World of difference between softball and triathlon

Jennie Finch checks in after her second sprint triathlon.

Jennie Finch, a former professional softball pitcher who won a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens and a silver medal in 2008 in Beijing, is not one to settle for the slow lane. She is now taking on a new challenge: completing the Olympic-distance Aquaphor New York City Triathlon.

Courtesy Jennie Finch

Jennie Finch, right, has found a valued training partner in Lori Pritchett.

Custom bike? Check. It's time to get serious.

OK, so first let me state the obvious: Doing a triathlon is nothing like playing softball. Softball I've pretty much got down -- I've done it my whole life and have two Olympic medals to show for it. Triathlons? Not so much. Well, I did play Marco Polo in the pool growing up, and I had a PT beach cruiser bike in high school. And I did run a marathon in 2011, the year after I retired from softball and had my first baby, so that's something. But when Aquaphor asked me to be an athlete ambassador for their New York City Triathlon on July 14, well, let's just say I can't say no to a challenge!

Since my background is in team sports, I feel very fortunate to have found an awesome friend to train with. Lori Pritchett just finished her first marathon and I convinced her to take on the tri with me. Through her I met this guy we call Coach Grampy -- a.k.a. Dave Park -- who is a straight-up Ironman. He's getting ready to compete at the U.S. triathlon nationals in Milwaukee in August. He loaned me a bike to start training on back in April and has just been a world of knowledge, teaching us the biking rules of the road and getting me to do speed work in the pool instead of sticking to slow, boring laps.

Lori and I even tried our first sprint tri in April just to see what we were getting ourselves into. Let me tell you, it was pretty intense. There were Ironman tattoos everywhere we looked. It was also my first open-water swim, and I live in Louisiana where the river is known to be alligator-infested! One swimmer looked at me and said, "I just want to be where the alligators aren't."

With all that adrenaline I probably went out too fast, and hyperventilated a bit, but I survived it. I got out of the water and started walking to the transition area and then was like, 'Jennie, get your head in the game! This is a race!' So I started running, tripped my way over/out of my wetsuit and got my tennis shoes laced up for the bike. The bike ride was nerve-wracking, too -- road bikes are so small and intricate, you have to be on it. And everyone is going so fast! I wasn't sure if I was supposed to hang left or hang right as the guys zoomed by me. Anyway, I made it through, and then finished the two-mile run feeling heavy-legged, but good.

Feet wet? Check!

After a few weeks of dabbling on my own, I finally started training with a real triathlon coach, Gale Bernhardt. She's actually having me cut back my training. She said I could finish the triathlon tomorrow; it just wouldn't feel very good. Now we're going to zero in on making me faster.

I also got fitted for a custom bike the other day, so I could give the loaner back to Coach Grampy. The bike fitting was a crazy, intense process. I got a women's bike from Specialized called the Ruby, and the seat alone makes a world of difference. What, your butt isn't supposed to hurt when you bike? Well I didn't know any different. But they did a million different measurements of knee angle and hip angle and adjusted this and that, and now my bike couldn't be more perfect. I also got shoes so I can clip in now. I'm starting to feel more official, and now I look better than I am, so I've got some catching up to do!

Catch up with you soon!

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