Three years ago, I stood on the shores of my first triathlon. I was intimidated, unsure of what to expect and cold as a chilly rain storm hit central Ohio that morning.I had never swam in open water. I had never even watched a triathlon. I had been running for a year and at 5-foot-11 could only run 12-minute miles. I didn't own a tri suit. The only gear I had was a classic swimsuit, goggles, a bike and running shoes, but honestly, that's all you need.When I look back, I was ill prepared compared with following seasons, and yet I'm not sure I would change a thing.As I racked my bike while the rain drizzled, the man next to me asked if I was excited. I shrugged. I wasn't sure how to feel. He provided encouragement and told me there was no going back after my first tri. He warned me how I would never be able to get enough after today (all the while I was laughing inside thinking he was crazy). I looked up and realized he was massive with delts up to his ears. I suddenly felt inadequate. How would I ever compete with athletes like him."Good luck," he said as he left transition. I was certain I would need it.The rain ended to provide an on-time start. I stood on the beach with many other athletes as the race director yelled "ready, set, go." The words of the man from transition popped back in my mind, "Once you start triathlon, you'll never stop," and I entered Alum Creek to never stop triathlon again.Sure, it wasn't a perfect race. I got kicked in the mouth during the swim and was terrified I would drown as I took in water, but quickly recovered. It felt like the longest course ever since I hadn't trained properly in open water. But in the end, I wasn't last in the swim and actually held my own pretty well against the field.The bike was my comfort zone. I flew down the course with ease as it's my favorite sport.The run was where the great surprise came. No, I didn't run any faster than my then-normal 12-minute pace, but as complete strangers trotted past they uttered words of encouragement. "Don't quit." "You've got this." "You're so close."No, I had never met a single one of them. No, I didn't start the conversation and ask for some newbie advice and encouragement. This quite simply was the essence of triathlon. These friendly athletes showed what truly makes this sport great -- community.Since that day I've competed in many triathlons, including one 70.3. I share my passion with others and give back to the sport by working with Zoom Multisport Racing. My 12-minute miles have transformed into 8-minute miles through getting connected with a community.So what can you learn from my first experience? It's simple really.