Who’s Got 2 Thumbs And Just Did A Triathlon? – Valpo Tri 2010

This guy.

After 400m swimming, 12.4 miles biking and 3.2 miles running, I’m alive and I’m proud to say I finished!

I’m pumped that I did it, but not so pumped about my time. My goal for the race, was 1 hour 15 minutes. I actually thought that that was a realistic time for what I wanted to do. In reality? I wasn’t even CLOSE. As it turns out I made quite a few miscalculations…let me explain…

The Race

The 20-29 male age division was the first wave to start.  I wedged myself somewhere in the middle and we all took off as they sounded the horn. Everyone was kicking and grabbing trying to find the water we were supposed to be swimming through, but with so many athletes it just seemed like we were swimming through people. I started to swim really fast as I was caught up in the chaos, but realized I didn’t need kill myself on the first leg of the race. I slowed down to my regular pace and finished right around where I thought I would. I usually swim 50m in a little under a minute in the pool, so I expected to finish right around 8 minutes.  While making my goals the other day, I gave myself 10 minutes, since it was a new environment [open water] with lots of other people and the added part of the race between between finishing the swim and getting to the transition area mats.

Swim Time: 8:56 – Right on target.

I got to my bike, washed the sand off my feet in my little pan of water I brought along [because I’m pro like that], threw my shirt on, tied my shoes, strapped my helmet on and started pedaling away on my killer mountain bike [because I’m pro like that].

Transition #1: 2:04 – Not bad.

This is where it got fun hard.

Ah, biking. This was the easy part, right? Just 12 miles on nice, flat, Indiana roads. Wrong! Apparently Valparaiso decided to pick the few roads in the northern Indiana region that actually have hills. The terrain was a surprise to me but I kept going. I thought I was pedaling along at a good clip but I started to notice a pattern. I was pedaling twice as fast as the guys around me, but EVERYBODY was passing me. What’s going on? Then I realized:

It’s your bike stupid

The following is a public service announcement for any future triathletes:

If you ever do a triathlon DO NOT use a mountain bike


Now I don’t want to blame my poor biking time on my mountain bike, I realize now that I was woefully unprepared for the cycling portion of the event anyways and I wouldn’t have set any records even with some amazing top of the line bike, BUT I definitely think it played a part.

I’m not of the school of thought that you have to have super nice equipment in order to compete well, but it is important to have the “right” equipment. I honestly did not think having a road bike would make that big of a deal, but it turns out they’re called “road bikes” for a reason, they’re made for the road! The width of the tires on road bikes means there’s a lot less friction on them than on the mountain bikes, making it much easier for them to keep up their speed. Also, the road bikes tires are much bigger as well so you can travel farther without doing as much work. I know this is really elementary, but was one of those things [at least for me]  that you really only start to notice when everyone starts passing you. There was one other guy on a mountain bike that I kept leapfrogging and commiserating with throughout the bike portion. We both took turns at watching other zoom by us while we pedaled away frantically on our mountain bikes while going nowhere.

[Don’t believe me? Watch this video. See how fast I’m pedaling & how slow I’m going. Yes, I know I look like an over-sized 12 years old on an under-sized bike]

Valpo Triathlon – Bike from Joel Runyon on Vimeo.

Between my unpreparedness & poor choice of bike, I ended up sucking pretty hard at this part of the race and I was not very happy with it at all. I ended up 16 minutes slower than what I hoped to be. Instead of clipping along at 20mph I dragged along at about 14mph, which isn’t what I was hoping for.

Bike Time: 52:58 – The second slowest biking time in my division…suck suck suck.

Note: If not having a road bike is the only thing keeping you from doing a triathlon, suck it up and do the tri on your mountain bike. You will go slower and it will be harder, but at least you’ll do it. If you’re just using your lack of a road bike as an excuse not to do a triathlon, screw it and do it on your mountain bike. However, that said, if you have a choice, go with the road bike. It will help…a lot.

I got to the second transition area, jumped off my bike, took off my helmet, ran my bike to the rack, ran around the loop and off to the running portion.

Transition #2: 0:54 – Under a minute! Woot!

I started the running section, but I’m not sure you could call what I did “running.” It was more like plodding. It’s a very weird transition from cycling to running because you’re using your legs in both events, but in very different ways. So not only are your legs tired from the biking, but they’re also trying to change from “cycling mode” to “running mode.” I never actually practiced this before, so this was completely new to me and caught me off guard.

I won’t lie, I was pretty slow.

The route took us down a neighborhood road, to a cul-de-sac and back. 3.2 miles.  Unfortunately, the roads didn’t have many trees and the sun was out for the day so it was hot as well. There were a few times I just wanted to stop and walk for a bit, but I just made myself keep “running” along, no matter how slow that was. As I passed the 3 mile marker and got closer I heard music and got pumped up and started to pick up my pace [you can’t look tired at the finish line right?] but I was immediate deflated when I realized the song was Taylor Swift “You Belong With Me.” Really? I mean she’s a step above Miley Cyrus but still. Other people get to run into an Usher soundtrack or the Rocky montage theme song, and I get to finish with Taylor Swift. Awesome.

Run Time: 31:15 – Bleh.

Total Time: 1:36:02End result? I’ll take it.

At the finish line


It’s funny how things work out. I was worried the whole time about the swimming part because I’m not much of a swimmer, but it was actually the easiest part for me. The transitions [which were the other piece I was worried about] weren’t terrible either and actually averaged out to be 90 seconds a piece, which is what I was shooting for. The hardest part for me overall was the biking [which absolutely gassed me] and then transitioning from the bike to the run and getting my legs used to the difference. I didn’t practice either of those, and those are what gave me the most problems. I knew I was going to be slower on the run because it was after everything else, but I really underestimated how much the biking would take out of me.

Despite not having a stellar race time, I did have a great overall time during the race and most importantly: I finished. Taylor Swift music and all. It’s definitely an exhilarating thing to be able to finish a triathlon and knock another thing off the impossible list at the same time. Every time I’m able to cross one off, it makes all the other items on there seem a little less impossible. I’m planning on doing more triathlons in the near future and definitely am going to change a few things in order to be more competitive, but for my first one, I’m just happy that I finished!

Also: For those of you interested in more of the results:

Want to do your first triathlon ever? With Impossible TRI, you can start training today and be ready to run your first triathlon in 3 months. Find out more about Impossible TRI here.


Grow Stronger, Do The Impossible

Get weekly emails on how to build a stronger mind, a stronger body and stronger life and do the impossible.

No Spam. Ever.


  1. Trever Clark says

    You’re a rockstar, dude. Congrats on finishing, and sorry to hear about the Taylor Swift finish line music Phail! LOL

      • Heather says

        I wish i would have read this Article before I ran my first sprint triathlon yesterday!!! I unfortunately couldnt open your video but i am sure it is exactly what i felt!!!! All i kept hearing was passing on your left as people zoomed by me with road bikes as my mountain bike plodded along! I had 50 people pass me on the bike after coming out of the water! Definitely defeating – but glad i wasnt alone! Thanks for this post!

  2. Chris Gerard says

    I won’t lie…I laughed pretty hard at the video. Going into this I smiled when I saw you wanted to average 20mph on a mountain bike, but hey, you gave it a great effort!

    All the best in your continued training. Once I get over an injury I’ll be pounding pavement again. No bike yet, it’s still in Michigan, but I should get it come September (which is still summer here in Knoxville)

    • says

      Haha, I’m glad I gave you a laugh. I told you, it’s HARD on a mountain bike =). Also, next time, instead of just smiling when I’m naive, TELL ME…haha.

      It was a great experience! Definitely let me know when/where you do any races if you do some this fall!

    • says

      I’m sorry Steve, but Imma I get back to you, but I just can’t get past the fact that Beyonce had one of the best videos of ALL TIME! ONE OF THE BEST VIDEOS OF ALL TIME!

  3. says

    Man, great job! Who cares if it wasn’t what you were shooting for? You did something that most people will never, ever do! I can’t wait to hear about your next event knowing how much you’ll be prepared for.

    Really, I think there is a lesson here for all of us. No matter how much we prepare for something, we only learn the reality by doing it. The difference between a mountain bike vs street bike would never have crossed my mind either. You’ll never be surprised by that again!

    I still say hats off to you and I’m super impressed…especially with the swimming part. Pretty sure I’d have sunk to the bottom about halfway through (and that’s being generous with myself!)

    • says

      Thanks David! It’s true no matter how much you prepare, you never really know what to expect until you actually do it.

      As for the mountain bike, you’re right…I definitely won’t make that mistake again :)

  4. says

    So, is it bad I laughed the entire time reading your race recap while imagining you riding on your mountain bike? Because I’ve been there. I prefer road bikes over mountain bikes any day unless I’m using a mt. bike for it’s real purpose (terrain).

    But anyway, I digress. You live and you learn, and you FINISHED. That’s what’s stellar. High five buddy. Good job on crossing that finishing line. I’m assuming you didn’t run in your VFFs though? Because that’s a pretty quick transition between bike/run.

    Anyway, WHEN IS THE SPRINT?! Super excited for you. Keep it up!

    • says

      Yes it is! I’m offended! haha. That’s why I put the video up. I had to laugh at myself. I’ve had a LOT of people say how much they laughed during it. I’m glad it made some people smile :)

      Tentative sprint in 2 weeks…not sure yet, but hoping to do that. I’ll let you know!

      P.s. Nope, didn’t run in my VFFs, which was really weird cause I haven’t run in shoes in so long! It still takes me a while to get VFFs on so I figured the time tradeoff was worth wearing shoes for the run.

  5. says

    Very cool man! It’s really awesome that you did this, and I think you did a pretty damn good job. I would have died, that’s all I know.

  6. says

    Really enjoyed reading about your experience. You had fun, you learned a thing or two and you finished and that is what is most important. I love the humor!

    • says

      Glad you enjoyed it Matt! You gotta be able to laugh at yourself =). I knew I looked ridiculous and I could either get all self-conscious or just laugh about it. Laughing is a lot more fun.

  7. ray marsh says

    I am seriously thinking of trying this in 2011. The only part that concerns me is the swimming portion. Yes i can swim 15-20 laps in a pool but my concern is swimming with all those people. My fear is I’m going to get kicked in the face.

    • says

      Let me put your fears to rest.

      You will get kicked in the face. In the Chicago Tri, I got my face kicked, my watch broken and my timer ripped off. Better to accept that it’s gonna happen, than try & avoid it :).

      Sorry if that’s harsh, but I figured I’d let you know :)

      • Ray says

        I’m not to worried about getting kicked and knocked around. What worries me is when i hear stories of people getting swam over.

        • says

          It’s not that bad. You mostly just push off them and keeping going. I have been kicked in the face a few times, and that’s not always too much fun.


  1. […] The first triathlon I did, I pedaled away furiously on my mountain bike. I was terrible, but it was a challenge and I loved it.  I’m still not a natural at it, but my second and third races went better because it’s something I wanted to get better at. You might not be a born natural at whatever you’re doing [sure, it helps], but it’s really not that important. It’s more important that you care enough about it to get better at it. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *