Trying to be a Triathlete

By Danielle

To be married to someone that does Ironman triathlons (and fairly quickly at that!), it is somewhat embarrassing to admit that I am terrified of swimming and I am terrified of biking. Sam has been badgering me for months to do a triathlon. Mostly because he knows what a downer I can be to the household when I’m injured, and he’s hopeful that doing more biking and swimming will help keep me injury free for running.

I don’t know whether it was the incessant triathlon sign up pages being sent to me from my husband or the fear of not being able to race Leadville 100 this year if I didn’t stay injury free, but for one reason or another, I signed up for a sprint triathlon.

One would think that a sprint triathlon would be nothing compared to running 50 miles, but I would call that person crazy. It may be easier for some people, but I would take miles in the mountains any day. The four reasons I’m terrified for a triathlon are as follows:

  1. I’m not a strong swimmer. When I say not a strong swimmer, I mean that up until two months ago, I was terrified of blowing bubbles out my nose under water. I have come a long way since then, but I still have a long way to go.
  2. Uh, even if we get passed the not being able to swim thing, there is the whole OPEN WATER thing. As in, dark cold water with who knows what kind of creatures. Plus, a bunch of other people thrashing about. There is a high probability that my water anxiety will come back in full force when someone grabs my foot or kicks my head. Then, after you’ve dealt with all of that, you still need to look up a whole bunch and make sure you’re not by yourself swimming in the wrong direction (the triathlete word for this is ‘sighting’).
  3. So, if we’re lucky, we get through the whole swimming thing. Then we have to bike. I’m not inherently scared of biking, but I am scared of having my feet glued to the pedals. I know, I know, I don’t have to use clip ins.. but 1.) I already have a bike that has them (you don’t realize there are other options when you live with the aforementioned Ironman triathlete), and 2.) If I’m going to do something, I want to try to do it well, and clip-ins seem like the best way to bike in terms of ‘doing it well’. But that doesn’t make me any less scared. I have already fallen twice using them, and I’ve only ridden outside about 4 times. That means, I’m going to try to get my butt out the door a whole lot more before May. Please winter gods, reign it in early this year.
  4. The three bullets above just didn’t seem like enough to really emphasis my anxiety for the swimming and biking portions of the triathlon, so I’ve added another bullet. THESE ACTIVITIES REALLY SCARE ME.

I’ve learned in the past that the best way to combat fear is to be REALLY SUPER PREPARED. That is my plan of action. How you may ask? Let me tell you.

  • I’m (very loosely) using this training plan. I’m actually not following the running portion at all, because I’m currently running 5 days a week. I’ve also cut out one of the biking days (the shorter one), because it was just too much to get in 10 work outs a week (5 run, 2 swim, 2 bike, 1 yoga). So really, I’m not using much at all from the plan, just the amount of time of the long bike ride and the swimming two days a week part. I still do think it’s a good plan, though, and would follow it more closely if I wasn’t running so much more than what is in the plan.
  • Swimming.. oh swimming. I didn’t like the above plan because it just said “swim 14 minutes”. As a complete novice, that’s just not enough. What does it mean? Swim 14 minutes straight? Because that sure as heck ain’t happening. What do I do for 14 minutes? I had a really difficult time finding workouts that were REALLY beginner. A lot of the ‘beginner’ workouts I found started something like “warm up 200m”. Uh.. if I could swim 200m straight, I wouldn’t be here. Then I stumbled upon this and this. I started with the first link, and then transitioned into the plan in the second link. I still had to tweak it a bit since the sprint is 750m instead of 500m, but it made it all feel a lot less overwhelming. I know a lot of people do drills in their workouts, but that all sounded too complicated to me. Maybe I will do more of that if I ever do another one of these crazy things, but right now ‘just swimming’ is complicated enough.
  • Oh, before all of the above, I took a swim lesson. Really, it was just to get me over my semi-water phobia and to help me get my head under water to blow bubbles. I’m not joking, I was that bad. You can ask Sam. He tried to teach me, it didn’t go well. The teacher was really great. She didn’t make me feel like she was teaching a 2 year old, although the skills being taught were very similar. I would like to go back to another one, now that I can actually make it across the pool without a panic attack.

All of this proves that anyone who argues with me about why swimming or cycling is better than running is just wrong. The vast majority of the population can run. You’ve been doing it since you were in diapers. You just put one foot in front of the other a little more quickly than when you walk. But swimming and cycling? No one can naturally do that. That’s why you had floaties and training wheels when you were a babe. So cheers to all of you who overcame or is overcoming those fears, myself included. And if you haven’t yet, I’m here to tell you that if I can do it, anyone can do it. We’ll see what happens in May!


  • Anton. Mont Blanc. Throw in some sexy French, and you’ve got a great video. Check it out.
  • This podcast has been fueling my long runs lately.
  • We are under contract to sell our current house in the ‘burbs and buy a new house in Denver. Should be a fun month!


  1. I’ve done a couple of sprint triathlons! Hoping to do an Olympic distance in August of this year! They are so much fun!! You’ll be addicted! Love that you are facing your fears. I also, was terrified of the swim portion but once you’re in the moment it’s really not bad. Your adrenaline is pumping and before you know it the swim is over! Good luck and most importantly, have fun!!


    1. Thanks for the nice words! I really hope you’re right about the swim portion. I’m not sure I’ll be addicted, I have running for that, but I’m hoping I enjoy them enough to mix them into my workout routine. Good luck with your Olympic!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good on you for taking up the challenge and good luck!


  3. […] much less time in the water. Reason #1 – Danielle is swimming at the same time I am as she trains for her tri and I feel bad making her wait in the hallway. Reason #2 – I’m faster than I was at the same […]


  4. […] my closer friends on the interwebz is that, after much consideration, I have decided not to do the sprint triathlon in May. I have been debating whether or not I should continue to train for this for weeks. It is […]


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