Tyler Pearce, widely known as The Vegan Cyclist, decided to do his first triathlon on the 3rd of June in Bass Lake, California and filmed it for YouTube. Trizone caught up with Tyler to chat everything from swimming back stroke to the ultimate competitive mindset.
Race Day Looms
“The race start line was a mile from my front door. I kinda thought I had to do it really,” Tyler told Trizone. “I hadn’t trained at all. Not once. But I wanted to just give it a try, and I think the participation numbers were low because they let me sign up on the morning of the race,” said Tyler.
Deciding between Olympic distance and sprint distance
“I couldn’t decide initially. I figured, if I’m going to do it, I might as well go all out and do Olympic.” In the next moment though, he saw the fastest record for the Olympic distance was three hours. “That’s a lot of time to be racing! I had a team’s bike race the next day and I wanted to do well in that, so I decided on the spring distance.”
Getting to know the course…or not
While some age groupers may study the intricacies of a course map for weeks before a race, Tyler hadn’t even seen the route. “I didn’t look at the map, I just assumed I’d figure it out.” Tyler actually did figure it out, while other people in the race didn’t. More on that later…
Wearing the right gear
“I didn’t know anything about wetsuits, so I wore my cycle kit. My mate let me borrow some goggles, but you just can’t look cool in goggles and a swim cap.”
Sussing out the field
“There were a bunch of buff, ripped, six-pack dudes all over the place. I was like sh*t! It’s super intimidating,” Tyler told Trizone. “There was also a guy who played collegiate water polo who was so strong-looking, I thought for sure he’d be the winner.”
Getting through the swim with whatever stroke works
Sure, triathlon is usually freestyle, but sometimes you just want to make it through. “After a few hundred metres I was sucking water, I couldn’t breathe,” said Tyler. “I was starting to get hypoxic because I couldn’t regulate my breathing at all!”
As the swim pack surged on towards the first buoy, where Tyler expected they’d turn left to start making their way back along the shore, they turned right. “They had us swim the Olympic distance. When I got to that first buoy and saw the next one was so far away I almost said ‘fu** it’ and swam to the nearest dock, but I didn’t. I made a plan.”
As the sea of swim caps of the leaders powered away from him, Tyler found himself in 15th place. “I was trying breaststroke but that wasn’t helping, so I got onto my back and found I was actually making good speed! Those faster guys in the chase pack were catching up and I could look at them backwards and try and stay in front,”said Tyler.
Ultimately, he made it out of the swim in around 15th place, but he experienced whole-body fatigue like he hadn’t before.
“I got out of the water and my body was having a weird reaction I’d never felt before. I mean, I’d never swam that far in my life so I guess that was it. My legs were jelly and my arms felt really heavy,” said Tyler.
As he jogged the few hundred metres from the shore to the transition, he was frazzled. “There was just so much! I was trying to put on my shoes by my hands were like claws, it was really weird.”
Tyler’s approach wasn’t about enjoying the event though, he was out there to win.
Optimising time at transition
“Some people were walking through the transition, just drying themselves off, patting themselves nice and dry. I wasn’t into that! I was trying to win! That definitely changed the whole feeling of my race, some people were there to have fun,” said Tyler, “not me.”
Powering through the bike
Tyler is a great cyclist, there’s not doubt about that, and he used his strength on the bike to pass those in his group despite it taking longer than he wanted. “I was quite far back so I had that chasing incentive. I’d look at someone I’d pass thinking ‘yes! I’m one more place up,’ but then I’d see the age number on his leg and see it said 54! I’d thank ‘damn!’ then keep peddling away, until I’d get to the next person and think ‘yes! I’m passing someone!’ then I’d see it was a girl. ‘damn again!’”
Despite Tyler’s modesty, he powered through the bike leg managing around 350-400 watts when pedalling and feeling great. By the turn around, he was in 6th place, and the three leaders were two minutes ahead.
Meanwhile, Tyler was inspired by those just just trying to finish. “The waterpolo player who was so intimidating to me at the start was riding a $70 bike. I mean, he was just going for it, wearing sandals! That was just so cool. I mean there I was thinking my $10,000 bike wasn’t good enough, and he’s on that. He was just doing it!”
Sticking to the course on the run
Feeling strong after the bike, and in around 4th place, Tyler was ready for the run. “I pulled my shoes on. I’d cut off the laces and tied them in a knot which made them easier to get on, but they flopped around on my foot. I’d never run in them before so I didn’t know what to do really,” Tyler told Trizone.
With his sloppy shoes on, he ran out of transition the same route as the bike leg and was told he was going the wrong way. So he ran out the way the swim ended, but was again told he was going the wrong way. “I went the wrong way three times! It was so frustrating, I mean, I was trying to win!” said Tyler joking, remembering he’d told us he hadn’t read the course map.
Powering through the run, an aspect of fitness Tyler doesn’t really practice, he was feeling OK until the two mile mark when the course deviated towards a really steep hill. “You got a playing card from a woman to make sure you did that section, then the course loops back on itself.”
Throughout the run, Tyler had been wary of a strong athlete in his age group who’d been a few people behind him. “He’d told me he ran track in college so I was pretty aware of him,” said Tyler.
Magically, when Tyler reached the finish, he saw the guy at the finish line in front of him! “I was like ‘umm, did you teleport?” There’s no way he could have gone the same way because we looped back and I didn’t see him. I didn’t want to be a douche, but I asked him if he went up the hill and he said no, they didn’t tell him where to go.”
Hiding his frustrating, Tyler wanted to wait until the podium was announced before saying anything, if at all. “I didn’t want to make a big deal, but c’mon! The guy ran 1/2 a mile less than me!”
Being humbled by your less-sporty friends
Tyler’s high school friend, Matt Lundy, had also entered the race and was thrilled for his friend who ended up beating him overall, and winning the men’s division. “It was very humbling to be beaten by a guy I’d been helping in the training crit. He was just better overall even though my cycling ability is better. It’s such a contrast to how I’m used to racing. You can’t think you’re going to be really good at just one sport and do well!”
It’s all about giving it a go
Tyler ended up winning his age group, which may have started his love of triathlon, but not of training. “I will definitely do another one, but I’ll probably just sign up and give it a go. I might get too wrapped up in it if I train like crazy, it might not be as fun,” said Tyler.
“When you first start something, the improvements you make at the start are huge! You make huge gains, that’s part of the fun!”
As a cyclist, Pearce knows all about taking the spontaneity out of racing. “I’m cycling at such a high level all the time, it’s lost that sense of newness. The gains are few and far between in my cycling. Sometimes I celebrate improving my FTP by 1 watt!”
Tyler’s take aways
Without training and with little-to-no swimming experience, Tyler Pearce gave his first triathlon a go at a moment’s notice. It’s this spontaneity he aims to portray through his videos, inspiring thousands to live a healthier lifestyle.
“I had heard about so many people who were on the fence about doing a triathlon, and after I posted my video, so many people commented or contacted me saying I’d inspired them to try racing,” Tyler told Trizone.
“Whether that creates a whole new active lifestyle for someone, or even a one-off, I’m really please I can inspire people to just forget the excuses and pull the trigger and do it! It could just change their entire lives for the better,” said Tyler.
Trizone wishes Tyler, aka The Vegan Cyclist, a huge congratulations for finishing his first triathlon.
We’d love to hear your stories of your first triathlon too! Share them in the comments section below.