. The transformations I have undergone in this time are barely visable to anyone's eye but the immense strength it has given me internally is more than I can begin to describe.  I love swimming, I love riding, I love running, but- most importantly- I love myself and the inner discipline and strength I've found.  In all my years as an athlete growing up, I never developed these feelings of mind over matter, but I feel so blessed to have found this strength now!

Okay, onto the week of the race...
As the race quickly approached, I found myself having difficulty sleeping.  I had fought musculoskeletal issues (thank you, Dr Karen) and worries about goggles leaking, flat tires, and cold water kept me up or woke me in the middle of the night.  All this translated into a tired woman with an anxious stomach.  They were legitimate concerns but grew larger than life in the middle of the night.  Having a type A personality didn't help matters.  As my sisters and mom came to pick me up for our weekend "All about Me" (LOL!), the stomach was in complete disarray and only got worse as I ate meal after meal away from home and the race got closer...  

June 10th fell on a Sunday...on Monday morning, I found a wetsuit. On Friday night, I FINALLY found a pair of goggles that didn't fog or leak on my face.  Both helped me sleep well those last two nights but the stomach issues persisted...

I'm right in the middle facing the camera :)

One of the times I felt brave enough for freestyling!
The race began at precisely 7AM and the temps were already surging towards 90 degrees.  I was in Wave 20, so my group wasn't set to hit the water until 8:16, so I hung out with my sisters and mom, making frequent trips to the portapotty... darn nerves... and trying to laugh and enjoy the experience.  When the time came to line up, it took everything in me mentally to walk into the water.  I plastered a smile on my face, though, and swore that NO MATTER WHAT, I WAS GOING TO HAVE FUN!!!  The fog horn went off and I began to swim, if that's what you want to call it.  The water was cold... not on my body but on my face and it felt dense trying to push the air out through my nose.  Hyperventilation began as my arms brushed up against kicking legs and my legs hit against others' arms... MUST CONTROL MY BREATHING!!!  JUST KEEP SWIMMING!!!  With the first of 6 laps almost completed, I had to talk myself into staying in the race... praise God He had allowed me the inner strength in my training that saw me through and I found myself revisiting the techniques I had learned in HypnoBirthing... who knew this would apply in other areas!  I opted to do the backstroke when I felt like I couldn't catch my breath and by alternating the two, I got through to the end.  There were even parts where it was shallow enough to walk, so I was grateful that this was the venue I had chosen for my first tri.  As I neared the end and the beach was yards away, I removed my yellow swim cap & goggles and plastered a smile on my face even though my legs felt like they couldn't carry me and I felt like my 1/4 cup of oatmeal was about to make a visit to the beach...but the reality was that I had a bike waiting for me and nothing was going to keep me from it...  :)
The distance from the beach to my bike was probably 1/5th of a mile.  As my sea legs adjusted and I got on the pavement, I came up to a woman in a full-length wetsuit barely walking and looking a little green around the gills.  She was sipping on the lukewarm water that I had immediately disposed of and had made no attempt to remove her wetsuit despite holding on to the long zipper pull.  I figured she needed help and it wouldn't delay me more than a few seconds to do so, so I offered to help her take off her suit and took the zipper from her before she had time to answer.  Poor girl looked like she was going to pass out.  I helped her get her arms out and with a "that feels so much better"... I got on with my run to my bike.  Sure hope that she finished!!

My feet were still covered with sand when I came up to the chalked pink flower that marked my bike rack.  The towel wasn't doing a great job of removing the sand, so I used my Endurolyte Fizz and Heed filled water bottle to spray off the sand.  Figured having sticky feet was better than sandy feet inside my socks!  One Hammer gel and a few sips of my Fizz/Heed drink later and I was on my way... laughing and talking with other gals leaving T1.  It felt exhilarating to be on the bike!!  I used the opportunity to cool down, take in the experience, thank the volunteers keeping the course safe, and shout words of encouragement to the gals I came across on the course.  At one point we were separated from a busy main street by only orange cones.  I found it cool to have all these cars so close and took the opportunity to wave at them until they smiled... I couldn't believe how serious all the other bikers were.  I mean, yes, this is competition and I am very competitive, but let's face it... none of us were going to win, so why not have fun! I wasn't nearly as talkative on the second of 2 laps, but was loving the whole experience despite not feeling great.  
Heading into T2
As I came into T2, I rode past my sisters and mom (finally!) and was so excited to finally be getting to the last leg of the race.  I got off the bike and thought I was going to throw up... the excitement momentarily wore off!!  A volunteer in transition told me "there's some bananas just 5k away"!!  That about sent me over the edge!! ;) How could I think about food?  I'd had to choke down the 3 gels I'd consumed as it was and those slid right down my throat with no effort.  I had to dig deeper than I thought I could but I took off my helmet, slipped on my 10 year old's bandana, and put on my Mardi Gras beads (an inside joke with my sisters) and set off for my 5k in 90 degree weather with the constant ting ting ting of the beads!!  

It felt like I ran for half an hour before mile marker 1 appeared but at this point everything was a PR and I was just looking to cross the finish line upright... so I just kept my legs moving.  I avoided the water at the stations and only hit the one that had gatorade.  The lukewarm water on the beach had made me sick, so I figured all the hydrating I'd done in the days before and during the bike ride would have to hold me through.  I passed half a dozen women with single digits on their calves (meaning their wave took off long before mine)... their strength in enduring the race gave me strength as most were twice my age. I patted them on their backs and told them how great they were doing...  wow, just wow!  What inspiration!!  Mile 2 was almost as long as mile 1 and the same with mile 3, especially since most of it had no shade.  Between mile 2 and 3, a handsome 20-something held up a sign that said

"She swims
 she rides
 she runs  
she calls

Saying hi to my sister as I approached the
finish line... posted only for the bead visual!
... gave me and the gal next to me a good chuckle and was just the distraction we needed to carry us closer to mile 3.  Just as we passed him, we came up to the cowbell crew who was cheering us on by name and this ushered me into the Riverwalk area that was the last half mile of the race and was almost completely shaded!!  I picked up my pace... ting ting ting ting my beads beat against my chest.  Here I'd run almost 3 miles and I still hadn't seen my sisters to make them laugh from the slightly annoying beads I wore around my neck... I finally spotted my mom and my sister when I hit the 3 mile marker and the FINISH line was in sight.  I broke into a sprint and literally felt sicker than I'd been all day... fortunately I beat the vomit to the finish line  and Deborah Whitten crosses the finish... great job ladies!!

I immediately had my timing chip removed and got my Toyota ice towel for my neck, then realized that amidst my nausea, I'd forgotten to find the clock for the time.  I got my banana, skipped the gluten-filled bagels, and my mom and sisters found me and my mom handed me her cell phone that was already ringing home.  I told Brad that I had just finished and he told me that I sounded terrific :) He couldn't believe I had just finished a couple minutes before.  He said that my mom had called him throughout the race to tell him I'd completed each section. (She's AMAZING!)  I asked him what time it was as I was completely at a loss as to how much time had passed... he said just after 10, which meant that I'd finished in well under 2 hours (which was my goal!)  I got my glamour shot taken (HA!) and then got a print out of my finishing times. I was floored...
1/2 mile swim: 18:39 (my fastest before this was 21 minutes!)
T1: 4:42
14.2 mile bike: 48:51 (about 3.5 minute miles! 4 is my usual pace!)
T2: 2:29
5k Run: 29:18 (30 is about my avg pace for a 5k)
TOTAL: 1:43:56 :D
Overall: 594 of 1494
35-40 age division: 133 of 268
I blew my 2 hour goal out of the water (HA!) despite feeling like I was crawling on the bike and run and thinking I was going to die on the swim!!  Can we say ECSTATIC!?!

Despite some crummy adrenal fatigue following a week filled with stress and difficulty sleeping, I am feeling fabulous after the race. No muscle soreness... 

 I'm glutton for punishment and my next beating is scheduled for July 28th in our old home town of Springfield along with a cross country 5k in a couple of weeks and ending the summer with a 1/2.  Brad and Kayla will probably be accompanying me to the next tri and I can't wait to show them what this 35 year old can do!!  Hopefully next time my stomach will be my friend and the water won't be so sufficating! :)


  1. Deb...I have tears in my eyes as I read this. I'm so proud of you. You are so inspiring! I think back to when you started all this. You were doing so great...and now a triathlon! Keep up the good work to help us all want to keep at it too!
    Much love sent your way

  2. So very proud of you, Deb, and so glad I was able to share that special day and weekend with you and mom and Bec. What a special weekend it was!!!! What a special sister you are. Love you! ~Teri

  3. I am so proud of you!!!! What a great accomplishment! You continue to impress and inspire me because of your kindness, courage and determination!!!! Great job lady!!!

  4. Well done Deb! I so loved reading it! Felt like I was there! Great times, wow! You did amazing! Congrats!


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