Not My Last! [Franklin Lakes Triathlon Recap]

Today, I finished my third triathlon…

and I loved it??   

[This is not the recap I thought I’d be writing. I was fully prepared to talk about my triathlon retirement here.]


Those two faces on the left are actually the faces of two terrified ladies, despite how happy we look.

I signed up for this race because Ashley wanted to do it after watching me and her husband do it last year. I didn’t really want to do it, but figured if she were also doing it, it would be fun. Because of her big upcoming move, she dropped out. (And I don’t blame her.) But with her dropping out went any of my own desire to do the race. However, I talked my college roomie Jen (on the left) into doing it and it was going to be her first, so I couldn’t quite drop out…though I sort of wanted to. For months, I called it the “stupid tri.”

I was dreading it. Especially after last week’s rough open water swim. But I’d come that far. I couldn’t drop out…could I?

Believe me, I contemplated it as I walked down to the lake.


It’s one of the biggest tris in New Jersey, and there were a lot of people.

I was terrified. I tried to do some Ujjayi breathing to calm down and center myself. I sort of tuned out my friends as they talked, and did my own thing to get ready mentally.


My high school buddy Steph was also doing the race, and she’s done quite a few tris, so she was a great calming force before the race. She reminded us that we were swimming at a country club lake (so, likely not too many creepie crawlies and pretty clean), and she told us to focus on exhaling as much as possible if we got nervous.

WELL, YOU KNOW WHAT? This all worked! (Along with the gazillions of swim tips you all passed on – I’m going to put together a post soon to share all the tips!)


We started getting in, and I totally froze again. (See the person in the back in the red??? That’s me.) Once again, I contemplated bailing as I let everyone go out ahead of me. I could just watch Jen and Shannon with my mom. It’d be fine. But then I decided to just take it as slowly as I needed to. I let even more people get ahead of me, calmed my breathing down a bit more, and started swimming–with my head out of the water. I remembered putting my head in the water freaking me out last week, so I decided to wait until I felt comfortable swimming to do that. After a minute or two, that felt comfortable, and I put my head in…and it was fine.

I remember looking up, seeing the first buoy and just thinking “oh, okay. There’s the buoy.” No OMG THERE’S THE BUOY. IT’S SO FAR. I turned it, remembered Victoria’s tip for me on Twitter to turn wide to avoid the mass of people at the turn. When she told me that, I originally thought “hey, if I am calm enough to even think to swim wide, that will be a miracle.”

AND I WAS ACTUALLY CALM ENOUGH. I swam over a bit wide and then powered on (powering on is relative to previous states of panic) to the second buoy. I did not backstroke, and I did not panic how far it was. I doggie paddled for a few seconds when I got tired but then went right on back to regular freestyle quickly. Before I knew it, I was at the second buoy.

It should be said at this point that one of the key pointers from Victoria-and everyone else-was to have a song I thought of while swimming. I’ve been sort of obsessed with T-Swift’s I Knew You Were Trouble since hearing it one of Mary’s SoulCycle classes recently. (More to come soon on that too!) I just kept singing the chorus in my head while swimming…and simultaneously wondering how I could do tapbacks in the water.

Finally, we headed back for the water. I was positively ecstatic at this point! I had swum probably 95% in freestyle, with minimal panic. MIRACLES! I finished the swim and ran grinning out of the water.


So freaking happy.

Swim time: 22:51 (1/2 mile) – Swim time last year? 25:16

I have been swimming a little more than last year, but I credit this improvement to not freaking the hell out.


I ran off to transition and hoped that Jen would still be there. We had discussed trying to do the bike together. I got there…and she was there! YAY. We had both survived, and we would have biking buddies. We transitioned and hopped on our bikes.

I’ve been SoulCycling and spinning at my gym, but honestly I haven’t spent much time on my actual bike that goes places, so I was a bit nervous about the bike.

But that, too, was fine! Jen and I stuck together most of the time, and while the hills weren’t easy for me, I felt so much stronger, and I thought about how even if I’ve gained a few pounds this year, I’ve become so much stronger both physically and mentally. Last year, I got off my bike to walk on several steep hills, but this year I was determined not to do that, no matter how hard things got.

Riding with Jen made a huge difference, too, mentally. Last year, I was bummed for most of the bike that my friends were all ahead of me. This year, I was happy to have Jen with me and happy to feel strong. I had so much fun riding with my college roomie and thinking about how much we’d changed in the past 12 years! We were both grinning like idiots. The miles went by so quickly! I remember saying “we’re at 3 already! We’re at 4 already!”…and then saying “we’re already at 13!”

We rode up two steep hills and made our second-to-last turn onto a nice flat road. I thought my last year’s time was around 1:17, and I knew we were going to beat it! As we rode that last flat road, I asked her how she felt about running together. As in, did she want me to run with her or was she okay if I took off on my own? I was happy to do whatever she wanted/needed, but she said she knew I must want to try to PR on the run so she was okay with that. And so was I.

Bike time: 1:10 (17 miles) – Bike time last year? 1:16

I knew I’d PRed on the bike and figured not panicking on the swim had gained me some time, too, so I thought I’d probably be looking at an overall PR! Going into the race, I just wanted to PR on the run, since that was all I cared about.


I saw my mom and Jen’s boyfriend just before transition, and I grinned at them before hopping off the bike and high-fiving Jen.

I racked my bike, took off my helmet and sunglasses, and I was off! Last year, my legs felt like serious jelly the first mile, so I reminded myself this would probably happen again and not to push it too hard the first mile as I ran off the jelly. I looked down at my watch at the end of the first street we ran down and was thrilled to see an 8:30 pace. UM, OKAY! After the swim and bike? On jelly legs? Things could only get better from here!

There was a water stop coming up just after Mile 1, so I waited until just before then to take some Margarita Shot Bloks. Last year, I felt like magic after fueling at this point, and I started looking forward to this here, too. “Well, wait,” I thought to myself. “That doesn’t mean this run will be awesome, too.” I caught that negative self-talk and realized I just needed to visualize a strong run. I took water from some sweet little high school boy and he pointed to some guy just ahead of me.

“Pass him!” he whispered to me.

DONE, kind young sir. I chicked that fine man and then decided to pass as many people as I could the rest of the race. My legs were kind of tired, but overall, I felt amazing. I was happy to be almost done, happy to be in the part of the race I felt the strongest and happy to be feeling good. When I faced a hill or started feeling tired, I reminded myself I was almost done. I saw Steph’s family on one tough hill and was grateful to see them out there.

I alternated between imagining I was at mile 2x of a marathon or that I was running a 5-mile race. And then I picked someone else to pick off…and did so. I grinned like an idiot for the photographers. I was having SO much fun! I hit Mile 4 (out of 5) around 33 and remember thinking that unless I fell apart, I’d certainly PR my last time of 43:xx. As soon as I hit 4 miles, I turned things up. I could do anything for ~8 minutes. Or, as it turned out, 7:33!!!!


The finish line was packed with spectators and there weren’t a ton of runners coming through, so it felt like everyone was there for me. I caught sight of my mom and Jen’s boyfriend, and I was so so happy.


Best cheerleader ever.

Run time: 41:42 – Last year: 43:59

Overall time: 2:20:50 – Last year: 2:32:01

Going in, my biggest goal was for the race to not be terrible. My secondary goal was to PR in the run. Other than that, I came to the race with zero expectations…and left with a PR in each leg and an overall PR of 12 minutes!

I truly expected to write that this would be my last triathlon…but I loved this one!

And a little open water swim has nothing on me.

Did you ever go into a race with zero expectations and come out pleasantly surprised? Do you have any fun tris on the horizon? (This is especially directed to those in the NY tristate area. Not saying I’m looking for another one…but I wouldn’t mind hearing about yours.) Triathletes: what’s your favorite leg?

48 comments on “Not My Last! [Franklin Lakes Triathlon Recap]

  1. Patty(

    ok so I always said I would never even attempt a tri…but you may have convinced me to try this one. I think I can handle those distances…well not sure about swimming because I also would panic…but I’m kind of curious! Maybe something to look into for next year πŸ˜‰

    Awesome job lady, and congrats on the PR!!!

  2. Shauna


    Can you hear me yelling from Oakland?

    BTW 123 by Britney is totally my tri power song. 1-2-3….swim-bike-run….It works.

    You think I was kidding about long-distance buddy training for a 70.3. I guess we have to learn to clip in…

    1. Theodora

      @Shauna: Really don’t think I’m interested in 70.3 any time soon…BUT I do think I want to look into clipping in. Shannon has these awesome pedals that are half clip/half regular that I want to look into.

      1. Shauna

        @Theodora: I hear you. Oly for me next season and probably half iron the year after. Now that I’m not constantly panicked about dying on my bike, I’m annoyed that I’m losing efficiency on my platform pedals. My friend has the dual sided pedals and loves them.

  3. Shannon


    LOVE this post! Had so much fun this weekend ROCKING this race with you and Jen. Just let me know when your next tri is; I’ll have you swimming in the Hudson in no time! πŸ™‚

  4. Kristina

    Way to go! Especially improving in all legs of the race – nicely done!
    I think that I’ve almost always performed better at the handful of tri’s I’ve done when I go in without major expectations, but I haven’t yet figured out the why, except that they are probably easier courses!

  5. Abby @ Change of Pace

    Wow- congratulations, Theodora! It sounds like the race was such a positive experience from start to finish! A PR in each discipline doesn’t hurt either!
    I’m happy to hear the swim was panic free. It can be frightening to panic!
    I have an ironman next weekend and am pretty scared. It’ll be my third but also the one I’m going into least prepared. The good thing about that is the pressure is off!

    1. Theodora

      @Campbell: do it! Honestly, I didn’t train a ton. I think if you are in relatively good shape, it’s doable without a lot of specific training.

  6. Carli

    Great recap! Aorry to say that you haven’t convinced me to try though. I can’t imagine myself on a bike.

    I do love how you triumphed over the swim!

  7. Molly Ever After

    That’s so awesome! Congrats! Doing a tri is on my to-do list in the next year or two. I swam in high school and I run now, but I’m terrified of the biking. I don’t even own a bike!

  8. Victoria

    Woah, now, that is some serious closing speed on that run! You must have been passing a lot of people. CONGRATULATIONS on PR’ing by such a huge margin, and on staying focused and calm during the swim!

    Two years ago, I did the Pequannock Sprint as my first triathlon, and it is a fun race – – maybe that would be a fun next triathlon for you? Or, if you want to do an Olympic distance race, Nations Triathlon is in early September and is really beginner friendly.

    1. Theodora Post author

      I did pass quite a few people πŸ™‚ That kept the run really fun! Seriously, I can’t thank you enough for all your tips. And thanks for that Pequannock Sprint link…that looks like a nice easy one πŸ™‚

      I just looked up the Nations Tri – is swimming in the Potomac as awful as it sounds?? Those buoys every 100m do look pretty awesome though!

      1. Victoria

        @Theodora: The people in our tri club say it’s fine. They test the water quality relentlessly and did cancel the swim once because of bacteria levels (post-hurricane runoff was the cause). So, if the swim is on, it’s safe.

  9. Jenn

    That is absolutely awesome! Congratulations on a job well done! I don’t think I could ever do a tri (open water in Florida scares the bejesus out of me and I’m a lousy biker), but I love, love, love reading about them. I’m so glad you exceeded your own expectations and had a great experience!

  10. Megan

    AMAZING! Congrats! I am bookmarking this to read before my next tri. Love the idea of singing a song in your head during the swim. I’m definitely going to have to try that. OWS panic is my biggest problem, and your tips on centering yourself are awesome.

    I am so impressed that you ignored your desire to quit and just pushed through.

    The bit about the volunteer is awesome. I love it! Volunteers are just incredible.

  11. Jennifer O

    Awesome job getting this race done. Sometimes when you don’t pressure yourself you can get amazing results. Triathloning can be so fun, just a bit time consuming to train for. Keep on, keeping it on!

    1. Theodora Post author

      yeah – since I’m usually either training hard for a running race or taking some downtime in between, I think I like my very casual tri training πŸ™‚

  12. Laura Y

    Congratulations! This is fantastic and I have to tell you I absolutely love this post.

    I know what you mean coming into a situation with not so great expectations and then being pleasantly surprised. Being able to stay focus on the present moment, really crushing and knowing that you are not doing alone are the biggest takeaway from this post!


  13. Kim

    Wow – great job – big drop in time!!!
    I’ve never done a triathlon (and probably won’t) because of the swimming part. I can swim but hate to and I’m pretty sure I would totally freak out during the swim.

  14. meghan @ little girl in the big world

    Congratulations Theodora! It sounds like you had an amazing experience, and it’s so cool that it went better than you possibly could have planned. Awesome job on all the PRs. This makes me so excited for my first tri in July!! And I love what the high school boy said to you. I might steal it and use it in the future when I’m cheering.

    1. Theodora Post author

      @Annie @ Annie Get Your Run: I got mine at a bike store. It’s a hybrid. I went for a hybird at the time because I didn’t know how into biking I’d get and didn’t want to trop a ton of cash on it. I do sort of wish I had just gotten a road bike, but my bike has served me just fine. It’s a Giant Dash 3, and here’s more info from when I got it.

      I went into the bike store thinking I wanted something totally different and walked out with this, so try a few.

  15. Liz H

    1) You are a total boss. Congrats on the PR!
    2) This spring, I randomly signed up for a 10 miler on a Friday night and ran it on Saturday… and matched my PR to the second (so I like to pretend it also counts as a PR). Pleasantly surprised!

  16. Jen

    Wow, great job girl! I’m supposedly training for my first tri in 3 years and I’ve already decided it will be my retirement one, too. But your experience gives me hope!

  17. Rachel

    I may be the minority but I love the swim! My first tri of the season is next weeekend and I am super stoked to try out my new wet suit. Totally dreading the run though.

  18. Tara@PNWRunner

    Congrats on a new PR of 12 minutes. Thats amazing!! I need to look up my old times, since I am doing one in August. Its been like 7 years since my last. Oh man the swim is going to kill me. I need to start swimming asap!!

  19. Bonnie

    You ROCKED this event! Way to go, Theodora! Loved the way you did the recap w/last year’s comparison’s too. And amazing job with getting over your fear and panic of the water – such a great accomplishment and you blew your time out of the water too!

  20. Kathleen

    Reading this was so helpful! I am competing in my first triathlon in just a month and I’ve been obsessed with reading different people’s stories… love your blog!

  21. Catherine

    Congrats! Love these triathlon posts. I know the tri season is over now, but if you’re looking to make the leap to Olympic distance next year, the Westchester triathlon is a great one. It starts and ends in Rye and you swim in the Long Island sound–saltwater, but no waves or anything and your sightlines are great. Have you ever thought about swimming in a wetsuit? I only ask because they make you totally buoyant–it helps a lot of people during their swim “freakouts” (whether before the swim or during) to know if they need to rest, they can just stop swimming and hang out in the water without having to tread water at all because of the wetsuit buoyancy.

    Personally, my favorite leg is the bike–a lot of that has to do with the fact that I’m an AWFUL runner. The Westchester this year was my first Olympic tri and I “ran” 12 minute miles. At least I set the bar low so I can’t go anywhere but up next year!


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