August 2017

Try Tri

Author: Becca Edwards

I felt like I was on a losing streak. Life was kicking my butt with stressors like infertility, hurricane damage, career shifts and financial burdens. I needed a win. Maybe, in truth, we all need a win, because no matter how easy or tough a hand we’re being dealt, a win feels good. Damn good. And it’s especially gold medal awesome when you feel like you keep losing and then, suddenly, you don’t lose. You win.

The first time I heard about triathlons was nearly 20 years ago. My then boyfriend, now husband was training for Kiawah Island’s triathlon—an Olympic distance race that includes a .7-mile swim, 25.1-mile bike ride, and 6.1-mile run. When he talked about his training and the upcoming race, I thought he was insane. How could one person commit to the time-intensive training, the pressure of transitioning from one modality to the other such as the swim to the bike, and the stamina to go full pace the entire race? Even as a lifetime athlete, it seemed daunting to me.

But all those self-defeating thoughts met some seriously sweet foes when I called triathlon competitors Laura Fromdahl and Amanda Walton and asked them if they wanted to have lunch at Delishee Yo. Our conversation went something like:

Me: So, I’m thinking about writing about triathlon training.
Amanda: Awesome.
Laura: Yeah, awesome. When do you want to start?
Me: Me? No, you… Wait, do you think I could do one?
Amanda: Yes.
Laura: Yes.
Amanda and Laura: You should do Naples!

And from that moment on, these women—along with the other dynamic women who train with Fromdahl and Walton like Miki Shimada, Jenny Bonomi, Barbara Prudhomme, Sheri Prud’homme, and Miho Kinnas (to name a few)—and local and very knowledgeable triathletes like Al Olivetti of Go Tri Sports, became my inspiration and my extended family.

The first week, I felt like a neophyte as Coach Fromdahl and Barbara Prudhomme showed me how to put on a swim cap. I had never put one on before and, with my crazy, curly long hair, it was like giving birth to myself—at a public pool, in front of several experienced swimmers, in the only one piece bathing suit I owned (which also happened to be a maternity suit that had lost all elasticity). The second week, I had my steady Eddie Trek bike outfitted for the race as best we could, and it reminded me of the first time I tried on a bra—it fit, but not quite. Week three, I learned to breathe from the left and the right sides while swimming; Olivetti fitted me with some running shoes that finally corrected my hip and foot arch issues, and he loaned me a wet suit.

By week 19, it was go time. I had followed Coach Fromdahl’s workout recommendations and Walton’s food plan more-or-less precisely (exceptions included two separate hedonistic, weeklong trips to Bermuda and Cuba), and I felt as ready as one tri-newbie could feel. My husband Lee, who decided to also compete, and I packed up our bikes and tri gear and headed toward Naples, Florida as the national weatherman yapped about a cold snap that would be biting at our heels all the way there.

On race day, the air temperature was 41 degrees, the water temperature 65 degrees. The wind whipped, creating sizable, choppy waves on the otherwise glassy Vanderbilt Beach. The town of Naples delayed the race, as safety officials debated over the next best course of action, until deciding to change the race buoys—forming what I called the “swun” because it was just shallow enough that one could swim or run that leg. With my support team (Coach Fromdahl and Walton, Barbara Prudhomme, my husband and my other tri buddies) cheering me on, my transition area completely outfitted, and wearing an oversized, full-length, five-millimeter wetsuit, my newly mastered swim cap, and booties, I felt raring to go and, admittedly, terrified. So much so, that when the first start alarm sounded, I bolted toward that first “swun” buoy only to realize five minutes in I had started with the males. Cold and embarrassed, I returned to the shoreline breathless before my actual start alarm sounded. This was not the way I wanted to start, but, as I tell my birth doula clients, things might not go as planned, but come hell or high water, it is going to be your inception story, and a good one at that.

Next were the bike and run, which includes a comical account of how my frigid hands couldn’t put on my bike helmet so a handsome race official had to help me, or the photo finish sprint I did at the end that damn near killed me, but I will spare you the details and cut to the chase. I won for my age group. I did. I got my win. And you can, too. People often think triathlons are out of their reach. I’m living, breathing, injury-free proof this is not the case.

Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (

Five Steps to Becoming a Triathlete

Set a date and a race. Look at your calendar and be realistic. You want ample time to train, and that can range from three or more months, depending on the type of race you are doing and your fitness level. Also, find a destination that excites you or a race date that coincides with a personal goal. For example, I chose Naples because it is a beautiful town and a January race because it gave me incentive to not put on the holiday poundage.

Get a coach. We are super fortunate to have Coach Fromdahl here on Hilton Head Island. In addition to being a competitor and coach, she is a trained physical therapist. Not only will she devise a training program that is safe and approachable, but she can also make adjustments and teach you movements and protocols to address old injuries and potentially new ones.

Ease into the gear. The easiest part about tri training is getting gear happy. Stick to the basics, and people like Coach Fromdahl, as well as other seasoned athletes, can steer you in the right direction. Plus, Go Tri Sports really has everything you need, such as good running shoes, a bike helmet, a bike with decent tires, a swim cap, ear plugs, a waterproof smart watch like a Garmin vívoactive® HR, an outfit that you can swim, bike and run in, like a tri suit, and possibly a wet suit. Keep in mind you can also borrow or find discounted many of these items just by linking into your local tri community.

Remind yourself you can do anything. Whenever you feel like you have plateaued or have a day when you lack motivation or are disappointed with your stats, come back to the fact that you are a winner for even going out of your comfort zone and training. You are safely pushing your mind and body and therefore learning more about yourself mentally and physically, and that is a “can do” approach to life.

Complete first, compete second. Your first race is about completing, not necessarily competing. This was the hardest concept for me. I’m the youngest and only daughter in my family. Being an athletic wasn’t an option growing up; it was a requirement. From the moment I caught my first basketball pass from one of my brothers, I knew there was first place and then there was last. This competitive spirit helps and hurts me. It makes me push myself, but it also inhibits me sometimes from enjoying the real reason why people race. Is it not about winning, per se. It is about challenging and surprising yourself; most important, it’s about the people you meet along the way. These people help you create your own fight song to produce a ditty that can empower you to persevere through the losses and cherish the wins.

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