My Virtual Triathlon

author : alicefoeller
comments : 3

Coronavirus cancelation didn't stop me, but razor wire did

My triathlon was canceled because of Covid-19, but I am terrible at training consistently unless I have a goal and a race to look forward to. So I completed a virtual race in mid-June alone as part of a Virtual Triathlon by Rev3 Triathlons. On the day my race was originally scheduled, I arrived at the beach as I would have, except not nearly as early.

Instead of a parking lot filled with a Finish Line inflatable and bike racks and trailers and port-o-potties, I found a largely empty parking lot full of fast food litter, with a few families arriving to take their kids to the beach.

I tried to "compete" on the course where my original race would have occurred. I swam in the lake with my safety buoy strapped around my waist and trailing behind me, and my partner spotting from the shore.

I rode the bike course as laid out, and it was much more challenging having to stop at highway crossings, navigate loose gravel, and start up a hill from a stop sign I would normally have continued through.

The run course was the part I thought would be simplest to replicate, running the same course but with water strapped on my back. Instead, my Camelbak's water bladder ruptured when I bent over in transition and most of my water leaked out during the first mile. Then after the difficult grass section I reached the bridge, but there was a fence across the bridge over the reservoir. They must get a special permit to open the gate on race days, and I've always assumed it remained open at all times because the only time I cross that bridge is when I race there.

I thought I would climb the fence or climb around the side, but they had already thought of that and built extensions onto the fence to prevent going under or around, and added razor wire to the top. So I added distance running along some other lonely park roads to complete six miles.


Swim: 550 yards (requirement was 10 minutes of "other")

Bike: 40K

Run: 10K


I dedicated my solo triathlon to all of the people of color in my world, who overcome adversity every day. There's nothing about spending three hours on my hobby on a sunny weekend morning that can make me understand what it's like to live with black or brown skin in the country. At all. But I did take the three hours of solitude to reflect on all the times in my life when I've had doors opened for me or things made easier for me because of who I know and because of not having to overcome institutional roadblocks and economic disadvantage going back generations.

Sometimes my mind would wander from my intention during the triathlon, but I was easily refocused every time I came to an intersection and remembered that during a real triathlon, a police officer would be there to hold back traffic for me. Or when I was on the run course and I couldn't proceed because of the razor wire that said "Property of the US Government. Keep Out." As if the U.S. Government is something separate from me and I'm not allowed on its property.

I thought of how easy it was to try a new hobby/sport as a white adult. My parents took me to swimming lessons like all of their friends did with their kids, so I didn't have a fear of water. I always had a bike growing up. I can go running outdoors and no one looks at me like I might be running from someone. I've also had people who were practically strangers make it much easier for me. (A guy in my master's swimming class at an Illinois YMCA sold me his road bike for $300 so I could actually compete. At the time I thought that was a lot of money, but I now understand he gave me a Bianchi road bike with Campagnolo gears for practically the cost of pedals and a helmet.)

And once I arrived at my first race, most people looked like me and made me feel welcome. (Here's an area where we can all help our participants of color -- simply by saying hello and smiling while setting up in transition.)

Thoughts of how I got started in triathlon because of other people helping and encouraging me had me think of how I first got started running.


Here's how I became a runner:

I went to summer camp at Camp Wyandot in southeastern Ohio for the very first time when I was 14 years old. They had two morning activities you could do before breakfast. One was the Polar Bear swim and the other was the Morning Mile run. I didn't want to do the Polar Bear swim ... both because I didn't think it was fun to jump into a pool in the early morning and also because I was on my period that week and not very sophisticated about managing it yet. So I went to Morning Mile, even though I'd never run longer than up and down a basketball court.

I ran to the camp mailbox and back with everybody else and I'm sure I had a horrible gait and my arms and legs were flying every which way, the way new runners and kids always do. But the young counselor in charge of the activity came up to me after, and he said, "Are you a runner?"

I said, "No, not really. Just in gym class."

And he said, "You should be. You look like you're good at it."

I swelled up with happiness and from then on, I was a runner. I ran track the next three years in high school. I ran for fitness in college, and I never stopped.

I run. It's who I am. I'm a runner.

And the camp counselor? His camp name was Batman and he was a tall black teenager, maybe 19 or 20.

He changed my life.

The photo is from my fitness tracker. I think by putting the hashtag in this post and attaching my "proof," my results are official. There are virtual triathlons open through many of the larger race companies, which allow you to report your results and have some accountability for finishing.

You also can choose to have the shirt and medal and other swag shipped to you.

Thanks to my partner, Daniel, for getting up early and driving with me and waiting on my for three hours and cheering for me.


Click on star to vote
13885 Total Views  |  114 Views last 30 days  |  25 Views last 7 days
date: June 30, 2020


Owner at Beginner Triathlete, web marketing consultant at SiteInSight, writer, entrepreneur, advocate for unstructured nature play for kids.


Owner at Beginner Triathlete, web marketing consultant at SiteInSight, writer, entrepreneur, advocate for unstructured nature play for kids.

View all 96 articles