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  • Writer's pictureDella Pierson

LET'S TRI SOMETHING NEW: A Newbie's Foray Into Triathlon

I wake up, it’s hard to breathe. It’s July and hot so that’s probably why. But why am I crying? And whose hand am I holding? It’s Jenn’s hand. This dream is getting weirder and weirder! My feet are wet. People are yelling and taking pictures and I'm trying to

smile but my goggles are filling with tears. Wait! Goggles? Hey, this is no dream. I’m at Delta Lake waiting to be counted into the water for my first triathlon. I can’t breathe because of terror induced panic, my feet are wet because I’m on the edge of the beach, 3 more pairs before it’s our turn to get in the water. Well, we’ve been counted in, we sure as hell better make it out! Now we are standing in the water waiting for the start. I honestly don’t remember the start. Was there a horn or a siren or just a guy yelling, “GO”? I have no idea!

THE KOOL-AID I’m not quite sure how the Kool-Aid went down and I ended up registering for a triathlon. There was some sort of sale on Black Friday and a lot of pressure was applied by Jackie, the queen of Kool-Aid. All of my protests were diminished by her smooth talking and logic.

Jackie: Do you have a bike? Me: Umm, yes, but... Jackie: Good, can you swim? Me: I swam 30 years ago. Jackie: Good enough, it’ll come back to you, like riding a bike! Me: Yes, ummm, can we get back to the bike part... Jackie: And you’re already a runner...

See what I mean by smooth talkin' and logic?! Needless to say, I signed up and announced to Dan that I was going to do a triathlon. Insert eye roll here!


First things first. I signed up for the Fleet Feet winter triathlon program. This consisted of a group swim at the Lemoyne pool once a week, and a group indoor bike ride on Saturday mornings. Yup, I said swimming, which meant acquiring a swimsuit which I had not worn in 30 years. Ugh. Dan and I head to Dick's Sporting Goods. I choose a couple in the size I would normally wear and proceed to the changing room. Now, I’m 55 years old and have been in plenty of changing rooms in my life. My first thought was that the lighting was straight out of a science fiction movie. I squeeze into the first suit and check myself out in the mirror. Holy shit, I thought the lighting was bad, the mirrors are even worse. Only, it’s not the mirrors, it’s me looking like one of those white State Fair wieners on the grill, all pale and lumpy! I feel the tears starting to well up. “Knock, knock. You ok baby? You’ve been in there a while”. “Can you please get me a suit in the next size up?” 15 minutes later... “You ok in there?” "No, I'm not ok! Now go get me the biggest fucking bathing suit out there!” I emerge 45 minutes later, tear stained and feeling like the victim of an alien autopsy wiggling in and out of those horrid suits. Dan says, “I’m sure you look great!” Insert death stare here! First night in the pool, I’m nervous beyond belief. I’m wearing my giant swimsuit and I don’t know a soul. I’m assigned to lane 6, the beginner lane and meet my amazing coach, Sarah. We bond and I know it’s going to be ok.

A few years prior to all this nonsense Dan bought me a really nice bike for my birthday. It was kind of an old lady bike but still pretty cute. I showed up at my first group bike ride this bike and immediately knew that although my bike was cute, the other bikes were beautiful. They were sleek and fast looking. They had skinny tires and serious looking handlebars. Dammit! Guess who’s going to the bike shop?! So, I gave my credit card a good workout and came home with a new bike with disc brakes (whatever those are) and shoes that clip to the pedals. The kid in the bike shop saw me coming a mile away! Let the training begin!

SPRING TRAINING The pool and riding on a trainer are totally different than swimming and riding out in the elements. A whole new set of anxieties. First of all, having your feet firmly attached to your bike on the open road is terrifying. We practiced clipping and unclipping and braking and sipping on our water bottles and all that. We went on group rides that I thought would kill me. I mean, 10 whole miles and a monster hill!

When it was warm enough, our team started swimming at Jamesville Beach. Of course this meant another new piece of gear, the wetsuit. I bought what a seasoned Ironman recommended. The day it arrived I was so excited and couldn’t wait to try it on. Dan was at work but I promised him a picture. The picture he received could have been taken in the dressing room at Dick's. I was sweaty, crying and looked like a sausage. I was told they were supposed to be tight and that it would feel different in the water. Fingers crossed on that promise. I went for a test swim with Jackie in Oneida Lake. That swim was a huge wake up call. I had a full blown panic attack and had to hang on to the kayak Dan was paddling with a pool noodle. The second time wasn’t much better AND I saw a huge dead fish. What the hell did I sign up for? But somehow, I made it through training and to race day.


I make it out of the water! It is probably one of the most thrilling moments of my life! We run up the beach through a gauntlet of screaming people. At the start, I told Sarah to get the money shot of me coming out of the water. The money shot? Yes, the shot where your wetsuit is half off and you look like (or think you do) a total badass. Boy, did she ever come through. This is still my favorite tri picture of me. I’m wrestling my wetsuit off at my bike right beside Jenn! Yay! We survived. There are a lot of moving parts in a triathlon that seem so overwhelming, especially to a newbie. Swim, Transition 1 (T1) from swim to bike, Bike, Transition 2 (T2) from bike to run and finally, the Run. Then there’s the screaming! That’s the best part! Your BFF shows up from Ontario, Canada and your Fleet Feet friends descend upon the venue with signs, pom poms and all the positivity you absolutely need!

I manage to mount and dismount my bike in the right place and don’t embarrass myself by falling off when unclipping. Now for the run. I feel comfortable. My feet are on terra firma and I’m breathing air and not water. It’s a 5k, I got this. Everyone is there! As I cross the finish line in disbelief I definitely feel relieved and grateful for the cheers. I get my medal and a glass of Trish Delish. Hugs, tears and photos (there really is a lot of crying in triathlon) and I’m officially a triathlete! Despite all the trauma, drama and tears, in my car on the way home, I scream out loud to myself, “Fuck yeah! I need to do that again!”

Thanks Jackie!

Swim, bike, run and done

DMP xoxo

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