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Jen Gives Her Horse a Rest and Tries Her First Triathlon

by Jennifer, Store Manager

Trying a Triathlon


I am a very goal-oriented person, and always have to have a competition of some kind to strive towards.  With my mare laid low by Lyme’s disease, I needed a non-horse related event to occupy my competitive spirit.  Bella and I normally compete in Eventing – a horse triathlon consisting of dressage, cross-country and stadium jumping.  So when a flyer advertising a triathlon came in the mail, I thought “Perfect!”  It wasn’t a traditional triathlon – I refuse to bike on the road fighting cars, and October is a bit chilly to be swimming, at least in Massachusetts!  This event consisted of a 5 mile kayak, a 4.5 mile trail run, and a 7.5 mile mountain bike.  I had been kayaking all summer on the Charles River, so that wouldn’t be a problem.  I ran cross-country in high school – more than a few years back, but I could get myself in shape in a month.  My mountain bike experience consisted of peddling between my trailer and the secretary’s booth at shows, but I’d hit the trails a few times and get up to speed.


The triathlon was held at the Tully Lake Campground in Royalston, MA – a beautiful spot in the north central part of the state.  Since it was a bit of a drive for me, I went up the night before and took advantage of the activities planned.  I met some fellow competitors over pasta and listened to a really great local band while keeping warm by the bonfire.  Camping that night was cold!  I woke up excited to start and didn’t miss the horse show nerves a bit.

After packing up my camping gear and strategically placing the various items I would need during the race, I joined the 60+ other competitors paddling around in front of the start.  I had been a little nervous about going by myself to an event like this, but as in eventing, friendships were quickly and easily struck up and we were wishing each other luck in the minutes before the race began.  What a sight when the horn sounded – paddles splashing and boats flying across the lake!  There were quite a few serious competitors that quickly outdistanced those of us in it for fun, but we gamely paddled on, battling the wind and fighting our way over beaver dams.  I felt pretty good, and pushed hard on the second half, passing several other paddlers.  I knew they would pass me in the run, but I might as well enjoy pulling slightly ahead while I could!

The five miles flew by, and before I knew it I was pulling ashore and carrying my kayak across the boat finish.  A quick change into my sneakers, and I was running down the road.  An extremely steep hill early in the course gave me a bit of trouble, but once I got into the woods it was 4.5 miles of root dodging, stream jumping, rock hopping fun.  The last half mile felt as long as the previous four, but sooner than I thought the finish line for the run was in sight and the crowd cheered me into the bike area.

I took a moment to put on my helmet and get a good drink, then I mounted up and hit thetrail.  I was feeling pretty good – the paddling was fantastic, and I weathered the run much better than I thought I would.  I couldn’t believe over 1 ½ hours had already gone by!  From what I had heard, the bike trail was pretty tough and almost impossible to ride through in spots.  They were not exaggerating!  It was by far the toughest 7.5 miles I have ever traversed.  A narrow, twisting trail strewn with rocks and roots, the occasional steep hill and lots of narrow bridges over streams – Yikes!  I got to be very good friends with gears one and two, and wasn’t ashamed to walk my bike when the bumps got too close together or the hills too steep.  After numerous involuntary dismounts, a few nearly-missed turns and a lot of mental bucking up, my rubbery legs peddled me across the finish line.  What an amazing feeling!  17 miles in 3 hours 39 minutes – better than I thought I would do, and my only goal was to finish.  I think I’m officially hooked – I’ve already started planning out my next triathlon.  I just hope it doesn’t conflict with my next event with Bella!

Many thanks to The US Army Corps of Engineers and The Trustees of the Reservations for hosting and managing a super fun and safe event.

Jennifer Bagley

Jen as a rider: Apparently I've been obsessed with horses since I was born, and I used to beg for pony rides on a regular basis. I started showing in 4-H, progressed to equitation and jumpers in high school and rode on the IHSA team in college where I also discovered the joys of eventing! After graduating I learned how to sit while working for a dressage trainer and now am a committed low-level eventer in the ever-elusive quest to put together three solid phases. Jen as a SmartPaker: I manage SmartPak's Retail Store in Natick, MA - if you are ever in the area, please stop by to say hi and check out all our amazing products in person! We also have a fantastic clearance section with some unbelievable deals. All about Tally: Taliafera is a 9 year old TB/WB chestnut mare and she is just starting her eventing career. She was very green when I got her last year, so we spent a lot of time exploring the great outdoors and learning that the dressage arena is really not that bad. She loves to jump and has gotten quite bold in the XC, so I'm excited to start showing!

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