My First Triathlon

With my first triathlon of 2014 fast approaching (it’s on Sunday) I can’t stop thinking about what I’ve done differently this time to last time and what last year’s event was like. So here’s a little recap of my first triathlon!

2013 had begun. I had a bike – step 1 of approaching a triathlon complete. (baby steps all the way). Although, if I’m honest, owning a bike isn’t necessarily a prerequisite – I know lots of people who borrowed / rented bikes to get them through their first. And while I had a bike, I was too scared to cycle in London so it lived down on the south coast at my mum’s, there to be cycled once every month or so when I went to visit. Not great for training!

bike

I’d entered two triathlons. A ‘tri-it’ (which I don’t really count) in May, and a spring in September. The tri-it was 250m swim, 9k bike, 2.5k run. Just a baby.

My training involved running really heavily in January 2013, getting depressed by how long winter was going on for and giving up until about April when I joined a gym and started treadmill running and the occasional swim. I didn’t really know how to swim. During the tri-it, the water was so cold (like almost the limit for where they would cancel the tri) that as soon as my face got wet, my chest seized up and I couldn’t breath. I breast-stroked those 250m without putting my face in.

trainers

Long story short, I finished it on a high but determined I would train better for the next Sprint distance in September. I bought my bike up to London and when I started work at the end of August, started commuting in 13km each way. I even went for a few long cycles at the weekend when the weather was nice. Running happened occasionally. 5k felt like a really long way but I did it occasionally and had lots more shorter runs. I felt like I really blitzed my swimming – the month before the tri I swam once a week!! Every week!! And I had lessons!!! Look at my commitment 😀 A grand total of 2 hours swimming in a month.

Tri-day dawned and I slipped on my tri-suit (borrowed from my mum). I tried to eat a bowl of porridge but the 5am darkness plus my nerves didn’t help the eating and I couldn’t finish it. We dragged my sister and cousin (support crew) out of bed and set off for the 15 minute drive to the event. Dawn broke as our numbers were inked onto our legs and we stacked our bikes up in transition (my mum, my cousin, my sister’s boyfriend and me). An energy gel went down well and then I was watching the Olympic distance competitiors set off. I was feeling giddy with nerves, what if I drown? Why am I doing this? What if I can’t finish? How embarrassing

first tri wetsuitBig smile to hide all the nerves

Eventually I picked my way gingerly across the stones (no flip-flop) and it was time to enter the water. Immediately my heart-rate shot up, it wasn’t cold but it wasn’t warm and the klaxon went off before I had time to get used to it. I tried some front crawl, that didn’t last long, I did some breast stroke. This was a pattern that was to be repeated … it seemed my ‘intense’ swim training (all in a pool) hadn’t helped at all! And nobody had told me that breast stroke in a wetsuit is not efficient in any way whatsoever. I breaststroked my way round the 750m swim to come out in just over 24 minutes – second last. I actually exited the water at the same time as my sister’s boyfriend who was doing two laps so that gave me a little spur on to catch him up at the end!

Transition went well and I was onto the bike – from then on it was great! All I was saying, over and over again was I’ve done the swim I can do anything I’ve done the swim I can do anything I’ve done the swim now JUST ENJOY IT” With hindsight I probably should have been saying push those legs a little harder!

My cycle took an hour and 3 minutes (or so) for 23km in which I overtook one person but was overtaken by many more. By the end, the half ironman distance competitors were speeding past me on their super-bikes. How could they go so fast when they were going so far?! (How could I go so slow when I was only going such a short distance?) But they were cheery and friendly, members of my mum’s tri club shouting out encouragement as they zoomed on past.

Finally, onto the run! And off I went. No one around me to race really as all the other runners seemed to be the fastest half-ironman competitiors – men with legs up to my head who covered what seemed like a kilometre in one stride. I just continued plodding on, trying to sprint for the finish but beginning the sprint too soon so I had to slow down again before the finish line! Crossed the line – I’d done it! Finished my first proper triathlon! And I’d done the run in 30 minutes which I was pretty ecstatic about seeing as I’d never run that fast before.

first tri finish

Sprinting for the finish in my first triathlon

Lessons learnt:

  1. Train more. Swim more. Cycle more. Hopefully I’ve done all these things for my triathlon on Sunday….
  2. Push yourself harder – this is a race, not a jolly! Especially on the run I had more in my tank and could have run faster for longer.
  3. Triathlon is so much fun – the other competitiors are friendly and helpful, the volunteers are lovely, the buzz of race day is exciting and finishing it brings with it such a sense of accomplishment.

Worries for next time:

  1. What if my swim is still crap? This time I have put so much effort into it – I’ve swum twice a week since January, I’ve had two open-water coaching sessions, and more importantly, I feel so much more confident and competent in the water. If I still can’t do it when I get in there I’ll be really disappointed.
  2. What if I’m really slow on the bike? I still am quite slow on the bike. I think I’ll be one of the slowest on the course and while that doesn’t matter too much, I’d love to be able to try and actually race against someone on the bike.
  3. What if my ankles hurt like they did on my last brick run (where they hurt so much I had to stop and walk). What if my run is slower than last time?! That will be really disappointing (and possible) especially as my 5k personal best is now almost 5 minutes faster than that triathlon run.
  4. Basically, this time I have trained so hard, there is pressure (from myself, on myself). I’ve put so much into it that it’s not just about just getting round, I need to get better times than last time, and good times (well, good in my opinion).
  5. Have I done taper week right? I’ve done very little in taper week but have tried to drink lots of water. I had a swim this morning and I felt good and strong….. ahhh now I’m just rambling!!!

Two days to go…. wish me luck!

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