Sunday, February 12, 2023

Tri and not die...and find out just how strong I am!!!

In February of 2020, I did a crazy thing. I did my first indoor tri. Super short. Time based. No set distances. And in January of 2020 when Mallory mentioned it I thought “this seems crazy. But why not. What do I have to lose”. I had a blast that day and was shocked at what my body was able to do. And I remember saying that maybe I’d want to do an outdoor tri at some point in time. 

Fast forward to November 2021. I had just finished my 8th half marathon and was proud of everything I did to get to that finish line and proud of standing up for myself and the back of the pack runners. But that race still left a very bad taste in my mouth for distance running and I truly doubted if I belonged in that world anymore (spoiler alert, I still belong there if I want to!). I was upset. My core was shaken. And I was angry. And I knew I wasn’t doing any distance running for 2022. 

About a week later a friend messaged our group chat and mentioned 2 local triathlons and asked if anyone would be interested. I was. But I was scared. What if I got treated the same way as I did at the half? I knew that would break me. 

Another week later a friend who’s done a bunch of tris told me she thought I could do it and should do it if I wanted to and try (tri).  So I told myself my 2022 challenge would be to train for my first sprint tri. 

I struggled with training. My anxiety was through the roof and mostly related to my training plan and feeling like I wasn’t doing enough to be successful at the tri, because even though I know I didn’t fail at the half in 2021 I still felt like maybe I could’ve done more. And it was haunting me that the same thing might happen with the tri. I doubted myself worse than I have in many many years. Each workout I wondered if I was strong enough to do the tri and knowing I didn’t want to let myself down. And definitely was scared I was going to feel like an imposter who didn’t belong. 

I honestly wasn’t sure I could do it. And not having any prior outdoor tri experience, I had nothing to lean on to remind me I could do it. 

I started looking for a tri suit to wear only to find out very few brands even came in my size and most that came in my size fit like 2 sizes smaller. So early on I had to decide to be ok with whatever I could do it in. Which ended up being running shorts, swim bottoms and a shefit flex sports bra. 

I did many practice pool swims in it. A few swim to bike bricks. And 2 different swim bike run bricks to make sure I could do all 3 events in it with no or minimal issues. It worked for me. So it was going to have to be good enough for race day, even if not ideal. I also had concerns about the water temp for race day, but after realizing that I likely wouldn’t find a tri suit to fit me, I wasn’t even going to bother trying to rent a wetsuit that likely wouldn’t fit me either. 

I already was feeling so inadequate because the things I could wear to do a tri didn’t come in my size. Which is frustrating that companies believe larger folks don’t race. So again I had to remind myself, what I had found worked had to be ok for race day, even if I wished I could wear something else. 

I finally get to race week and surprisingly wasn’t super anxious, which was shocking. I was prepared to be cut from the course because of time. I was prepared that the water might be beyond cold. I was prepared to possibly DNF (did not finish) because I had no idea how race day would go or if I would be able to do it all. But I knew I did every single thing in my power to get to that day and I couldn’t do anything else about it besides try (tri). 

The night before my race the “what if” thoughts were swirling. And I wondered what I was thinking trying to do this. But I reminded myself that it all could go right and I could end up having a great experience, not just a bad experience. And I just needed to try even if it was absolutely terrifying. 

Those feelings on race morning were so scary. And I was comparing myself to every other athlete there thinking I didn’t belong. Because at every running event previously I had felt I didn’t belong there and was given the looks of “what are YOU doing here”. But as I stood there racking my bike and laying out my stuff, other athletes started conversation and wished me luck. Most of them had done many triathlons and were thrilled it was my first and how exciting that is. It was small. But I didn’t feel as alone as I felt at the start of most running races. 


Find the friends who will willingly wake up at like 3am with you to get to the race early and keep you calm <3 

We headed down to the water and the realization of what I was about to do hit me. And I was terrified. But I had to try. That morning I wrote “Badass” and “you are enough” on my wrist as reminders. And a friend a week or two before reminded me that no matter what my times were, what my outcome was for the day, it would all be more than enough.

My mug says:
 "Live Boldly Take Risks, Make Someone Say 'What the Hell Was That All About.'"

If you aren't dancing like a fool at your friends and having fun before the start are you even racing?!

The closer I got to the water the more nervous I became. But I knew I just had to try. I got in the water and the temperature felt so cold. My body wasn’t prepared for that. I put my face in and panicked a little. It was cold. I couldn’t see anything. And obviously couldn’t touch bottom any more. I lifted my head out and just kept moving as much as I could while reminding myself to just keep going. And that I was ok. I was struggling to breathe and it felt sooooooo hard. One of the race volunteers in the water in a kayak reminded me I could grab on the kayak to catch my breath if I needed. I did stop for a second and hold on but I felt the panic increasing a little and was worried if I stopped moving I wouldn’t keep going. So off I went. 

The kayaker stuck next to me as I was currently last. I got a little farther and another kayaker was assigned to stay with me until the end. And she said to me “I am with you until the end and I am now your personal cheerleader”. I was definitely struggling to swim still and could not put my face in because it made me panic each time. I kept reminding myself to just keep moving forward in any way I could. And the kayaker kept cheering me on and telling me how far I was getting and how much closer to shore I was. It truly got me through the swim. 

As I got near the shore all the race volunteers/staff who had either been in the water or on the shore cheered me in. And it truly made me so happy that they were cheering me in. They weren’t annoyed, they were celebrating me. It was so refreshing. And hearing Mallory, Leslie and Maureen cheer me in made it so much better too. 






I then trekked up the giant hill (fake mountain maybe?) to transition and I didn’t know if I could do it. I got to transition and started getting my socks and shoes on and eating my snack to hop on the bike. Some folks were already back from their bike and out on the run before I even went out on the bike. 

At the start of the bike my legs felt so tired already. I truly wasn’t sure I was going to make it. But I just kept reminding myself to just keep moving forward. However I could. Thankfully there was a lot of downhill at the start of the race which gave my legs a little break. I was seeing so many folks coming back toward transition and I was barely a mile or 2 into the race which was really hard. But everyone was super supportive and cheering across the road for me. 

The farther into the bike I got the more I debated quitting the race. My quads felt like they were going to pop off my leg completely. I felt like I had no power in my legs. Everything hurt. And gosh, those hills were death. But I glanced down at my wrists a few times and reminded myself that I was a badass and had so many badass friends cheering me on and I also was doing enough and whatever I did was enough. It definitely gave me some strength to keep going and reminded me of just how strong I was. And how many friends I had cheering me on at the race and virtually. 

I got to the turnaround and had to walk my bike up part of that hill. I wasn’t sure how I was making it back to transition knowing the second half was mostly up hill. 

I walked my bike up almost every hill on the way back. I tried to bike up them and just couldn’t get up even the little hills. The race staff who had been at the turnaround was now behind me in their car. I honestly debated quitting and having them take me back to transition. My legs just weren’t functioning. At the top of one hill I just stopped for a minute and put my head down across my handlebars and truly asked myself what the heck I was doing while also giving myself an extra second to breathe. The race staff asked if I was ok. “Yep. Just taking an extra breath” (and try to lower my heart rate that felt it was going to just beat out of my chest). 

Shortly after that, while I really truly thought about quitting, I spotted a dragonfly that hovered in front of me for a bit. I glanced down at my watch to see it changing from 7.05 to 7.06 which was wild. Dragonflies always remind me of my cousin Stacy who died on July 5 2012. So in that moment it felt like Stacy telling me I was absolutely bat shit crazy but to keep going and that I could do it. A little farther along I saw another dragonfly that flew in front of me quickly and flew away. Both were a reminder to keep going and gave me a little bit more strength to keep trying. 

That second half of the bike I truly am not sure how I finished. But by the time I was getting close to transition I could feel how high my heart rate was and didn’t feel great. But I was also in awe that I was going to finish the bike. Like how was that possible?! As I was biking up the last major hill a few cars passed me and cheered for me. Some volunteers from the race. And another car of folks who had raced yelling for me. I get back to transition and Leslie, Maureen and Mallory were out at the road cheering me in and some other folks were cheering with them too. I was dead last BY A LOT. But I still had folks cheering



I quickly got off my bike, grabbed my stuff for the run and off I went. I felt AWFUL at the start of the run. Nauseous and fairly miserable. Leslie tried to motivate me and asked what I needed. And I had no idea. I felt awful and didn’t feel like I was able to do much in the moment. But I kept moving forward. Lots of walking. Stopped a few times just to breathe. I hated how my tank top felt on me by this point so I decided to just take it off and do my run sports bra squad, which felt so good. 


I was truly just trying to bring my heartrate down in any way I could right now during the race.

The trail was so nice and really allowed me to calm down a bit after the stressful swim and physically and mentally hard bike. 

I got a little over a mile in to the run as I approached the path that was right next to the lake. It was absolutely beautiful!!!! I paused for a moment and took in just how beautiful and tranquil it all was. And in that moment I felt super emotional knowing I really was going to finish this triathlon. I wished I had my phone with me to take a picture of the beauty and remember that moment. 

I continued on. And was overwhelmed that I was over half way done with the run. 

I turned around and then at that same spot by the water Leslie was waiting for me and snapped some great pictures of me. And she had no idea what I had been thinking in that spot on the way out. Those pictures are some of my favorite for the race. 

Isn't this spot just gorgeous!?!?!

This might very well be my new favorite running picture ever!!!!

I get back to the giant hill leading toward the finish (who the hell put that hill there?!?!?) and Maureen was waiting for me. And I start running up the hill she goes “how are you still able to run and up this hill no less?!” (Honestly, sheer determination to finish and knowing I was SO CLOSE to finishing). I get to the stadium and heard the announcer say I was coming in. And my eyes filled up. It hit me. I WAS DOING THIS!!! Maureen and Mallory reminded me it makes it harder to run when you’re crying 🤣, but I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. I got close to the finish line and ran that last straight to the finish with tears running down my face. I had done it!!!!!! I DID MY FIRST SPRINT TRIATHLON!!!! I never dreamt this was something I’d be able to do. Ever. But after doing the indoor tri in 2020 and my awful half marathon experience of 2021, I started to wonder if maybe I could actually do it. And then I did it. I DID A DANG SPRINT TRIATHLON!!!!!

I was sobbing

I thought I was going to die during the race a few times, but I did it. And I couldn’t believe it!!!

The race staff and volunteers who were around all stopped to cheer for me and congratulate me when they saw me. The finish line was still set up. The announcer was still announcing. This all also made me cry (and still makes me cry thinking about it months later) because I have NEVER finished a race with that much support and encouragement from race staff and volunteers. I’m lucky if finish lines are even still up when I get to them. 

Being a back of the pack athlete is hard AF because you really have to just support yourself and only have yourself to rely on. And never know what the situation with the race, aide stations, finish line, aide at finish line, etc will be. 

But not only were the finish line, announcer, volunteers, etc still there, the race staff made sure I knew there were still snacks and drinks out and reminded me to grab something to refuel. 

I spent days questioning if I did in fact complete my first sprint tri or if it was all a dream. It felt like a dream. It didn’t feel real. But I did in fact do it. Holy crap!!!!! And I had amazing pictures taken by one of the best cheerleaders and friend, Leslie! And I just kept looking at those pictures in awe. I did that. And looked so filled with joy during the run too. 

Pure and utter joy and disbelief!!!!!




We had to stop at the Dwight Mural on our way home!

A day or two after the race I got an email from the race offering me a free entry to another one of their races in August that was flat. The email said they wanted me to see what I could do on a flat course and were impressed by me and my story. I debated if I should do it or not and by the end of the week I said I was going to do it!!! But imagine that, me who finished over the course limit was also offered an entry to another race by the race organizers. That just doesn’t happen to me ever! The race even said how excited they were that I was going to do the second race. They were excited? I don’t understand that feeling, being someone who’s been made to feel (and told!) by running races that maybe I just don’t belong there and shouldn’t be doing races. 

So I took the next 2 months and continued training. I focused a bit more on swimming and even did another open water swim to work on my open water anxiety (thanks Suzanne and Candice!). While in the pool I tried to mimic what I’d experience in open water as well and practice sighting and kept my eyes mainly closed underwater so I couldn’t see anything like it would be in the lake. 

I also went out for longer bike rides as well and tried to get some more hills in, even though I knew the route would be flat. Ended up with my longest rides during that time. I also followed every bike with at least a 10 minute run. I was feeling so much more comfortable and prepared for my second tri. I was feeling so much stronger than I had before the first. I was excited about doing this and seeing just what I could do. And I had also been able to add in some more food before/during/after workouts which was really helping me do more. So many things playing together to hopefully make this a stronger race. 

But a few days before I actually said “what the hell am I doing and why did I think I could do it again?!?!” But I was reminded even though Poconos was super hard and challenging, I was able to not just get to the start line but also got to the finish line and fought through so much mentally and physically to get there. And that the race organizers asked and wanted me there. 

And so, I packed up my stuff and set off to Delaware for the weekend to Lums Pond State Park. 

I pulled into the parking lot to pick up my packet and first felt panic. And then seeing all the stuff setup and the finisher arch, I teared up a little bit and couldn’t believe I was doing this again. And I felt excited to get my stuff. 

I walked up and the ladies at registration all go “wait, you’re Megan!!! We’re so happy to see you!! When they said you were doing it, we were so excited. And you’re our influencer, we heard your post went viral in the triathlon group too! We remember you from Poconos, you were awesome” And I knew I absolutely made the right decision to do this race!!! I listened to the race meeting and there were dragonflies flying around the crowd and it just brought me so much peace. 

After the meeting I wandered down to the water to see just what the swim would look like. As I stood there next to the water I felt calm. I felt excited. And I knew I was as ready as I would be and felt so confident in it all. 


Did I sleep that night? No. Did I get up feeling rested? No. But did I eat my breakfast, pack up my car and head to the race ready to see what I could do? Heck yes I did. 

While setting up my bike I felt those old insecurities surface. I felt like everyone was looking at me and I felt like I didn’t belong. I knew I did belong. But dang, old habits die hard.

Got to talk to Danielle before the race, we had only met on Instagram prior (and then we realized after the fact that we met cheering at the Philly half marathon in 2021 too!). 


And then it was time to head down to the water. Oh shit this is actually going to happen. We had to wait for the Olympic distance to do their swim , which was such a long time to wait while already nervous. Chatted with some folks around me as well and we all got excited for the start. 

Finally it’s time for our swim to start and I knew I did everything I could to prepare and I just needed to keep moving forward and breathe through my open water fears. I’m getting toward the water and one of the guys from the race, who I had been emailing with about doing this race, tells me to have a great race before I get in the water. And the guy announcing says “wait. I remember you from Poconos. Go Megan!”  There was that moment of “oh gosh. People have recognized and noticed me. Attention is on me” while also thinking “this is so cool that they remember me. And this is why I decided to do this race!”

I get in the water and have an “oh shit” moment. And remember to just keep moving however I need to. About halfway through one of the race people on kayaks asked if I was doing ok and I remember saying “I’m doing great” and fully meant that. I was slow. But I was continually moving and switching strokes when I needed to catch my breath. But I remember thinking just how strong it felt. And how much better it felt than Poconos. Oh and the water at Lums Pond was warm! That may have helped with how I was feeling too!

I get to the end of the swim and was pumped. It felt so different from poconos. I glanced at my watch and thought it was a little faster but wasn’t sure. I thought maybe a minute faster. But didn’t really care. (Spoiler alert; it was 5 minutes faster 😱)


I quickly get out of the water and head toward transition where one of the race staff is cheering for me and grabs a picture of me heading into transition and tells me I’m doing awesome!

I am in and out of transition and out on the bike. Which is where my brain catches up with me and questions what exactly we’re doing 🤣


But the bike feels really good and strong. And I’m getting passed by folks doing the Olympic distance on their second laps and everyone is supportive and saying good job and keep going to each other. Which is so weird to me. Being back of the pack I’m not used to any support let alone support of faster racers. It was so nice. And dang, was that course FLAT!!!! Also, every 2 miles or so I took a sip or two of my water/LMNT/tailwind mix even if I wasn’t thirsty because I knew it was getting into the 90’s and I’d need all of that to finish the bike and start the run in ok shape. 

Toward the end of the bike loop a volunteer on a motorcycle comes up and asks if I think I’m the last of the sprint distance. I told him I thought I might be. So he said his job is to make sure I get back to the park entrance and he will alert those volunteers that I was the end of the sprint distance. He was also so encouraging and supportive. One of the first things he said was “you’re looking really strong. This is awesome”. As I turned into the park he says “I’m going to go make sure the rest of the Olympic distance come in. You’re doing amazing. Keep it up. I enjoyed riding with you!”

Riding back through the park was nice but also felt never ending. I finally get back to transition and 2 of the race staff are at the bike dismount line cheering us all in. And they both go “oh my gosh. You did so much better than Poconos. We’re so excited for you”. I knew I was maybe a little faster, but again had no idea!! But it felt sooooo much better and stronger. (Spoiler alert it was 15 minutes faster at Lums Pond vs Poconos, holy crap!!!)


I get back into transition and quick in and out, taking off my tank top and grabbing my bottle for the run. I didn’t feel like I could run right away. But reminded myself it was ok to walk and just do whatever I could. It was HOT by this point in the day though and I was feeling the heat and humidity by this point. Each water station I grabbed water to drink and drank half and dumped the rest on me. And honestly I think that saved me during the run. Because it cooled me off a bit. The run felt a bit never ending. But everyone I was seeing on the course was saying the same thing “this is really hard and it’s ridiculously hot out”. It was a comfort to know I wasn’t alone. I finally get back out to the main road of the park and there’s no shade and just asphalt and blazing sun 😩😭🥵. I thought I might die. I get to the next aide station and the water was actually really cold. It was the best. I said how cold it was and was excited to dump the rest on me. The volunteer asked if I wanted a full cup just thrown at me to cool down, heck yes I did. And I’m so glad she asked. I think that truly got me through that section of the park. I referred to that section as hell because it was just soooooooo hot with no shade at all. I wasn’t sure how I was still moving except for the fact that I’m stubborn and wasn’t giving up at that point. 

I finally turn to the last road to run before the finish area. It was completely shaded on both sides. It felt like heaven. And everyone around me was saying the same thing, it was the best part of the run. I get to the end of that road and have a moment of “holy shit. I’m actually doing this. I’m going to finish another sprint tri. How?! This is amazing” and I teared up a little. I never thought I’d be able to do one, let alone do 2 in one summer. But dang. I was doing this. And fought through so much to finish both races and to just to train as well.

I turn toward the finish and get the last little bit of energy to sprint to the finish with a smile on my face. My parents were cheering near the finish and a few of the race staff were there cheering me in too. I just can’t explain how amazing it felt to finish that race and knowing how much stronger I felt from a few months earlier. I did it. Even though it was 90°+ and humid and I thought I was going to just melt into the asphalt. I. Did. It. And I was so damn proud of myself for everything I did to get to that point from where I started my training in April and how much I worked through to get my head and body in the right place. 

Love these running toward the finish pics 





I still had no idea how much faster this race was. I thought maybe a few minutes total. I called Leslie as I was leaving the park and she asks if I knew how well I did. I said I didn’t and that I just stopped and saved each part of the race on my garmin having no idea what my previous times were. And that’s when she told me my overall time was about 23 minutes faster. I believe I actually said “there’s no way. That’s got to be wrong. Holy crap. No way”. I didn’t care about my time. I truly was going off feel and effort and was thrilled with how amazing it felt. And then to know I was 23 minutes faster from 2 months earlier was the cherry on top of an insane race day and insane summer training. 

My body and mind are capable of a lot more than I ever gave myself credit for or believed I could do. Challenging myself by doing triathlons I was able to learn just how strong I am and was able to do really hard mental and physical work to train, even when it felt utterly impossible. And found a community of supportive athletes and race staff as well.

There are no limits. And I’m slowly learning that. And it’s exciting. 

What’s next you ask? Oh another indoor tri the end of February for fun with BALG NEPA. And then racing Poconos again this year, along with Leslie! And then maybe Lums Pond again depending on how Poconos training and race go. 

I’ve been bit by the tri bug and currently don’t have the desire for any long distance running. 5ks are more than long enough for now. And I’m so grateful to Kinetic Multisports for being such a welcoming race organization and giving me such an amazing experience last summer. And also so grateful that I had my Badass Lady Gang friends alongside me for this journey, both in person and virtually. I would not have made it through without their unending support.

Pictures of me with a few of the Kinetic staff after Lums Pond


And here’s the reminder to myself (and anyone else that feels they (or their body) don’t belong) that this is what a swimmer looks like, this is what a cyclist looks like, this is what a runner looks like, this is what a triathlete looks like. This is what a strong Badass looks like. 💪🏻🤘🏻