The First Tri

Fiona Lee attempts her first ever Triathlon race at the TRI-Factor triathlon.


Words Fiona Lee

I completed my first triathlon over the weekend. The night before the race, I was having jitters and I wasn’t sure if I was able to even line up at the start.


It’s a culmination of an eight-year-long ambition when I decided at a much younger age that I would one day complete of a triathlon of any length. 

My best friend Joyce would be racing alongside me, so I decided that I would not let her down and got on with it at the race site, at East Coast Park.

It was a Tri-Factor event, so there were many new first-time triathletes like me in the Freshman category while the seasoned triathletes were competing in the Standard distance.

I have a serious fear of swimming in open water, but a few organised training sessions prior to the race helped calm me somewhat. I believed that my background as a runner would carry me forwards over the cycling and running sections of the event, so even if I couldn’t swim fast there was still some hope there.

All up, it was just a 200m swim, a 12km bike ride and a 2km run. I just had to get over the mental fear of the whole event.

At 9.55a.m., the race started and I took to the water with the other competitors. The waves were hitting the beach pretty hard and I nearly got swept away by the current. The waves were merciless, and for every stroke I pulled, my mouth flooded with seawater. It was a bit of a mess, and amidst the kicking and flailing people I forgot most of my freestyle swim technique and decided to swap back to breaststroke just to keep myself afloat.

The lifeguards that gave us their support really gave me a buffer to feel safe in the water though, and due to my lack of speed I was one of the last few to get out of water.


As I ran to the transition area, for some strange reason ‘Battle Symphony’ by Linkin Park was looping in my head and refused to shut off even as I got on my bicycle.

Keeping left on the cycling leg was necessary as the faster participants were flying past me on the right side. It was a multi-lap circuit, and it helped that the road marshals on the bike leg were clear and the signage well placed.

After I ended the cycling leg, it was time for the final section: the run. I thought I was going to be strong here but it felt like I just couldn't start my engines. What they say about running after a long stint on a bicycle was true: my legs were wobbly and felt like jelly.


There was just 2km to cover on my own legs though, and I was confident enough in my running that I figured I would gradually gain momentum.

However, just 100m onto the path, I nearly got into an accident when a cyclist dashed across the lane right in front of me! A quick-think marshal saw the cyclist in the nick of time and a potential disaster was averted.

At the final kilometre, my buddy Alden paced me to the end and kept yelling at me to overtake the runners in front. With bigger foot strides, I FINALLY MADE IT TO THE FINISHING LINE!


Emotions flooded into me. It felt surreal. I could finally say that I was a triathlete. Well, I'm a mini triathlete compared to the rest but it didn't matter.

It's nothing much to boast about compared to those who have completed longer distances. However, it did teach me determination, and also taught me about discipline, motivation and friendship.

After the race, I checked into the Recovery Systems show booth, where I could try out their compression leg suits which claim to aid athlete recovery, post-race. The Oakley booth nearby was also giving away a customised shirt to every participant that used the Strava app to sync their race times.

As a final topper, I scored some ice cold beer and health food firm Astavita also gave out shakes to participants.


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