After my first road race in Taiwan my friend Mandy told me that we should train for a triathlon. I laughed right in her face and said NEVER. I was terrified of swimming that far, never had been interested in biking, and could not even grasp the idea of running after doing all of those other things.

After my first half marathon was completed my friends again said we need a new challenge. How about a triathlon? I was less negative about the idea this time, but I still did not see myself signing up.

Two months ago, I was talked into it. I signed up and started training. I was terrified. I was terrified all through the training, and the race itself. It wasn't until it was over that I realized. I can do this. Shit. I just did that!

The Friday morning before the race we were all at work. Deposit on the van we were renting paid, bags packed, bikes ready, and we were organized. Then, we discovered that due to heavy rain (or something) the few drivable roads that cross the island were closed because they had washed away. Now, our options were to drive VERY FAR out of our way south then across the island and back up North. We did not have time for this. So, we quickly changed plans thanks to the amazing work of some great girls travelling with us. They organized us last minute train tickets. In a mad rush after work we all got together, bikes were broken down to go into newly aquired bike bags for travel. I was SOOOO thankful at that time, that I had rented a bike and did not need to lug it with me. At the station we loaded onto the train with the special bike compartment. Since we booked last minute we did not all have seats. It was luck of the draw. 4 and 1/2 hours up the and around the coast of the island to Hualien, Taiwan.

(I stole some pics from my friend Mandy. You can see the blue dot is Hsinchu where we live and the red dot is our destination.)

Here is Sarah sleeping with all the bikes. JP and I got seats on the way there (lucky)!

When we arrived we were loaded into multiple cabs and headed for our adorable little hostile. Taroko 18 is a friendly, cute family style hostile. It was a great place to crash once we loaded up on water at 7-11. 

The next morning we were up bright and early. Even though the race did not start until 12 or so, we were up, and gone by 8:30am. JP felt this was a little unnecessary, but we all wanted to be stress-free and well prepared ahead of time. No last minute panic sessions.

When we got to the course, the girls started to put together their bikes, and I got my not-so-sweet rental. See the look of fear in my eyes in the picture below. We got our race packages and started to get organized. We set up our transition areas and then proudly stood by them as JP captured every moment. Nerves were building but we all were relieved to have been there early and relaxed. We did a walk through of the transitions from swim to bike, and bike to run. We liked the idea of having a mental plan of how this was going to work before we jumped in. 

love and support.

Once suited up and well hydrated we got into our suits (next time I totally want a tri-suit, so I don't feel all naked and pale in my one piece!). Then, we put on our sweet swim caps that are color co-ordinated for our heat. Time to kiss the Jaypes goodbye and head to the starting line with the girls. As we were waiting at the edge of the water I looked around to find JP tucked into a duck shaped boat so he could get some action shots. What a good man! Another nice old man next to us translated what the announcers were saying, and told us 1 minute until we start. 30 seconds. 10, 9 OH NO. Here we go. With a not so graceful flop into the water, the swim was underway. 

The first few minutes of the swim were utter chaos. Too many people in a small space all trying to find room for their stroke. Splashing, kicking, heads popping up out of the water to make sure we were on coarse. For a not so strong swimmers like myself, this was more than stressful. I was focused on regulating my breathing and pacing myself, without falling too far behind the pack. It was surprising to learn during training how draining it is to lift your head out, or disrupt your rhythm. So, it was key to find space, get into a group of swimmers of the same speed (and style of stroke) and stick with them. I learned swimming behind or next to someone doing the breaststroke equals a kick in the ribs and lots of splashing. 

As the pack thinned out I gathered myself and pushed on. I focused on not drinking the lake water and finishing the distance (there isn't much else to think about in the middle of a lake). At the turn around I thought things were looking great. I had made it there and now all I had to do was make it back. Little did I know the worst was yet to come. The next wave was underway and they were the fast group! The red caps over took us blue ones quickly. Do you know how scary it is to have someone literally swim over top of  you? Panic. Don't panic. Keep swimming. Legs being grabbed as  you are pulled under. Gulp. Gasp. JUST KEEP SWIMMING. Sing like Dori from finding Nemo, it helps. Finally, I can hear the crowd on shore with each breath I take. Head up and check. Almost there. A few more meters, and an awkward exit of the water, followed by an even more awkward bathing suit run to the transition area. 

Swim cap off, goggles off, find my stuff. Breathe. Mental checklist, go! Pants on. Shirt on. Roll on socks. Shoes on and tied up. Stick some GU energy crap in my mouth. Yuck. Iphone? Not for the bike. No time. Helmet. Hydrate. Bike. Go.

Now, the bike was something I thought was the least of my worries. Until I finally got on a bike a couple weeks before the race. Then I realized, CYCLING IS HARD! I have not been on a bike in years. I had never been on a road bike before. So, I just learnt on the fly. Crunching through gears. Aching over the hills and happily coasting down them. The bike totally drained me. It burnt my legs and mental kicked me in the pants. I took WAY too long and feel behind my buddies. But I was not done yet.

Another transition. Helmet off. Hi JP. Hydrate (cause I dropped my other water bottle off the bike and onto the road, oops). Another mouthful of GU, still gross. iphone on the arm. Music is a must for the run. Hair back. Go. Wobble, wobble. Come on legs ... GO!

Slowly I ran out of the transition area and onto to the last leg of the race. 10 km stood between me and the finish.Ten very painful and mentally challenging kilometers. The first kilometer was an exercise in breathing. I needed to calm down and relax. In your nose out your mouth. Finally, I settled my pace, a little slower and more of a struggle than usual, but I chugged on. I old myself, "You just swam 1.5km and biked 45km. You can finish this last 7km. You run that most mornings." I was feeling pretty good until the ninth kilometer. My body had used everything it had. It was will power now that was going to finish this race, and I decided to keep moving. No matter the speed, just don't stop.

With four hundred meters to go I see a familiar face on the sidelines. He had picked the perfect spot to capture each one of us on the run. With tears of pride in eyes for me, he knew I was in pain. He read it all over my face. He told me he was proud of me, even though I could feel that he was. As I passed him, I finally felt the energy to pick up the pace, which is something I do every time I run. Yet, I found it difficult to find the extra kick for this one. Reaching the finish line I could hear my friends who had already finished cheering me on. Such AMAZING support!

Then it was over. I was a zombie (as you can see in the group picture). I was dehydrated, drained of energy, and mental exhausted. I thought I had been tired before in my life, but I didn't know what tired was until that was over. I could hardly hold a conversation let alone stand up or think. I grabbed some watermelon, water, half of my energy bar, and sat down in my transition area. It wasn't until we had packed up and got in the cab that I actually started to feel like myself again. 

After the race we all got ready to head out for dinner and a night on the town to reward ourselves. But, after some great nachos and one beer we were all beat, glossy-eyed, and ready for bed.

This race was one of the BEST experiences I have had in Taiwan. Great friends, beautiful location, and an amazing physical and mental challenge. I loved everything about this. The race itself, training with friends, bonding with like-minded individuals, and finding the determination in myself that I thought,not so many months ago, was not there.


Olympic Distance Triathlon Times:

1.5km swim - 41 minutes
45km bike - 2 hours 2 minutes
10km run - 1 hr 10 minutes

total time - 3 hours 54 minutes

So happy to have reached my goal of completing in under 4 hours! 

Next time . . . FASTER!!

More pics from the race can be found on the race Facebook group for anyone interested.


  1. wow wow wow so proud love u babe Mom xxoo

  2. agreed! great work, real awesome!


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