We’ve all been there. We know the feeling.
Excitement. Trepidation. A bit of fear. Some nerves. And tons of electricity. That first triathlon is one you never, ever forget. From the transition area nervousness to the camaraderie and sheer joy of accomplishment in finishing that first tri, there’s nothing more palpable.
Quintana Roo marketing associate Sarah Hinchman just got all those feels this year, and is ready for more.
Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee in August was the venue. After months of dark mornings at the pool, tons of runs after work, and quick lunchtime runs, the Calfkiller Triathlon—Hinchman’s first ever tri—was on.
The 22-year-old Hinchman grew up playing. If it was an outdoor activity, she was in. From swimming to competitive soccer to Ultimate Frisbee, she was active. It was her soccer team’s volunteering at Ironman Chattanooga a few years ago that piqued her interest in multi-sport and possibly taking on a tri. But it was her joining the Quintana Roo team that put it into action, as her colleagues loaded her down with gear, and QR CEO Peter Hurley’s wife, Lorraine, became her coach, building a training plan for the newcomer.
Before the race, she had the same fear all triathletes have: did I train enough, or did I do too much training? In Hinchman’s case, her fear was the latter.
“I have a Garmin that shows my fatigue, and right up to the day before the race, it showed I was in the negative, indicating I was fatigued,” she says. “I asked my coach ‘what’s going on?’ My energy was low, and she said it was normal. I was thinking I’d passed my peak.”
But race morning, the tech gods shined on Hinchman. “I looked at my Garmin and the fatigue meter had me in the positive! I got there five hours early, set up and walked transition, made sure I understood the flow of it all.”
The pre-race nerves were more of an excitement.
“I walked down to the swim and was just jumping around—I didn’t know what to do with all the energy I had. Someone said it was maybe gonna rain, and maybe the race was gonna be cancelled, and I was like ‘noooo! I wanna race!’ People asked if I was nervous and I said ‘no’, but my adrenaline was soaring.”
As we all experience the chaos, confusion, and fear, it all goes out the window once the gun goes off.
“They announced ‘90 seconds to start!’ and my heart was just pounding, but once the race started, everything just got quiet and calm, all I could hear was the water,” Hinchman says. "I felt like I exploded forward in the water… it was just so fun!”
After crushing the swim and coming out second in her age group, she smashed the bike in the rain, and dashed through the run. “I was just having so much fun,” she says. “I was passing people on the bike, just getting pelted by rain, and I was like ‘I love this!’ I didn’t want it to end.”
When it did end, she crossed the finish wearing a huge smile after beating her pre-race goals. And she was hungry for more races.
“I’m gonna skip the Olympic distance step-up and go right to 70.3s; I signed up for 70.3 Chattanooga in May,” she says. “I’ve been telling everyone, this triathlon, it’s the best thing ever. I mean, I get to be in this space, inspired by people like Jeanni Metzler or Lucy Charles. They’re on a whole other level, but to know we’re doing the same thing on the same course, it’s amazing! I just love to be around people who inspire me."
And for now, Hinchman can be the inspiration for many ready to dive into their first triathlon, for she's a rookie no more.
So as someone who can now claim being a tri veteran, what five top tips does she have for first-timers?
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