Swim. Bike. Run. - Series 33 Triathlon Vancouver

by Jodi

Sole Sisters pre-race.  Those are the race buoys behind us.
Swim.  Bike.  Run. This weekend Carissa and I finished the olympic distance Series 33 Triathlon Vancouver.  It rained the entire time we raced.  The swim was long with a learning curve on how to swim straight.  The bike was all hills and beautiful scenery.  The run was flat and serene.  The finish line brought relief.

Carissa and I viewed the bike course earlier this week.  My heart sank as we drove up and down one mammoth hill after another.  Even the parts that looked flat-ish were not.  I have never chosen to ride a bike course so consistently difficult.  Seeing the route turned me into a ball of nerves.  All the way until race morning.
Every once in a while we wear real clothes and some makeup.  And then we don't recognize each other.
The night before the race, I slept over at Carissa's.  Tanya - the best cheerleader ever - got up super early to ride with us to the race.  I was a nervous wreck, twitching in my seat and deep breathing through wave after wave of pre-race butterflies.

Body marking.  That random dog makes me laugh.
Once we got to the park and started setting up our gear in the transition area, I felt more focused and less nervous.  Then my family arrived and made my day.  Curt got all four kids up at the crack of dawn to stand in the rain for hours to watch us race.  He steals my heart over and over again.  But I digress.
My family - God knew I would need their support during the swim.  How I love them!

Distance: .92 miles. Goal time: 36:00 minutes.  Actual time: 37:11
after our practice swim.  Ready to get in the water for real.
Before the swim started, the race director opened the water for warmups.  I anticipated that putting my face in the murky lake would induce fear or panic.  Surprisingly I felt nothing but peace.  Many of you were praying specifically for "peace, not panic" for me in the water.  I felt your prayers.

Before Carissa and I headed to the start, we got our group together and huddled for prayer.  As we walked to the start of the swim, a verse from Isaiah 43 came to mind.

"But now, this is what the LORD says - 'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you."  

I wondered why God gave me that verse since I felt so peaceful, but I appreciated the reminder that God was with me in the water.  I quoted out-loud to Carissa the verse God used to help me through fear during my training.  "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid.  For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.  Let's do this!"

Then we got in the water.

The swim started and I felt blanketed with peace.  I was about 100 yards into the swim when I got punched in the face with a fear so gripping that I could hardly breathe.  It came out of nowhere and all I could think was, "I HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE WATER!"  

It was completely irrational and I knew it but the fear was all consuming.  In that moment, I didn't care about getting the finisher's T-shirt.  I didn't care about the hours of training I would be throwing away.  I didn't care that intellectually I knew I could swim the distance.  I didn't care about the people praying and those who have followed our training offering encouragement along the way.  All I knew was that I had to get out of the water and the humiliation of quitting wasn't a deterrent.  My race goal instantly shifted to just finishing the swim.

By God's grace, my family and Tanya were standing on a pier just off from where I was swimming.  I looked at them and yelled, "Pray for me.  All of a sudden I'm panicking." Tanya hollered, "You know you can do this distance.  Nice and smooth.  You've got this." So I swam about ten more strokes.  Then stopped in front of the dock and cried, "Curt, I don't know what to do.  I'm freaking out."

Curt knows me well.  He calmly said, "Turn over on your back.  It's okay to go slow.  Just like you're in the pool.  There you go..."  So I did.  Slowly the fear released its grip on my mind.  I was really rattled but able to start swimming again.  I don't know what I would have done if Tanya and Curt had not been there offering up just what I needed in that short, but terrifying moment.

Carissa was just ahead of me in the water, blazing the trail through uncharted waters for both of us.  My kids chased us around the edge of the lake screaming encouragement. Rescue boats shadowed us as we slowly made our way through the course. When the fear tried to creep back, I remembered Isaiah 43.  "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you."
Twinsie Swimmers
I was in the water, but I was not alone.

Our Crew was waiting for us on the beach.  I watched Carissa come up out of the water.  A minute later, so did I.  When I my feet touched the bottom of the lake I started crying.  I did it!  I finished the swim without quitting.  Thank you Jesus!
Out of the water at the finish.
The rest of the race was just fun.  I took WAY too long transitioning between events, chatting it up with Curt and the kids while I switched shoes and put on my bike jersey.  I asked Carissa how the swim went.  She gave me an incredulous look and said, "I can't talk about it now.  I'm racing.  I'll tell you later."  Now that we see our splits, my transition times were DOUBLE the amount of Carissa's!  (Note to self for next time:  less chatting.  More focus!)

Distance: 24.8 miles.  Goal Time: 1 hour and 35 minutes.  Actual Time: 1:34:19

The bike was tough, but not as bad as I envisioned.  My cousin, a cycling expert, gave me some advice on how to ride the hills.  Her words, "Go medium to hard up the hills, medium across the top, and recover on the downhill.  Keep spinning..." were so helpful on the monster hills. I made it to the top of all the steep hills that seemed to NEVER.EVER.END without stopping.  The portion with the roller coaster hills was actually fun to ride.  Bombing the downhill on a bike is a new kind of wonderful.

After the turnaround for the sprint distance bike course, I didn't see any other competitors on the course.  Being alone on a scenic, country road made it difficult to maintain a race mentality and not lollygag.  Carissa told me I would be in trouble if I stopped to take pictures during the race.  I took one from the seat of my bike - just to be rebellious -and texted it to her after the race.
Just for Carissa - that hill was much steeper than it originally appeared and was a bear to climb.
The rain picked up toward the end of the bike making the last couple of hills and turn back into the park a little unnerving.  I was happy to dismount safely and move on to the run.

Distance: 6.2 miles.  Goal Time:  Anything under 8 minute miles.  Actual Time:  49:09 minutes (7:54 pace).

The run was flat and scenic. I forgot to start the running watch that I was borrowing and had no way to track my time or my pace.  So I just ran. "Slow and steady" was what I kept telling myself.  I really wanted to run the course without feeling depleted so I plowed along at a pace on the edge of challenging and comfortable.  I forgot to eat during the bike-run transition and had to stop at an aid station to eat.  I lost some time on my snack break but needed the fuel to have the energy to finish the race.  There was nothing record-breaking about my pace, but I felt strong and capable as I approached the finish.

My kiddos greeted me on the bike path and ran me in toward the finish.  I saved a little kick for the end and started sprinting.  Right past the finisher's chute.  I had to turn around and backtrack to cross the finish line, much to the delight of all the athletes gathered around cheering.  DUH!  Talk about a blonde moment.
...and the finishers chute was the area marked off with cones.  I love how confused Carissa looks in this picture.  
It was such a relief to finish this race.  I headed straight to the T-shirt table for my finisher's shirt and will wear it proudly.  Hooray for finishing!  Since this was such a small event, I even won a medal - second place in my division (of three).  The medal and my bib number are already hanging on our Racing Wall of Fame.
Swim. Bike.  Run. We did it.  Give me enough time to forget about the fear and Carissa just might be able to talk me into another triathlon.

Thank you Sole Sisters for your encouragement, emails, text messages, and Facebook love.  We felt so supported and loved by you all.


  1. Way to go!!! You had some very realistic goal times and even though you fell a tiny bit short on the swim it was still very close and you made up the difference in your other events. You were so ready for this and you nailed it!! Great job pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and trying something different. This gets me excited to try a tri :-) someday!

    1. Thanks Tia. The experience gets a little sweeter and more "fun" the further out I get from the Fear Factor. I would like to build on the base we've created and see if we can get better. When you start at the bottom, there's no place to go but up. Let us know if you do a tri. It would be fun to follow your progress.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you Claire. It was really exciting to finish. And really cool to know so many other Sole Sisters were supporting us with prayer and encouragement!