Firstly, apologies to all who have been waiting for this blog post. The last 10 days have been pretty busy for me as I’ve had so much to catch up on that got a bit neglected in the run up to the triathlon! I’ve had my father’s funeral, an essay from hell that wouldn’t finish itself, a stack of things to sort out ready for a family holiday next week, plus the usual juggling game of bringing up kids single handedly. That looks like a pretty decent excuse list I reckon, but anyway, here it is… The blog entry of my first ever triathlon 🙂
So I wasn’t trying to conquer the world or anything, but it felt a bit like I was attempting the impossible when I signed up for the triathlon. It was ‘just’ a super sprint, so a 400m open water swim, followed by a 10.6k cycle and a 2.5k run. I guess to a lot of people that doesn’t sound a lot, but the point is I was new to exercise. In January I could barely manage a minute of running and felt like I was about to die. When I signed up for the triathlon in about April the most I’d run was a mile, and as for cycling, the last time I’d cycled was about 2009, barely managing 2 or 3 miles and looking like I’d run a marathon when I finished! Oh and I’d never even attempted open water swimming, although I was a confident pool swimmer! I’d begun exercising in January after years of doing no real exercise, having lost around 2 stone by dieting, but wanted to sort my fitness levels out a bit and lose some more weight. Signing up for the triathlon was an attempt to keep myself focused as I knew I’d have to put some real work in to accomplish it, and there’d be no slacking off from the gym. It seemed a bit of a crazy idea, but after I’d entered the triathlon, I signed up for an intro to open water lesson, and got stuck into some training. At no point did I ever think the triathlon was going to be easy. Even with training a 2.5k run was pretty tough going, and the idea of being able to accomplish that after two other disciplines seemed craziness! So how did it go?
Well I’d already decided on staying near the venue from the Friday night through til the Monday so that I’d be able to chill out a little, rather than rushing around the day before and on the day of the event. That worked well as I was able to sort everything I needed well in advance, eat well and not have any stress to worry about from small people! On the morning of the event I was a bit stressed though and wondered if I had done enough training to get me through (but I bet most people feel like that). Generally as I’d eaten pretty well and trained well in the couple of weeks before the day I knew I was about as prepared as I could possibly be. I think I was clock watching all day though! I’d decided on a time to leave to get to the venue, and got all my drinks and gear ready, but still kept hanging back in case I’d forgotten something! We left on time though, got to the venue with plenty of time to spare and got all my gear and the bike out of the car. Seriously though, how much stuff do you need?! I’m so glad I had my friend Rod with me, as carrying everything plus pushing a bike would be an art in itself! But anyway, we set off towards registration, with me stopping every few minutes to check something! Whether I’d remembered my ID, trying to see where the turn point for the run was, observing how far that turn point was from the finish line and trying to work out the cycle course! I guess I can be a nightmare at times trying to assess all eventualities!
At the registration point everything was pretty straightforward as it was a similar process to the one I’d gone through when I’d done a previous open water swim there, and it literally took a couple of minutes. We used a bike pump to get a bit more puff in the tyres (yes, that is technical talk ;)) Yet another reason I was glad of support on the day. Something else I didn’t have to try and figure out/worry about how to do! We sat for a bit on the grass and Rod fiddled about with some stuff on the bike and my cycle helmet and stickered them both up for me (proving invaluable now, wasn’t he? :P) I continued clock watching, waiting for the minutes to pass until the time I’d decided to head to transition to rack the bike. This was one of the bits I was dreading most as I didn’t have a clue what the process would be like, but it was actually pretty simple, and the girl next to me was racking her bike too. She was also attempting her first triathlon which made me feel better, as even though I knew there’d be lots of other first timers there, it was good to know for sure. It didn’t take long at all to set my gear up ready, in fact I kept wondering what I’d forgotten as it seemed too simple! I rejoined Rod and started watching the clock again, waiting for the time I’d decided to get changed, and watched some of the other heats set off, while others were going through transition. I went to get ready which kicked the nerves up a gear, then watched another wave start… knowing the next wave was the wave before mine, and at that point I think I may have lost the ability to talk 😉
When the wave before mine had started, I went through to transition, put my drink ready with my gear and joined the others in my wave ready for acclimatisation. At this point a guy that had done his race and was packing up said that the wind on the cycle was pretty harsh that day. I’d heard before that the wind can get you on the way out or back of the cycle lap, so asked him whether it was on the out or in. His answer was that unusually for Dorney, it was all the way round! I just smiled and thought that was pretty typical, but there was no option other than to battle that wind. At that point we were told we were allowed to get into the water. I’m not sure why, but we really didn’t get long and were hurried into the water with about 2 or 3 minutes to go until start. I refused to let that phase me though and went through acclimatisation as well as I could, making sure I’d had my face in the water plenty as the shock of the cold on my face was the main thing to avoid as that would have affected my breathing a lot. I tried to position myself fairly near the front and on the inside as I was pretty confident I’d not be at the back of the swim wave, but it was difficult to get where I wanted to and I settled for a position further back than I’d have liked (note for next time – get that position earlier!) We set off with a blast of the horn, and it was possibly the hardest swim start I’ve ever had as I just couldn’t get any space at all. People were in front of me and next to me and I just couldn’t get around them, and there was so much water being splashed about it was hard to even get a breath. In fact at least twice I got a breath full of water and choked, and once I even had to do a couple of strokes of breaststroke to try and sort myself out, but somehow after what felt like being in a washing machine for about 100m I started to get a bit of space. I struggled on until the turn, and finally at that point the wave had thinned out a bit and I began to get a bit of clear water. From there the swim got a bit easier and I managed to find my pace, but it wasn’t an easy swim. One thing I had expected was to start worrying about transition towards the end of the swim, but strangely I didn’t. I got out and started to undo my wetsuit and get my hat and goggles off and found my bike without too much trouble (one of my big worries) and managed everything I needed to get off and on and exited transition with the bike. I’d worried a bit about the cycle start, but there was a marshall there telling everyone exactly when to get on their bike (after a double white line) so I needn’t have worried as it all went smoothly enough. I clocked Rod with his camera quite quickly, stuck my tongue out at him and cycled past, wondering how easy I was going to find the cycle part!
Very quickly I realised the cycle wasn’t going to be anything like I’d imagined. My local area is pretty hilly so any training I’d done involved a fair bit of stop start, and a lot of gear changing. Within the first kilometre or so I’d already found gears I’d never used before, and ended up sticking to about 3 gears for the whole route. It was actually much more enjoyable than I’d expected, and there were a couple of good fast parts that made me realise why people find this thing fun 😉 The second lap seemed easier than the first, probably as I knew what to expect and that I was almost done with the bike. Again I’d expected to stress about transition, but I didn’t… there was again a marshall there warning you to get off the bike before a double white line into transition. The only difficult part was making my legs work properly, which I’d expected! I racked the bike up (I’m sure it was heavier putting it up than when I got it down ;)) had a couple of mouthfulls of drink, jiggled my legs a bit in the hope they might work properly and set off for the run start. The bit I was dreading!!
Well somehow I was getting one foot in front of the other at some sort of jog pace, though my breathing left a lot to be desired! I knew I had to keep going, I wasn’t going to walk even one step of the run as that was the whole point. In January I couldn’t run. Now I had to achieve a 2.5k run after two other disciplines, and even though it was really tough, I just kept going. I saw a lady in front of me who was walking and even though I knew I wasn’t going very fast, I knew if I kept to a jog I could pass her… and I did! I couldn’t believe I’d actually managed to pass someone, but I did, and in fact I think I overtook about 3 people in the end! I felt my knee begin to twinge at about a kilometre, but I ignored it and carried on, just focusing on that halfway turn point. Just as I got to it the girl next to me at transistion called me and smiled. She had just gone round the turn so wasn’t far in front of me, and I was surprised about that! I went round the turn, telling myself I was half way there, and shortly after that was a course photographer who took my attention away from the run for a minute or two. Usually the return to the finish seems a bit easier as you know you’re almost there, but for some reason it was tough going. There was still no way I was walking, but it hurt! When it gets like this I usually find the best way to deal with it is to count to 4, over and over in my head as that gives me a rhythm and also means I cannot think about how much it hurts, how far I have to go or anything other than that count of 4, so that’s what I did for half a kilometre or so, until I could see the finish line. I checked my watch and realised if I didn’t slow down there was a chance I could finish in under an hour. That was a bit of a dream target for me… I wasn’t sure I could do it, and had tried to tell myself finish time didn’t matter as long as I completed it, but to get under that hour was the absolute best outcome for me. I pushed a bit harder and got through the finish and heard the timing chip bleep. I felt pretty good at that point, and got my medal (it’s all about the medal ;)) and looked around for Rod as I had no clue where he was! I got a bottle of water and decided to stay where I was as there was more chance of him finding me, which he did in a couple of minutes or so. I remember him asking if it was harder than I expected, and telling him it wasn’t. I knew the run would be tough, so that was no shocker, but overall I think it was possibly easier than the aquathons I’d done. I don’t know whether that was because the cycle leg between the swim and run made it easier, or whether my nutrition choices were better (I’d switched that a fair bit) but I didn’t feel sick on the run like I had on the aquathons. Maybe it was a combination of both. I also remember saying something to Rod along the lines of “as long as I didn’t show myself up” and he replied “that was incredible”, which is something I shall never forget. I just smiled at the time, but for him to say that was one hell of a compliment. This guy has cycled the Wiggle Tour of the Peak… 7 hours and 122 miles of hell up some of the toughest hills in the UK, so to get that response made me feel I’d achieved something 🙂
My finish time did end up being under an hour at 58:52, so I’m really pleased with that. My swim split was 8:38, T1 3:00, cycle 29:12, T2 1:19 and the run 16:41, which was actually quicker than my usual treadmill pace, which was very surprising! I also finished 37 of 59, not too bad at all.
So what are my thoughts now? Well… lets just say my plan is to keep training and tackle a sprint triathlon next year. I have absolutely no idea how my terrible running skills will fare with a 5k run after 2 other disciplines, but I’ve managed a 2.5k when I could do nothing 9 months ago. And I think I’ve proven it is possible for absolutely ANYONE to go from couch potato to triathlete if I can do it!