Completed my first triathlon

by Haifa Carina

April 16 marks the day I survived my first triathlon alive! It’s not on my bucket list but I went ahead to see if I can do it. Luckily, I did!

I was on my last 500m of the run leg. It was an uphill struggle and I wanted to get it over with. I passed by another 1st-time triathlete in his 50s. He cheered “See you at the next race!”. I thought, “Do I even want to do this again?”. I just smiled and waved back at him.

I realized that’s one of the things I enjoyed about racing. Somehow you share a bond with your fellow racers as you struggle together and cheer each other up. 

I was pacing with the man in his 50s in the middle of the run leg. He asked “First time?”. Maybe I really look like a first-timer whether in how I run, how I look, or maybe how late we are in finishing the race already. I don’t know. Haha. I responded, “Yup. You?”. He shared it was also his first time and we should finish the race strong. 

It’s not just the racers though. It was also the race marshalls, photographers and even the bystanders who continue to cheer you up. They make the race experience less dreadful with all of the physical turmoil you choose for yourself. Weeell, I didn’t choose this turmoil exactly. More on this later.


At one point, I passed by a fellow racer struggling slowly uphill on his mountain bike. I cheered “Go mountain bikers!”. I was also riding a mountain bike in the race. It’s not the best choice for a triathlon but I didn’t want to buy a road bike so I use what I already have. I remember going into the transition area with my pink and black mountain bike. I felt so insecure! About 95% of the bikes are road bikes and most of them look expensive! I can’t help but think “I don’t belong here”.


How did I end up racing a triathlon anyway? At my birthday dinner in January, my big brother (a triathlete himself) “gifted” me a race ticket happening in April. He said I should do a triathlon at least once in my life. I assumed he would also race so I felt comfortable with the idea. I successfully convinced a friend to race with me because he’s always dreamed of completing a triathlon for years now. I started training shortly after. 

Then weeks before race day, both of them decided not to push through. 😑

When I commit to something, I follow through with it. So I went ahead and prepared my mind to race solo. It was hard because of the time commitment required. I was also in the middle of a work transition making it even harder. I made many excuses and skipped many sessions. 

On race day, ready or not, let’s go!


I was freakin’ nervous! My little sister and big brother jokingly point it out but they were very supportive documenting my journey each step of the way.

The first leg was swimming. I was in the first batch of 5 women racers. Beside me was a woman who looked like a triathlon veteran. I asked her, “Any tips for first-timers?”. She was explaining about drafting. I didn’t understand. Never really knew what she meant until after the race when I got the time to Google it. I placed 2nd in the first lapse against 4 others. Then everything after that was plain torture. It was sooo exhausting! The 2nd half of the pool was also quite deep so I couldn’t stand on my feet. Resting meant I had to hang myself by the wall or the pool lane dividers. I keep on looking at how far I still had to go and it was discouraging. I went ahead and continued swimming – one meter at a time. Until finally, I reached the end and got out of the water. 

The next leg was biking. The first half had plenty of downhills and the scenery was beautiful. It didn’t feel like it was a race until I’m taking the uphill road. Racers in road bikes were overtaking me one after the other.  It started to feel like my mountain bike is getting heavier and heavier. 

And finally, the run! I was already getting tired but I just pushed it – one step at a time. That’s how I bumped into the man in his 50’s. As I crossed the finish line, I heard my little sister shouting “Teeeeyt!”. Seeing my siblings after the race felt like home. I couldn’t help but think “It’s finally over. Let’s go home now.”


Maybe not yet. Right now, I’m content with being able to prove to myself that I can finish one.

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