From your first open water swim to completing a 70.3, how many of these milestones can you check off the list?
Clipping In1 of 16
You may have started your triathlon career with standard flat pedals that let your feet move freely on and off with ease. But you quickly took off the training wheels and made the switch to clipless. You'll never forget that first time. You know, the one where you were riding along, came to a stoplight, forgot you were clipped in and awkwardly fell to the ground in front of all those cars. Check!
Bonking2 of 16
Triathletes are known to have a lot of heart and determination, pushing through even the most challenging circumstances. But you reach the pinnacle of physical exertion when you go so hard that you literally can't move another inch. Whether it's on the bike or during the run—hopefully not in the water!—bonking is a sign that you gave the race, training session or workout all you had.
First Brick3 of 16
Running after riding your bike can't be that bad, you remember thinking. But, boy, were you naïve. You've trained for a few weeks, and it's finally time for your first brick. You carefully apply the brakes, swing your leg over the saddle and prepare to dismount. The minute your weight fully hits your feet, you know just how wrong you were.
Your legs feel like Jell-O and it takes all the energy you have left not to collapse embarrassingly on the ground. You silently thank yourself for practicing the bike-run before race day (#blessed).
First Sprint Tri4 of 16
That first time toeing the line brings back memories of how unprepared you were, but how happy it made you. It's where your love for triathlon began, after all. And look how far you've come since!
First Wetsuit5 of 16
Did you start your triathlon career with an almost non-existent background in swimming? You're not alone. Whether your only foray into the water was doggy paddling as a child or even that summer spent on swim team 20 years ago, it's safe to say swimming isn't your strength. But the first time you slide—uh, struggle to get into—a wetsuit, your life changes forever. You actually float and don't feel like you're about to sink to the bottom. Then you wonder why it took you so long to discover this wonderful second skin.
First Open Water Swim6 of 16
You've been swimming in the pool for weeks, finally able to hit 400m without clinging onto the edge for dear life. Then your coach suggests it's time to take it outdoors. You knew this day was coming. The race you signed up for is outdoors, after all. But you didn't know the day would come so soon.
You head to the nearby lake, take a deep breath and dive in. Wait... Where are the black lines? What are you supposed to sight? What just touched your foot?!
First Olympic Tri7 of 16
You've mastered the sprint and decided to try your hand at an Olympic. It took a lot of training, but you finally toed the line, mastered the 1500m swim, 40K bike and 10K run and made your way across the finish line, arms held up in triumph. Let's be honest. You're basically Gwen Jorgensen now.
First Pricey Purchase8 of 16
Triathlon can get expensive, but you've managed to keep it relatively cheap until now. But you've got your eye on a new bike you're convinced will take your training to the next level. Or maybe you got an email about a flashy new wetsuit guaranteed to make you glide through the water with ease. One trait of a real triathlete is spending all your hard-earned money on expensive gear and races, right?
First Time Successfully Fixing a Flat Tire9 of 16
It happens to everyone—even Gwen Jorgensen at the 2012 Olympics. You're riding along on your merry way when you start to feel the telltale wobble—a flat. You've trained for this day, and you're prepared. You get out your spare tube and CO2 cartridge and get to work. Minutes—or maybe hours—later you're done and riding along again with two fully inflated tires and a huge grin on your face.
First Tri Bike10 of 16
A road bike is a perfectly acceptable way to race a triathlon if you're just starting out. Cyclists ride hundreds of miles on them, after all. However, you get to a point where riding in the drops just doesn't cut it anymore. You crave to be more aerodynamic, so you decide to make the leap and purchase your first tri bike.
First 70.311 of 16
Sprint tris are so last year and Olympic-distance is a thing of the past. It's time to pull on your big boy pants and sign up for a 70.3. So what if you've never ran a half marathon before or swam more than 1500m? You've got your eye on the elusive M-dot—or at least half of one.
First Draft-Legal Race12 of 16
While most triathlons are considered non-drafting races, meaning you have to keep a certain distance between your bike and the one in front of you, some do allow athletes to benefit from each other's slipstreams—namely, ITU races. While most triathletes may never toe the line of an ITU race, there are some draft-legal races for amateurs, including USA Triathlon's Age Group Draft-Legal Triathlon.
So if you get the opportunity to draft in a race, know you're in the company of the likes of Flora Duffy, Mario Mola and the Brownlee brothers.
Peeing on the Bike13 of 16
While it's not for everyone, you're tired of constantly having to stop during long training rides to use the restroom, so you've finally worked up the courage to let it out. Let's just hope you don't hit that cyclist riding in your slipstream by accident...
Successfully Traveling with Your Bike14 of 16
While there's plenty of opportunities to race close to home, taking your triathlon career to the next level by signing up for a destination race is a big step for most multisport athletes. You spend nearly as many hours researching the best method of transportation for your best friend—er, bike—to make the trip as you do training. You finally figure out the best plan of action, pack up your ride, head to the airport and wave goodbye as the case shudders off on the conveyor belt. Only once you meet your bike on the other side do you breathe again.
That is, until it's time to do it all again and head back home.
First Full-Distance Race15 of 16
You once thought swimming 2.4 miles, biking over 100 miles and running a marathon was a feat reserved only for your wildest dreams. But after working your way up from that first sprint to your most recent 70.3, it's about to become a reality. You've trained for hours on end, given up Friday night happy hour with friends and set a strict 9 o'clock bedtime. And despite the sacrifices, it's all worth it when you hear Mike Reilly tell you you're an IRONMAN.