My First But Not My Last-Series 33 Olympic Triathlon Vancouver

By Carissa

Nineteen weeks of training, six months in the pool, and three months learning the art of riding on the road was all summed up this weekend with my first triathlon.  The Series 33 Vancouver Olympic Triathlon is a .92 mile swim in Klineline Pond, 24.8 mile hilly bike ride through a rural and upscale part of Vancouver, and 6.2 mile run through scenic Salmon Creek Park.

Jodi and I in the transition area before the race began.
I went into triathlon training a runner.  I wasn’t confident I could pick up new sports because running is the only sport I’ve ever excelled at.  Once I learned to swim I spent my time in the pool thanking God I could do it.  My first bike ride was intimidating but I instantly loved it.  Being on this journey of new experiences led me to approaching race day with a thankful heart.  I was genuinely excited to take these new skills and give it a go.

Body marking.  I thought this was really cool.  Why don't they do this at running events?
When it came to the swim I was definitely underprepared.  Though I’ve made a lot of improvement in the pool I only managed one twenty minute swim in open water.  My take away was I really didn’t have the whole sighting thing down.  I thought I could just Google some tips and wing it on race day.  Wing it I did and it wasn’t pretty.

Tanya and I on my only pre-race open water swim
But first the race nerves.  I felt good at the beginning of the race.  I was confident I could cover the distance.  I figured I would be one of the last out of the water and hoped I would make up time on the bike and run.  Once the swim was underway I quickly became panicked.  My heart was beating like a jack rabbit from race nerves.  This is a common occurrence when I start a race but I’ve never experienced it in the water.  It was horrible.  I became completely discombobulated.  I was close to Jodi and that made me nervous too.  I basically floundered my way to the first buoy breathing every other stroke and attempting to calm my mind.  Eventually my heart slowed and I could start getting into a rhythm with my stroke.

Next complication: sighting.  I was not swimming straight in the water and I wasn’t sighting frequently enough.  Result?  I was off course and wasting energy and time with my extra “side trips.”  At one point I got so close to the shore I actually lost sight of the buoy and Jodi (bless her heart) was able to call to me and tell me I was off course.  (I had already figured as much since the buoy had disappeared.)  Aside from the swim execution being such a train wreck I really felt a sense of accomplishment just being in the water.  I had never swam around a lake before.  I thought that was kind of cool.

Here is a two minute video that shows me trying to find a rhythm in the water, Jodi facing panic, a little synchronized swimming, and my need to "cut in".

Once out of the water and into the transition area, I was shaking with adrenaline.  As quickly as I could I was stripping off my swim gear and donning all my bike items.  Jodi was on my heels coming out of the water and entered the transition area asking how my swim went.  I said something to the effect of, “I can’t talk right now.  I’ll tell you later.”  I was all business.  I had some competitors to chase down.

I was excited to get on the bike.  I’m fairly comfortable on it and have way more confidence in my cycling than swimming.  Once again I was faced with being underprepared on race day.  It was misting and the roads were wet.  Not once have I cycled on wet roads.  During training I deemed them dangerous and avoided riding outside on those days.  Race day left me with no choice.
Coming in from the bike.
On the bike I settled into a groove.  To my disappointment the only other competitors I saw the first few miles were cyclists doing the sprint course.  In the second half of the course I passed two men in their fifties and one woman.  This moved me into third position out of only six for the ladies.  The roads were more wet at this point and I was really conservative on the turns.  At one point I could feel my back tire skid as I slowed for a turn and I wanted to make sure I didn’t wipe out going around a corner.  As I pulled into the transition area I was extremely thankful for a safe ride.  I saw the second place woman beginning her run.  Could I close the gap and pass her?

Out on the running course my legs felt both energized and sluggish.  It was as if half of my muscles were fresh and ready to fire and the muscles groups I used for the bike were like, "Hold on a minute.  We’re tired!”  I knew six miles wouldn’t be a breeze after two hours of racing so I kept it conservative.  Before the turnaround I caught up to and passed the number two female.  Yay for being strong on the run!  Not long after the turnaround Jodi and I crossed paths.  We gave each other high fives and shouted encouragement.  By mile four I was starting to fall apart but I held on until the finish.

I think the photo (above) of me coming into the finish says it all.  I was thrilled.  Reflecting on the day I feel like I executed well (okay maybe not on the swim) and I am happy with my pacing.  All around it was a fantastic morning and best of all was sharing it with my Sole Sisters.  I didn't have any family at the race to support me so it was all the more special that Tanya spent her morning cheering her heart out for us.

It may be the end of tri season here in the Pacific Northwest but I’m already dreaming of swim~bike~running my way through next summer.  I hope Jodi and Tanya will join me in my adventures.

Stats: Overall: 2nd Female, Swim 36:16, T1 2:33, Bike 1:30:30, T2 1:19, Run 45:55


  1. Got any room for another sole sister to join you in that swim-bike-run summer next year? This TOTALLY makes me want to do it!!

    I wish I didn't have to work last Sunday, I would love to have cheered you on! You're amazing, so proud your determination :)

  2. I love all of these pictures!! I agree with Devon- this totally makes me want to swim-bike-run! Congrats again on an amazing job! :-)