This race was notable for two reasons:


1) It rained nearly the entire bike ride.  I was terrified.

2) I actually whooped butt on the swim (relatively speaking, of course).  I never thought I’d type that sentence!


I have a long and storied history with the swim leg of the triathlon.  My first time, I panicked 200 meters in and quit the race.  My second attempt, I was dead last out of the lake because I had another panic attack – but I didn’t quit.  I finally conquered my fear of open water by doing a lake race, and I felt pretty good during the swim of my 4th, 5th, and 6th triathlons.  So to finish strong – and fast – today felt AMAZING!


Okay – let’s back up.


The Husband and I were on the road by 6:00 and ate in the car.  I fueled a bit differently for this race.  Normally, I eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich, but I wasn’t feeling it, so I had a Clif Bar and a soy latte instead. 


We arrived at the park and did check-in and body markin’, and then I set up my transition area.


This race was very small – only 90 competitors – so transition wasn’t crazy.  No nutty triathletes fighting over rack space (which does happen, believe it or not).  I took one look at the sky and decided that I should leave all my gear in the bags instead of laying it out.  This ended up being a very, very wise decision!


We headed down to the lake and waited to be directed into the water.  The sun was just coming up!


While waiting, I spoke to a mom who’s husband and two boys were also doing the triathlon.  Her husband had lost 180 pounds in the last three years, and her boys are only 11 and 12 and already do triathlons!  Isn’t that impressive?  I was a little intimidated by the boys, who were wearing matching kits and serious game faces.


The race director called us all into the water…


I love in-water starts.  I think it’s horrible to be forced to run from the beach into the chilly water (the water temp was 75, so many people were wearing wetsuits, but I opted not to – wetsuits are more trouble than they’re worth, to me).  I was in the third wave.


Ready, set, GO!


The swim was 500 meters.  Short and sweet.  I started off WAY too fast and paid for it by the first turn. 


I tried to focus on my breathing, taking three strokes and a breath, but I had come out so fast that I wanted to breathe every single stroke, which made me feel like I was hyperventilating.  Finally, I got my emotions under control, and just like that – the swim was over!


I finished the swim in 12:47 and placed 19th out of 29 women!  Sure, I’m not breaking any records, but please remember – I used to LITERALLY come in last.  So to beat 11 other women… I was thrilled!


Hauled my butt into transition.  The Husband said to me afterwards, “I know I’ve never ran a triathlon and know nothing about transitioning, but you really need to work on changing into your bike and run gear faster.”  Ha!  He is right, though.  I tend to sit down and look around.


T1 took 1:57.  Most of the women transitioned in 1:30 or less.


Let’s ride!


Ugh.  The bike.  I was dreading the bike.  I haven’t really ridden outside in… weeks.  And I felt so underprepared for the extremely hilly course.  I wanted to kick myself the entire ride – I was so mad that I was clearly undertrained.   Plus, it began to rain about 10 minutes into the ride.  I’m so scared of cycling in the rain, but it was fine.  I just took it really, really easy around the corners.


I finished 14 miles in 52:40.  I was not pleased going back into transition, especially when I discovered that all my gear was totally soaked.  Thankfully, my extra pair of socks (ALWAYS bring an extra pair of socks to a tri!) were dry because I had stashed them in a waterproof bag. 


When I began to run, I immediately felt better.  The run is always the best part of a triathlon, at least for me!  It’s my strongest leg and the one I feel most comfortable tackling.


The Husband caught me mid-Shot Blok eating.  Yum.


The 5K was challenging.  Very hilly course, just like the bike.  I walked up the steepest hills but tried really hard to maintain a steady pace.


My good mood quickly disappeared.  I caught myself being so negative on the run.  My poor bike time was weighing heavily on me, and I was thinking things like, “You are so out of shape,”  “Two years ago, you would’ve crushed that ride,” and “Why didn’t you train harder?”  Then I realized what I was doing – it’s amazing how quickly negative thoughts can overtake you during a race. 


I consciously corrected myself with positive thoughts, “You are alive and active,” “Three years ago, you would’ve already cried four times and you are being so strong now!” and “You kicked butt on the swim.” 


Funnily enough – I ran faster when I was being positive…


I spy the finish line!


I did the 5K in 28:23 and finished the entire race in 1:37:24. 


The very best part about today’s race?  The Husband spectating.  I love it when he comes to my races and I get to cover him in sweaty hugs afterwards.


Ha – just kidding.  We air hug and stand 5 inches apart.  You are smelly, wet, and dirty after a triathlon.  No clean person wants to touch you.


I tackled the post-race food and ate two bags of Cheez-Its.


And then we grabbed take-out for lunch – I had a yummy wrap and more chips.


Now that my belly is full, I need a shower and a nap.  I’ll feel like a new women in a few hours!


How do you combat negative thinking during a race?  What are your favorite positive mantras to use mid-race? 



  • Kara September 24, 2011, 12:31 pm

    I don’t usually get negative thinking during a race, mostly because I’ve never felt undertrained for a race. Ask me again after my 50 mile race, I’m not sure anyone feels ready for that!

    Great job today on not getting too frustrated and finishing strong!

  • Laine September 24, 2011, 12:34 pm

    Nice work!

    I don’t race, but I recently started hula hooping and every so often I’ll catch myself thinking “your hoop is crooked, why can’t you do that move yet, you are so clumsy” and then I remember “You are hooping!! This is so much fun! Rock on, Sister!” and magically I hoop better.

  • Fit Chick Britt September 24, 2011, 12:34 pm

    Awesome job! I try to combat negative thinking by trying to tell myself how awesome it is I’m there and I’m racing. It can be challenging to change your mind once negative thoughts start to roll in.

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife September 24, 2011, 12:39 pm

    Nicely done girl! You rocked that 🙂

    I combat negative thinking by reminding myself I am strong, fit, (sexy), and ready to tackle anything… bad thoughts make it very far. Good job keepin ’em away once they came!

  • Emily September 24, 2011, 12:40 pm

    Congrats on another successful tri! I just ran my fifth-ever 3 miler this morning – yeah, I’m a newbie – and I’m hopefully going to run my first 5K race in about a month, so I’m slowly but surely easing into the world of racing. I love reading your recaps – negative or positive, they get me excited for races to come. 🙂
    As for negative thoughts? Whenever I run and I get down on myself, I simply remember how far I’ve come. A few months ago, I would have run screaming from the idea of running just three miles, and now I can do it… well, not with ease, but I can do it, and that’s what counts, right?!

  • Almost Athletic Ali September 24, 2011, 12:44 pm

    Congratulations on getting through it! I find that a negative mindset can completely ruin a race, even if you’ve done all the prep in the world. Your positivity at the end, when you’re tiring, is admirable!

  • Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun September 24, 2011, 12:47 pm

    I am always amazed at how fast negative thoughts can creep in…but how much positive thinking can have positive effects, so why not stick with those? Crazy minds.

    And I have to tell you a story my spin instructor shared with me. A triathalon she recently did had a 12 year old boy who entered. He has an 8 year old handicapped brother. He took his brother with him through the ENTIRE race – pulling him in a kayak behind him during the swim, pulling him behind him on the bike, and then pushing him in a carrier for the run. 12 years old! AMAZING, huh?!

    • John Stalnik December 4, 2011, 9:37 am

      @Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun:
      Do you know the names of the 12 year old and his 8 year old brother? I’ve been trying to find that story to show my family..its such an inspiration!! thanks!

  • Meredith September 24, 2011, 12:52 pm

    I’m sooooooo scared of the open water swim, I won’t do one until the actual day so I’m super scared. I did a 13 mile ride this morning after a rough hilly bike/run brick workout yesterday, needless to say I wanted to quit quite often but once I turn the corner and was half done it was so wonderful. I’m super sore but so excited I finished, I feel so much better when I think positively and it definitely shows in my workout outcome! You did fantastic, I love reading your tri recaps, it makes me excited to continue training.

  • Abby @ Abz 'n' Oats September 24, 2011, 12:52 pm

    Great job on the race! That is so neat about the 12 year olds doing the race. Love seeing kids get out there and getting active at an early age! It is great to develop healthy habits early!

    I am really bad about the negative thoughts creeping in. I just try to block them out or listen to one of my favorite songs to change my thinking as quickly as possible.

  • J3nn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) September 24, 2011, 12:52 pm

    Congrats! And great job talking yourself back into a positive zone. 🙂

    I like your post-race eats!! Cheez-its are so yummy 🙂

  • Sana September 24, 2011, 12:56 pm

    Get it girlll! 3 years ago you would have had a panic attack in the water, look at you now!!

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen September 24, 2011, 12:57 pm

    Nice job, especially on the swim! I can remember reading all your recaps of previous triathlons and it’s amazing how far you’ve come in the swim portion 🙂
    When negative thoughts start slipping in, I try to always think about where I was before being active. When I think about how far I’ve come in the past 2 years I immediately start feeling better. And you’re right, positive thoughts always lead to faster times 🙂

  • Joey September 24, 2011, 12:59 pm

    What a great recap!!! Tonight is my very first race and I will think of this recap throughout my race. Staying positive all day long is a serious mental game, though! Congrats on a great race! 🙂

  • Ashley @ My Food 'N' FitnessDiaries September 24, 2011, 1:01 pm

    Strong work on your race! And nice job on your swim – that’d be the most difficult leg for me for sure.

  • Brooke @ Tales of a Bride-To-Be September 24, 2011, 1:01 pm

    I actually had a super bad time on my run this morning because it was all about my thinking process. It was all negative and it wouldn’t go. I tried to stay positive but the thing that kept getting to me was the weather. Its like summer again here in Savannah. The temp is 87, but 97% humidity and heat index of 94..and that was at 9 am.
    But my best mantra is “once you finish close to the house, it is air conditioned and ice cold. It will feel so good once you finish this run strong!” Or, “you can do this leg, just one more song and then a walk break.” Its the simple rewards that help me.

  • Freya September 24, 2011, 1:03 pm

    YAAYYY awesome job!!
    I always chant to myself ‘you are a strong, confident woman who does not need to walk/stop/*insert whatever here*’ – chanted to the tune of that Friends quote in season 3, when Chandler is trying to quit smoking (you are a strong, confident woman who does not need to smoke!). It does the trick 🙂

    (PS – you have an AMAZING figure. I hate you a little bit :-p)

  • Victoria (District Chocoholic) September 24, 2011, 1:05 pm

    That’s a pretty nice 5k time at the end of a tri.

    I tell the negative voice to shut up and die.

    I wish I were kidding.

  • Suzanne September 24, 2011, 1:16 pm

    Great job! Congrats on the swim! That would be my most difficult part too. Great job conquering that!

  • Sara @ Runnerwife September 24, 2011, 1:31 pm

    Awesome job on the tri!! You conquered your fears and that is amazing! So glad your husband could be there too! I know my husband really enjoys me being at his races!

  • Krystina (Organically Me) September 24, 2011, 1:34 pm

    Congrats. You rocked it!
    You’re right, it is easy to let negative thoughts take over. I recently badly sprained my foot while going for an interval treadmill run and then the rest of the day thought “I’m not a runner. I should just stop running or doing cardio all together” instead of realizing that it could happen to ANYONE and that I should just take my pace down a notch so my legs can keep up.

  • Molly @ RDexposed September 24, 2011, 1:35 pm

    When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.

  • Jess September 24, 2011, 1:35 pm

    Congrats, Caitlyn!!! Love the Shot Blok picture. Awesome job on the swim and way to get your thinking back to positive. 🙂 Please keep up the awesome tri posts…every one inspires me just a bit more to try a tri myself. 😀

  • Megan @ Long Distance Relationship September 24, 2011, 1:39 pm

    Great Race!

    When I have negative thoughts during a race I think “if it was easy everyone would do it” or “you can be tired at the finish line!” lately I have been saying “Boston” to myself since that is a long term running goal. Lastly I think of the people at the finish line (usually at least one person I know) and tell myself to finish strong for them! Afterall they woke up crazy early, and stood around for at least an hour to support me 🙂

  • Army Amy* September 24, 2011, 1:47 pm

    Great race! I I’ve your positivity! I’m curious, do you know how the two little boys did?*

  • Ellie@fitforthesoul September 24, 2011, 2:24 pm

    LOL!! Love the air hug–and the husband is so gentle in how he tells you that you should basically change gears faster. And what an amazing “loss” for that woman’s husband!! Great job Caitlin~

  • Khushboo September 24, 2011, 2:33 pm

    That’s a pretty sweet race- well done! I’m glad you were able to re-direct your thoughts on something more positive. Whether you were the first or last, you are up and moving. That itself is an achievement!

  • Bronwyn Coyne September 24, 2011, 2:35 pm

    Congratulations on such an awesome race! My favourite part is how the positive thoughts helped you run better! Oh and your big smile at the end. Wahoooo! Good luck tomorrow.

  • Cynthia @ Cynthia's Adventures September 24, 2011, 2:53 pm

    Awesome job on this race!!! I am making it a goal to try triathlons next year!!

  • B n B September 24, 2011, 2:53 pm

    That’s great of your husband to come along and watch you – and provide notes re: your transitions 😉 You look really strong. Negative thoughts are the bane of my existence. I think we need to just acknowledge that they are there and accept them – them push ’em out with something better.

    At least fake positivity. 😉

  • kristen September 24, 2011, 3:08 pm

    awesome job!!! and for you to kick butt in the swim- You have come SO far!!!!! congrats!
    I love triathlons and I can’t wait till next year! I have never done an in water start. the triathlon I did, we went 5 seconds apart- it was SO nice because we didn’t run over eachother

  • Moni'sMeals September 24, 2011, 3:22 pm

    Fantastic job! What a great feeling, eh!! Now just rest up!


    I always tell myself “let’s do this!!”

  • Trish September 24, 2011, 3:24 pm

    YAY!!!!!!!! Congrats!

    And love the air hug. Very cute! 🙂

  • kathleen @ the daily crumb September 24, 2011, 3:35 pm

    great race, caitlin!! all you bloodies are making me want to give triathlons a shot. i’ve run a few marathons, and was a swimmer through high school and college, so i’ve got 2 of the 3 legs down. biking can’t be THAT hard, right?!

  • Jessica @ Fit Chick Wannabe September 24, 2011, 3:41 pm

    I actually did my first 5K in months today and I was so negative the whole time. I’m normally not that negative but I was just having a terrible morning to begin with. My goal was to finish in 38 minutes, and it hit it right on the nose, so that’s good. But I was still very unhappy with it. Especially since my husband, who doesn’t run, finished 6 minutes faster than me. Darnit. I really need to get out of this bad mood. I tried looking at the beautiful scenery and be thankful to be able to run at all, but it wasn’t working today for some reason.

  • Mary September 24, 2011, 3:42 pm

    Rock on Girl!

    I ran my first 5k since december today, and on some of the steep hills I thought so negatively, but then as I rounded the corner at mile two, I told my self to shut the eff up and kick it.

    so that’s what I did! 🙂

  • Kristen (inspiredbydooce) September 24, 2011, 4:19 pm

    Congratulations Caitlin! I bet that bike course was super scary. Way to rock that swim!

    One thing I do to quiet the negative thoughts is to write things on my hand- like “yes you can!” and “don’t thin, just run!” Then when I start to doubt myself, I just read my hand and things feel a bit better.

  • Hillary September 24, 2011, 4:21 pm

    Woot woot! Way to go, Caitlin! Reading your tri recaps make me REALLY want to give it a go.

    I always find myself wussing out during races and training runs, too. I just have to remind myself that, five or six years ago, I couldn’t even run a half a mile. To be able to run at ALL is a gift, and I’ve come a long, long way.

  • Ali @ Ali Runs September 24, 2011, 4:21 pm

    Congrats on the race!! 🙂 I love the picture of you eating a shot blok. During my last half marathon, I kept being so paranoid that there were going to be cameras as I was putting one in my mouth. There is no easy way to eat one of those and without fail they ALWAYS get stuck in my teeth.

  • Mel @ Mel a la Via Paradiso September 24, 2011, 4:26 pm

    Congrats on your race Caitlin! Today I had a 6 miler on my half marathon training schedule. I’ve been a little out of sorts lately training wise because I fell on my back going down the stairs two weeks ago (Winning!) and have been experiencing a lot of back pain. I had a slugglish time running 4 miles the other day, so 6 seemed a little daunting. But I tried to combat that today by thinking about how great it would feel to be done, both mentally and physically.

    I also wanted to let you know that I’ve taken some of your advice about ‘no shame in walking.’ I’ve always had the mindset that walking is NEVER okay, because that’s what I was taught in high school XC. But today I took a walking break after every mile because I thought it was necessary, and I think it really helped! The promise of a walk break after every mile was motivation to keep running! Thank you.

  • Lauren @ laurenINlawrence September 24, 2011, 4:58 pm

    nice work! i ALWAYS appreciate your honesty – i did a 15K this morning and did well – it was a rolling course, and I could have done it much faster last year, but i think it is SO important to be reminded to appreciate what we can do with our bodies and stop playing the comparison game. p.s. go wildcats! pleased with the start to this game 🙂

  • Chelsea September 24, 2011, 5:06 pm

    Way to turn yourself around during a race! Turned out to pay off big time as well 🙂 I want to train tri’s so bad because of all your posts haha. I actually talked to my mom’s friend whose completed the ironman in several different locations, and ran marathons around the world. Want to know the funny thing? He started off swimming like me (doggy paddle style)! He had a friend that was a collegiate swimmer train him lol 🙂

  • Erin September 24, 2011, 5:12 pm

    Wow!! Awesome race Caitlin!! I give you a lot of credit especially since you were in the rain – biking in the rain is always really scary to me too.

    Anyways, whenever I get really negative and down on myself while running or biking I was repeat “I am so lucky to be able to run and move my body” over and over again. If that doesn’t work (if I’m tired or it’s crappy weather) I put on my favorite, upbeat songs and start dancing while I run. Oh, and I always try to smile – that helps my brain remember that I actually enjoy running!

  • Christina September 24, 2011, 5:29 pm

    Way to go! I just realized, I only do negative self-talk when I’m miserable in a race- ie, cold or wet. usually I’m just like, “meh, you’d be faster if you’d trained more, but you didn’t. Look at that old person pass me! Maybe I’ll be like that someday!” But get me wet and it’s just “this sucks” to the rhythm of my footfalls.

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat September 24, 2011, 5:39 pm

    Great recap Caitlin!! I love your race pics – especially the Shot Blok one! And awesome job on the swim. I’ve never done a sprint tri but I feel like I’d probably get that hyperventilating feeling too and have to breathe every stroke. Despite that and the negative thoughts though, you rocked it! Whenever I’m thinking negatively, I just try to remember positive past performances that were harder, and remind myself that if I could survive those, then I’m more than capable of tackling whatever challenge I’m facing at the time. Seems to work!

  • Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete September 24, 2011, 6:07 pm

    Great race, girl! Sometimes those evil thoughts can eat you alive for a race. My last one, I was kicking myself for not running more than 8 miles before my HIM. Then, I told myself, “You can’t go back in time. You can’t change the past. All you can do is concentrate on what is going on right now. This negative energy will suck the life out of you. Positive thoughts.” Then, I started picking out people to run down. It worked. 😉

  • colleen September 24, 2011, 6:38 pm

    Congrats on your swim leg and getting those negative thoughts from your head. I am still struggling on that part. I am doing my first 5K next weekend and know those thoughts will be creeping in.

  • Liz September 24, 2011, 6:40 pm

    Congratulations on a very successful swim & for overcoming the negative thoughts! I’d say this triathlon was a win 😀

  • Luv What You Do September 24, 2011, 7:18 pm

    Congrats on the spectacular race. Way to go for the back to back tri’s. It is so chilly in chicago, I can’t even think about geting into a wetsuit, but I am already planning for next summer’s tri season.

    I used ‘I am a triathlete’ during the training for my first race. I knew that I was excited to tell everyone that I had done my first race. I also break down the time with my marathon runs…I think…I can do anything for 10 minutes and then get thinking about osmething else or chatting with friends and time flies by.

  • CJ @ September 24, 2011, 7:48 pm

    You are always such an inspiration to me with how you reframe your thoughts! i havent raced in a while but this week I had a really difficult time with negative self-talk. It was one of my first weeks ever being completely symptom free from my eating disorder and all I could say was “ew, youre getting fat…” “how could you eat that” “why dont you sneak in a run” tons of things like that…
    when I really should have been saying “good job, CJ you are getting your life back!” “You enjoyed those cookies you baked, they turned out awesome…” “you are injury free and even gaining some muscle!”
    thank you for reminding me of what I need to be doing! and congratulations on an awesome race!

  • Angela (Oh She Glows) September 24, 2011, 8:37 pm

    major lol @ “air hugs” will have to remember that one as I usually just hug my poor husband.

    Congrats on your race! You are such a tri pro now. 🙂

  • Erin September 24, 2011, 8:47 pm

    You did kick butt no matter what the Negative Nelly inside your head said! And you make me laugh with the air hugs 🙂

    When I’m having a downer of a race or I’m really struggling I just tell myself “This is supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.” That usually gets me out of the negative headspace and reminds me that I’m doing something spectacular no matter how fast I’m doing it.

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey September 24, 2011, 10:27 pm

    GREAT job on the racee!!! I feel like once a negative thought pops into your head during a race, all can be lost in a matter of seconds!! Great job for squashing them!

  • Alett September 24, 2011, 11:36 pm

    phenomenal job Caitlin!

    my mantra in the water is => JUST BREATHE (oh that and “elbows up”). For me if I get through a swim without panicking it is a win!

    However my general mantra for most races is “RUN YOUR RACE” (in fact that is what is on my Road ID bracelet!).

    : )

  • Leland September 25, 2011, 6:44 am

    Hi Caitlin! Congratulations on the tri! I’ve been following your blog for over a year now, but this is the first time I’ve commented.

    It’s interesting that you mentioned negative thinking during races. Last week, I ran my first full marathon and halfway through it, I discovered that the calibration on my watch was waaay off, which led to a snowball of negative thoughts–“That means my pace has been wrong all this time, which means all my training runs were inaccurate; am I really ready for this race?” and so on. I was starting to break down mentally, but I just chose to disregard my previous goal of 4:30, and opted for another: finishing within the cut-off time of 5:30.

    Finished it in 5:14! Far off from what I wanted, but very happy to have finished.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Brittnie (A Joy Renewed) September 25, 2011, 7:30 am

    Great job on this race! I love how you are able to identify those negative thoughts as they occur and then switch over immediately to positive thoughts. You are so inspiring!

  • Amber K September 25, 2011, 1:04 pm

    I was just telling my husband yesterday how awesome I think you are. I was telling him about the various bloggers I read and yours is the only name he remembered because I think I talk about you too much, lol. You remind me every day to switch those negative thoughts right around and feel blessed for the things I do have.

  • Fit Chick in the City September 25, 2011, 3:24 pm

    Congrats on a great race! I’ve read all your other tri recaps and am so impressed with how well you did in this race. Nice job on working it out there!

  • Brittany @ LessBritt MoreLife September 25, 2011, 4:43 pm

    You are awesome, Caitlin! Proud of you!

  • Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday September 25, 2011, 7:42 pm

    Great job with the swim!!! You did so amazing! 🙂

    I’m happy that you were able to overcome the swimming fear and really give it a good swim. Yay!

    I know I mentioned this before but you are so totally inspiring. I’m not afraid to swim, but I am really uncomfortable on a bike. When I read your race recaps it really makes me what to give triathalons a try. 🙂

  • Carolina John September 26, 2011, 1:24 pm

    I love a small race. 1100 people in the other one is freaking huge. 90 people starting in-water is perfect.

    I also have to say, this is the race report written by an experienced, accomplished triathlete. It conveys a comfort level with the sport and its terminology that has to be earned, so big props for that!

    Of course, that also means that you need to start mentally preparing yourself for the White Lake half in the spring. Looks like I’m going to run that one, I want to see you out there. Time to tackle a 70.3 Caitlin.

    • CaitlinHTP September 26, 2011, 1:29 pm

      Oh man. Thanks for having confidence in me, John! I don’t think I can do 70.3 any time soon. The bike would kill me.

      • Carolina John September 26, 2011, 5:01 pm

        Well, May is plenty of time to get ready for a 56 mile bike. It’s not that bad really. and White Lake has a fast, easy course. It’s a setup events race in the NCTS if you want to start checking it out.

        It’s also a Halfmax National Championship qualifying event, which is why I’m going to be racing it.

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