Lately I've been thinking back to my first few years in triathlon to remember the excitement I felt at each race. There was no pressure, no anxiety (well, except maybe that first Dragonfly during my panicky, dog-paddled swim), no risk of "failure." The newness of the sport was part of it I'm sure, but after finding these pictures, I realize it was really this awesome race suit that did it for me.
This picture is from Mightymite 1996, my very first race. It used to finish with two laps around the football field at the high school. Please note the man in the background, in his tiny speedo, which was the only thing men wore back then. I also like the woman next to me who looks like she just jumped up from a picnic and started running. Also noteworthy is my neon yellow race belt, which I bought just for the race, and who, after 13 good race seasons, was retired last year and replaced with an identical one (but with those darn snaps instead of the lace lock gadgets).
I was hooked after this race, or at least hooked enough to sign up for another one. Not hooked enough to buy my own bike or start training. I had ridden a borrowed mountain bike with road tires, and when I got to the one significant hill on the course, I had to get off and walk. I had no clue how to shift it. I think I finished 4th in my AG, just out of the hardware.
My second triathlon ever was Dragonfly 1996. It was held in August back then, and this particular year they were draining the lower lake, and the race was held in the much deeper, darker waters of the upper lake. Now this is where I'd learned to waterski, so I knew the lake well. Which meant I had learned a) how deep the water was (over 200 ft!), and b) to be terrified of the overflow spillway right around the corner from the swim (I have no idea why). I attribute my excessive hyperventilation to this.
This picture appears to be before the race, with my great-aunt Ethelyn. I think I was trying to hide my belly button in that suit, and I was almost successful. But I was totally in style, I promise!
I rode the same borrowed mountain bike this time, with no walking hills, even when riding up the dam. The run was an incredibly hilly 4 mile out and back. I remember when I got the paper results in the mail a few months later how disappointed I was: they had taken 10 minutes from my bike split and added it to my run split, changing it from 28 to 38! They probably looked at the hand-written splits and decided there was no way anybody could've ridden that slow.
This race outfit lasted only that first season; I traded up for a one piece the next year. As for the bike, I borrowed a Peugeot road bike that was slightly too big (learned when I dismounted and crashed down on the top tube) for 1997. Peugeot made bikes, you ask? Yes, until 1987. That bike was old even then.
By 1998 I bought my very own bike, a beautiful green Cannondale, clipless pedals, and a monochromatic race suit. I entered an Olympic distance tri in Chattanooga, and did my longest ride ever the weekend before. It was 20 miles. I wrecked at the end of it.
It was a slow progression into the multisport world, and I've enjoyed many years of it. I think it's time to get back to my roots again: the excitement of lining up on the beach, the thrill of racing and seeing how far I can push myself. I may even bring back the neon flower suit for motivation.