Post written by Jim Birch, contributor to the Grand Rapids Triathlon blog

This was the year of my first triathlon experience! I had driven up to Traverse City from Grand Rapids to swim a mile, ride a bike 27 miles and run 6.2 miles.


The swim was a point-to-point swim and the water was in the high 50 degrees and this was back in the days without wetsuits!  The gun went off, I jumped into the water and proceeded to take 8 quick breaths…all in!  Over half of the swimmers quickly exited and walked along the shoreline then waded in and went across the exiting spot for the swim (rules were non-existent).  I chose to stay in this water for 58 minutes while utilizing every stroke in my repertoire…left side stroke, crawl, right side stroke, back stroke…repeat sequence often.  My wife on shore was heard saying she could spot me throughout the swim due to my “confused” stroking skills.

A boat was sent out to me and my competitor…both of us vying for that last spot out of the water, and we were asked if we were alright. My new friend stopped, treaded water and said, “The question is, am I alright?  I’m in last place…I no longer have any sensation in any part of my body due to hypothermia, I’m not sure where I’m supposed to go nor if anyone will care once I do arrive. But other than that, I’m having just a wonderful day!”


I did make it to my borrowed bike. . .the one with a basket on the front and a kickstand. . .I think these two items gave away my rookie status.


I made it to T2 where we all were changing in an open field, into our running gear for the 6-mile course…and thus the triathlon organization decided that nudity should be a disqualifying event.  My 12-year old son jumped on my borrowed bike to keep me company on my run, which featured a rather steep, one-mile long hill.  He rode in a lazy “S” pattern while his Dad “ran” up the hill. Son’s comment; “I’ve got good news and bad news, Dad.  Good news is you are the only one running on this hill…everyone else is walking.  The bad news is…they’re catching you!”

When I finished, I knew I was hooked!

My granddaughter and grandson running me in at the 2011 TriIndy triathlon…a very special day for me.

Jim is a past participant of the Grand Rapids Triathlon. He has been an amazing inspiration to the team with his enthusiasm and spirit. Now, he shares his stories with fellow triathletes on this blog…for more stories, follow him here.

Grand Rapids Triathlon

Grand Rapids Triathlon

We are the largest independent triathlon and proud host of five USAT National Championships over the course of our nine-year history. While our event brings in some of the best athletes from across the country, we have also been named one of the Top 5 Best Triathlons for Beginners in the country according to Triathlon Business International. This triathlon event is a chance for athletes of all skill levels to compete on a scenic riverside course, perfect for the novice through the seasoned triathlete. Offering Sprint, Olympic, and Half distance Triathlons, Aquabike, Swim and Relay events, this USA Triathlon sanctioned event promises heart-pounding excitement from start to the finish.