I did my first triathlon and I absolutely loved it. I wish I could do it again right away, so I could fix the bits I messed up on and get the same giddy, companionable feeling again. The swim, the bike, the run? All felt within my ability, albeit not super speedy compared to some of those around me. The bits in between each of those, the transitions? DISASTER STATIONS. Let me have another go to get them right, pls.
Where did it go right and where did it go horrendously, comically wrong? Let me see…
We set off for the 400m pool swim in just a few at a time, so it was essentially just like being out for a normal training swim, but probably more orderly. I swam the 16 lengths, controlling my nerves with my breathing, and feeling pretty comfortable. A training swim, where someone else counted my lengths for me – bliss!
Along with everyone else, I’d laid my trainers outside the pool door for the run down to where our bikes were racked. I tried to dry my feet with my microfibre towel, but I dripped all over them and pulled on sodden socks and shoes. I flew like the wind, my legs feeling strong, sloshing speedily for 100m… in completely the opposite direction to the transition area. I said a bad swear and turned back around, dashing the extra distance to transition. I picked up my face belt, helmet, glasses and bike, but was in such a flap, forgot to put my compression sleeves or gloves on. Shortsightedness and triathlons SO do not mix.
My damp feet got increasingly cold on the twelve mile bike ride around Stokesley, on the edge of the North York Moors. When I run, I overheat terribly, and the faster I run, the more I overheat. It turns out, the opposite is true on the bike – the faster I went, the more wind caught my wet clothes, and the colder I became.
And fast I went (for me!). The course had some gorgeous undulations, no traffic lights and quiet country roads. Freewheeling alone in the middle of nowhere, trying my very hardest, was exhilarating. I love running but, bar the occasional fell run, I have very rarely felt giddy while out for a run. Me and my bike and my soggy feet, all having great fun together.
By the time I finished the ride, I couldn’t feel my hands. Not one bit. Not great when trying to undo the clasp of, say, your bike helmet. I tried to squeeze the fastening, but it was like I was wearing oven gloves. I asked a marshall for help, but was politely told I wasn’t allowed outside assistance. I seriously contemplated doing the run in my helmet. I looked again at my useless hands, cursing them. Eventually, someone took pity on me and took my helmet off for me, like a toddler, and I was on my way.
The 5k was an out-and-back run and it was the best run I’ve had all year. In Chi Running, Danny Dwyer recommends imagining you’re pedalling your feet on a tiny bicycle, and before this, I had never really understood the imagery. All of a sudden, coming off my bike, the movement felt fluid and made perfect sense. I felt like I was running on air – my legs just carrying me forwards, without much interference from my brain. About 4k into the run, I mistakenly thought that I was at the finish line, and was actually relieved when I realised it wasn’t time to finish yet, as I was having such a good time.
I finished in a time of 1hr25, 29th woman out of 44. I already want to sign up for the same course next year – imagine what I can achieve when I don’t fanny about for days between each stage, know where I’m going and actually have my bike set up like a cyclist…
Any other triathlon tips for newbies? (Other than going in the right direction…) Have you ever messed up royally during a race?