Hyannis Sprint Tri: Swim, Bike, Run

Hyannis Tri Race Recap

In case you missed it you may want to start with the previous 2 posts about the Hyannis Sprint Triathlon (my first tri!):

Pre-Race Prep

Before the Start 

So, when we last left off Pat and I were standing on the beach ready for our swim start…

I should probably mention that I went into this race with the attitude and expectation that  it was 100% a learning experience.  I hadn’t trained quite as much as I would have liked and there were a lot of unknowns with doing a triathlon for the first time.  I had no goals other than to finish the race.

Also, please excuse the lack of pictures, but I wasn’t exactly swimming or biking with my camera!

Hyannis Tri Beach

Quiet on the beach before the swim start!

THE SWIM (1/4 mile)

Going into the race I knew I probably hadn’t trained for the swim quite as much as I should have, but having been a lifeguard through high school and college I like to think of myself as a fairly strong swimmer and I knew I could get through the distance even if I had to mix a little breast stroke in with my freestyle.

The horn blew and we were off! I dove into the water and began to swim.

I have swam many laps in a pool wearing goggles and opening my eyes. I have swam in many oceans – clear blue ones where I’ve worn goggles and admired the pretty fish, and darker murky ones where who on earth is going to want to open their eyes??!

I have never worn goggles in dark, cloudy, “can’t see my hand right below the surface” water and opened my eyes and attempted to swim a pretty, yet efficient freestyle.

So, back to where I dove in and began to swim. I opened my eyes and it was black. (And was it me or was my wetsuit actually getting tighter?!?  And choking me!) I immediately lifted my head out of the water, took a few deep breaths and tried again…

My mind flashed to the chapter in a book I read by triathlete blogger Swim, Bike, Mom (aka Meredith) where she does her first open water swim in a wetsuit. She got claustrophobic and had a panic attack.

I am claustrophobic.  I was having a panic attack.

I can’t think of a better way to explain how I felt other than to borrow Swim Bike Mom’s description, “I suddenly have the distinct feeling that I am burying myself alive.”

It was momentarily terrifying, but fortunately because I knew what was going on I was able to channel my inner yogi and lifeguard and relax myself enough to think through a logical next step. I flipped over onto my back and took a few deep breaths.

I realized there was no way I was going to be able to swim with my face in the water so I managed a not-so-pretty, yet somewhat efficient combination of breast stroke, side stroke and back stroke (which combined with the wetsuit probably made me look like a flailing, injured and vulnerable baby seal – aka shark bait).

I focused on taking deep breaths and just making progress forward so I could be done with the swim and get out of the water (just keep swimming, just keep swimming…), but you can sure as hell bet I kept an eye on where the closest lifeguard on a paddleboard was!

It was 9 of the longest minutes of my life, but I finally made it to shore, and for someone who was looking forward to the bike leg of the triathlon the least, I couldn’t have been happier to see my bike.

Swim Time – 9:02


I ran up the beach and toward the transition area.  On the way I grabbed a cup of water (to get rid of the salt water taste in my mouth!) and dipped my feet in the kiddie pools they had set up to get the sand off.

I peeled off my wetsuit (god was I glad to get that thing off!), threw down my swim cap and goggles, put my helmet, socks and sneakers on and I was off!  (**Newbie Note: Make sure you put your helmet on before you even touch your bike and do not get on your bike until you are out of the transition area or you can be disqualified!)

T1 Time – 2:30

Hyannis Tri My Transition Area

THE BIKE (10 miles)

Fortunately I can say there was nothing eventful about the 10 mile bike ride.  There were a few rolling hills and it went as well as can be expected – I didn’t fall off and I didn’t get a flat so I’d call that a success.

I was passed by a few people, but I also noted that everyone that passed me had a road bike vs. a hybrid so I chalked it up to the fact that a) they were hard core bikers or b) their bike was just faster!  (Although the having your age written on your calf thing is kind of annoying because instead of just being passed by “an older dude” I immediately knew I had just gotten passed by a 76 year old…)

There were no mile markers so my biggest frustration on the bike was having no idea how much more I had to go the entire time!  (I should note that although I had my GPS watch with me in my transition bag, after the disastrous swim I opted not to wear it since I figured the last think I should be worried about was my time for anything, in the future I’d bring it just to know my mileage!)

Bike Time – 42:46


I dismounted my bike before pulling into the transition area (**Newbie Note: You must get off your bike at the designated dismount area or you can be disqualified!), ran towards my bike rack area, hooked my bike on, left my helmet and headed off for the run…

T2 Time – 1:02

THE RUN (3.5 miles)

…ahhh, the run.  Finally something I was comfortable with!

My legs felt a little heavy at the start and I took a short walk break at the 1 mile mark (thankfully the run course had mile markers!).  I figured since I wasn’t concerned about my time and breathing wasn’t exactly pleasant in 98% humidity (oh, did I not mention the humidity yet?? Yeah, it was humid.) I would take a 30 second walk break at each mile marker…however, to my surprise once I sort of shook off the heavy “bike legs” the run felt pretty good and I didn’t take any more breaks.

For the last 2 miles I passed a few people (probably about the same # of people that passed me on the bike – ha!) and I finally made the turn for the last 100 yard run on the beach towards the finish!

Run Time – 32:46 

I grabbed my phone and ran back to the finish line to hopefully see Pat finish and not 30 seconds later there he was!

Hyannis Tri Pat FinishWe had assumed that since I was (in theory) the stronger swimmer (clearly that was not necessarily true), and Pat was the stronger biker and runner that he would catch me once he was on the bike, but unfortunately he ended up having some bike issues that held him back a little so he was right behind me at the finish!


Wow.  So many thoughts about this.  And my response to anyone who asked me “how was it?” right after I finished was, “I think I need some time to process it…”

So, I’ve processed for a few days and here’s what I’ve come up with – I’m glad I got my first triathlon done because the fear of the unknown that comes with doing anything new is gone.  I’m disappointed in how the swim turned out, but at the same time knowing I’m claustrophobic and prone to panic attacks I really should have listened to everything I read and done an open water swim BEFORE race day, so when it comes down to it that one is totally my fault.

(**Please note that I am not telling you all of this to discourage or scare anyone from doing a triathlon, but rather to share my mistakes so you can learn from them!**)

When I registered for this race I registered for the whole 3 race summer series so I have two more to go – 1 in July and 1 in September and while my immediate post-race thought was “crap, why did I think that was a good idea?!?”, now I’m glad that I have another one coming up otherwise I may not be as motivated as I am to go work on the open water swim.

Overall it was a good experience.  This race in particular was very first timer friendly and I never felt out of place or uncomfortable, plus it really helped having Pat there doing his first triathlon too!

I’m planning on writing another post with some more overall thoughts and tips for doing your first triathlon (from both Pat & I!), so if you have any questions or anything you’d like me to address please feel free to leave it in the comments and I’ll do my best to get you an answer!

Overall Time – 1:28:05



Just 24 days until triathlon #2!

52 thoughts on “Hyannis Sprint Tri: Swim, Bike, Run

  1. So impressed that you did this Danielle. The open water swim must have been so scary….dark water and the unknown that lies beneath would have me totally freaked out. You handled the panic attack so well. I bet the next one will feel easy for you! Maybe you should consider a new bike so the 76 year old won’t pass you next time! (joking)

    • Thanks Pam! It was momentarily VERY scary, but like I said I’m fortunate that I knew what I was going on and how to control it otherwise I’m not sure I could have finished the swim!

  2. Congrats on finishing your first Triathlon. Your open water swim issues are very common. Go get in those practice sessions.

    If I could offer one suggestion. From reading your post, its sounds like your mind was busy during the race. Maybe in the next race, let your mind go, and just race your race.

    Best of luck.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and checking on my post on my first tri!

      I had definitely read about the open water/ claustrophobia issue a bunch which is why I knew what was happening immediately, like I said, totally my own fault for not getting in an open water swim before race day!

      And yes, doing my first tri my mind was definitely busy just sort of going over check lists and making sure I was ready for the next leg/ transition, etc., but I think that’s only because it was my first one! I’m usually much better about not over thinking things during a race, hopefully I’ll be able to let my mind go a bit more next time!

      Thanks again for stopping by and for your suggestion!

  3. That sounds completely amazing. Can you swim in something that isn’t a wetsuit so you’re not as restricted?

    • For the July race the water will be warm enough that I won’t need to wear a wetsuit…to be honest though the wetsuit wasn’t really the issue, it was more just the dark claustrophobic inducing dark water…Oh well, time to practice!

      You in for doing one with me soon? You have a bike now! : )

  4. Great job on pulling through! Sounds like a panic attack indeed. Dark, murky water is super yucky. But you survived and I love that you’re going to plow ahead with the second one. I think you’ll find the second one MUCH easier than the first. Happy training!

    • Thanks Karla! I’m really looking forward to sort of redeeming myself in the swim for the next one although not sure how much I’ll be able to improve between now and then!

  5. Well congrats on finishing! Woohoo! And no shark bait (oo ah ah) for you! But ummm, yeah, I definitely think I’m pushing back my tri attempt for a couple more years…or forever lol. Congrats again! Yay you!

    • Awww, no, I don’t want to scare you away from doing one! It really was a lot of fun, I just wanted to give people a heads up to the importance of doing an open water swim before race day!

  6. Great job on finishing your first tri. The open water would scare me too, not to mention not being able to see anything. Do you think it’s that spot or just the climate that day?

    • Thanks Lesley! The water off Cape Cod isn’t exactly known for being crystal clear or anything, but I think it was also probably a little worse than usual since it had been raining and windy for the few days leading up to the race so it probably churned stuff up a bit!

  7. Hey Dani…. I want to echo all of the comments above when I say “GREAT JOB”! I am so proud of you for not giving up when you had the “panic attack”. Having witnessed several of your (infrequent) attacks, I know how tough it must have been for you. Congrats again… and hopefully I can make the next Tri to cheer you on.

    • Yeah, luckily it wasn’t a very far run on the sand at all, but it always makes me nervous that I’m going to twist an ankle or something running on soft sand! And yup, luckily no sharks : )

  8. Awesome recap. All races have challenges and how you overcome them shows what type of person you are. You could of called it quits during the swim, but you overcame. Really inspirational and the fact you are already preparing for #2 is huge. Great job.

    • Thanks! I did briefly think about just calling it quits when I was struggling with the swim, but I knew if I could get past the initial panic that I could probably keep going and I’m glad I did!

  9. Way to go! I love swimming but honestly don’t know how I’d be in the ocean (or, since I live in NYC, the East or Hudson rivers, blegh). I also have a bike but it’s a vintage little thing not meant for moving fast … sticking to running seems like a good plan for me right now, but maybe someday I’ll attempt a triathlon!

    • Yeah, ocean swimming was quite a bit different than pool swimming! I had a good time but not sure I’m ready to make a full time switch to triathlons!

  10. Congrats! I have considered a tri but the swimming thing is what scares me. I can swim but swimming in the ocean where creatures live freak me out. I also have heard horror stories about how people get kicked in the head while swimming.
    Doing the 3 race season was a good idea. You are committed and will only get better with each race.

    • Yeah, I was worried about getting kicked too but honestly it wasn’t that bad, I just sort of started off to the side and did my best to keep myself a little room to avoid the flying feet and elbows!

    • Thank you Meredith! I can’t tell you how much your book & blog encouraged me to get out there and do my first tri. (And having read about your scary swim certainly helped me to know what to do in that situation!)

  11. I think its funny that the sprint tri distances are different. The one here is .3 mile swim, 12 mile ride and a 5k. That said, I’m not claustrophobic but the idea of open water swimming causing that sensation totally makes sense. I’m an awful swimmer (takes me almost 15 min to swim .3 miles but I’ve never really had a lesson in my life) and would probably swim with my head out of the water the whole time anyway!

    • I know it’s weird, right? The next one I’m doing is different distances than this one. I’m hoping to get over the claustrophobia issue with swimming with my face in open water, but if not I guess I’ll just swim with my head out of the water for the next one too!

  12. I just did my first sprint tri a couple weekends ago and I had a similar experience with needing time to process how I performed. I too was passed a bunch by much older ladies, while I do now have a “road bike” its a commuter type bike, not a race bike, so I did feel like I was working harder than others just to keep up a decent pace. Plus I too signed up for a series and have 2 more this summer! Looking forward to seeing how they go for you! My toughest parts were the bike and bike to run transition.

    Also, what was the temp of the water? I swam in a lake and I only wore a 1mm wetsuit skin which was perfect, but I know swimming in the ocean can be colder than 73-74 degrees depending on which coast and latitude.

    • And when I was passed by older ladies it was on the bike, to clarify 🙂 And it is kind of annoying to have age written on calf….BUT as a single lady it is kind of nice to scope out the guys ages 😀

      Great job on your first sprint tri! Its all a learning experience 🙂

    • Thanks, I definitely feel like I’ll be more comfortable after having done my first one!

      I’m on the east coast so the water temp was about 63-64ish. Hopefully by the July race it’ll be warm enough that I don’t need to use a wetsuit at all because honestly I wasn’t really a huge fan of it.

  13. I think everyone experiences that panic attack during their first triathlon swim…you never have an opportunity to know what it’s like swimming with all those people in dark murky waters until you are actually out there.
    I remember having a major panic attack about 50m into my first Olympic swim (1500m)…it felt like I was being pulled under by the crowd and my chest was so tight I couldn’t breathe. I just stopped for a couple seconds to let the crush of swimmers by and slow my breathing a bit, then set back out.
    Experience will make it better, trust me…it happens to all of us!

    • I’m just glad I had read about other people experiencing the same thing before it happened to me or I really think I would have freaked out! I sort of felt like I knew what to do if it happened which was good.

  14. So proud of you!!! I can totally relate to not wanting to put your face in the water. It freaks me out and is my downfall. Good luck and can’t wait to read about races 2 & 3!!!

  15. Wow! Congrats on your first tri!! Congratulations on handling that panic attack too! I was a strong swimmer in college, but got in trouble after decades of not swimming: Choking on water, goggles leaking, too far from shore, no lifeguards – started to panic but like you I recognized it and told myself to calm down. Made my way to shallow water and caught my breath. I don’t ever plan on entering a triathlon, but if I keep reading posts like yours, I may change my mind. Good luck on your future races. I got a feeling you’re going to ace them!

    • Thanks Rick! It was a nice change to have a new challenge, we’ll have to see how the next two go before I decide on if there are any more in my future!

  16. You did wonderful!! Congrats! Sorry to hear the swimming didn’t go as well as you liked, but you should be proud that you were able to overcome the claustrophobia/panic attack and finish. Open water swimming is frightening enough, let alone adding in the fact that it’s so murky you can’t see anything. I have a fear of getting kicked or punched in the face by another swimmer haha.

    • Yes, the open water swimming was definitely harder than I was expecting! I did get one good elbow to the head, but I was off to the side enough that I was able to avoid it pretty well.

  17. Sorry, I’m SO behind on everything! But I wanted to congratulate you on killing your first tri. Sorry you had a hard time with the swimming — that is absolutely my biggest fear, too, but you still did it and you’re totally inspiring me! Conquering new challenges is always exciting, even when things don’t go exactly at you hoped. Congrats, again! 😀

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