So I have now completed my first triathlon, and even better survived it 🙂
I entered after being persuaded by a friend who ended up not signing up. I then did a lot of swimming practice with another friend who was unable to compete on the day! Billy no-triathlon-mates clearly. Though having access to the advice of an Ironman may be more than most people have on their first triathlon, so I’ll take that bonus. Thanks, Ad!
I’d entered a super sprint event which means (in this case, as there can be distance variation with the sprint and super sprint events) 450m swim, 9.6km cycling, and finally a 2.5km run. This was a useful addition to my kettlebell training. It was cardio and endurance, without requiring massive amounts of training in addition to what I was already doing. I would say that being aware of open water swimming in wetsuits is vital knowledge before trying a triathlon with an open water element. I had some great advice from Oli at Tri2O where I bought my wetsuit over all aspects of the triathlon but especially around the swimming and transition from swim to bike.
I combined my squat training (for general strength, and the jerk) with a run, to try running on tired legs. I also cycled after work for longer distances than I needed for this event whilst beingwas tired from the day. These were all good for general training but didn’t help as much as I thought on the day. There is nothing like the stresses actually doing a triathlon puts on the body when the body is all fired up. Still I’ll appreciate this much more for the next one. Which, er, happens to be the weekend after next. Clearly doing a super sprint triathlon, a national kettlebell competition, then a sprint triathlon on consecutive weekends is a sensible plan 🙂
I felt confident I could achieve the distance as I’d regularly been swimming 750m when going to the Lake after work. I knew that doing breast stroke was slow and inefficient but I need to have lessons to develop my front crawl technique. I decided, having only signed up in later summer, to focus on getting round and later worrying about whether to improve when I knew if I enjoyed the experience or not.
Wearing a wetsuit is not as bad as some people make out, though it is a faff to get on and off. On being the worst for me. Do make sure to use a triathlon wetsuit though. Those used for other sports and activities are often constructed of different fabrics and thicknesses. Decent triathlon wetsuits should enable good shoulder movement for the swimming strokes foe example. Wetsuits are great at providing you with added buoyancy as well as keeping you warmer than you would otherwise be in open water.
I knew I would be slow in this section, and decided to stay towards the back of the group once we were all in the water before the starting gun went off. This was sensible given the amount of jostling and waving crawl arms. However, I then had a mini panic about 100m in about being the last swimmer. Even though I wasn’t the last. Stupid really, and I’ve no idea why. It did mean that my heart rate elevated and I got out of breath too quickly though. A quick talking to later (in my head, not out loud, that would have likely involved swallowing water and coughing!) I managed to get myself under better control and focused on the stroke and getting to the finish point. Which I managed in a respectable time by my own expectations.
The exit from the swim was quite close to where I had my bike racked and my other items for the cycle and run so I didn’t have too far to run. I got the wetsuit off OK which I quite chuffed about. My cycling shoes however caused me some grief so I decided to take them off, and start again slowly, which paid off. It’s interesting that all the while you are doing various change over activities you are still trying to catch your breath. Helmet and glasses went on easily, as did my number. Picked the bike up and jogged with it to the bike exit.
Once past the marker where you are able to mount bikes I was a bit slow getting on to the bike. My shoes were damp and slipping, so didn’t clip in on my first foot very well, so I had to try a few times. I’m not great (yet!) at riding when not clipped in with shoes/pedals that are normally clipped. I find my foot slips off completely.
Once on the bike, I felt a lot better and tried to get into a rhythm. I took it easier for maybe the first quarter of the cycle as I still needed some recovery from the swim and transition. I was overtaken by a few guys on super fancy tri bikes, which I’ll accept. And a few normal race bikes. Who I then later overtook 🙂 When I felt a bit more relaxed I pushed on with the power and cycled harder. It was from here that I was able to gain places in my age group, and the female competitors.
Whilst I cycle with my husband sometimes, he is stronger at it than me, so I’m pleased I was able to step up a bit here. Also having a traffic free course helped. Otherwise slowing for junctions and clipping and unclipping would have greatly affected race times.
I had to dismount before entering transition, so the last few metres of the ride were a bit slower ensuring I was unclipped etc. Once off the bike I tried to run with it to my rack, buy my legs felt dead so I walked instead. I remembered to rack the bike before removing my helmet (yes! *fist pump*), and the change over to running shoes was very easy. I did take an inhaler at this point too, to ensure I would be OK on the run.
Leaving the transition, there was a water station, where I tried to take on some water. But it just made me cough (damn tail end of a cold) so I gave up and threw it on to the side! My legs still felt incredibly heavy and my breathing wasn’t brilliant at this point. I passed all of the people I knew, looking probably quite rough! And then had to walk for a few metres as my right calf was cramping too 🙁 This had the bonus of getting my breathing a bit more under control, so then I started up running again. The heavy legs did persist for a long while though. That was something that I never expected be as bad as it was.
Once running again I kept going. Mostly so I could get it all finished 🙂 I had no real idea of the time at this point as I’d managed to screw up my watch (V800) at both transitions and it then thought I’d finished my whole triathlon?!?! I did track the run as its own activity to check pace later etc., but I had no idea of overall time.
There was a very slight downhill to the finish which was lovely and I found a few extra ounces of energy to push through to the line. I then had to wait for a t-shirt (finishers prize), to have my chip taken away from me, and then they gave you a print out of your times.
I admit to exclaiming bloody hell at the times, as I was under what I wanted based on training times, and factoring in never having done transitions etc. The guy sorting them out laughed at me when I apologised for swearing and said that there was nothing wrong with being pleased 🙂 Under an hour was the goal, and I did it in 53 minutes and 32 seconds.
I have to say I did really enjoy my first triathlon. More than I expected to! It would have been nice to have a finishers medal, rather than just a t-shirt to join my other collection. Even if it is a nice bright technical t-shirt. But that said, the day was awesome. Brilliant weather, a time under my expectation, and a handful of BBF guys competing so some good support too. And of course my personal support crew; the husband. Even if he did taunt me with a lovely looking sausage sandwich which would have been unwise pre-swim 🙂
If you are thinking of having a go, do it! I would be realistic in your aim as it really does tire you. Much more than I had anticipated based on hard kettlebell training. But I’d rather be attempting a triathlon than training for a 10k or half-marathon, based on my experience of trying all of these events.
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