I’ve always avoided triathlon because it all seemed so complicated and technical. Oh, and really rather difficult. Then I saw the fabulous Brownlee brothers whizzing round the Commonwealth Games and thought, ‘That actually looks quite easy!’ When the first thing that I did at Leeds Xpress Triathlon was put my indelible tattoo on upside down, I realised I had quite a lot to learn…
One of my other complaints about triathlons (even though I’d never done one) was that it all seemed so expensive. As you know, we’re always banging on about budget; if we were billionaires (which we emphatically are not), we’d probably still go on about not wasting money.
Luckily, I had an excellent blog post by Bibi to refer to: How To Survive Your First Triathlon – Transitions, Wibbly Legs and Soggy Bottoms. With the help of her handy tips, I went through the list of essentials. Swimming stuff: check. Running gear: my drawers runneth over. Cycling kit was a bit more of a problem, mainly because, erm, I don’t have a bike. Major drawback.
What I do have is friends (yay!) and one of them, Jess, loaned me her vintage racer so I was all set to go. Yippee, woot, woot, how hard can this triathlon thing be, I thought? Let’s just say my inexperience showed.
The Leeds Xpress Triathlon has a 400m pool swim, which shouldn’t be too daunting. However, a few years ago I got decompression sickness (hyperbaric chamber, air-locked in, recompression, totally terrifying). That experience kind of put me off swimming. I thought for life but, hey, I love a challenge. Once we’d signed up for the race, I started getting back in the pool, testing my fear of dying, that type of thing. I’ve been getting there steadily, starting to enjoy the water again, slow but still buoyant.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t like the mixed lane thing. On my second length got bashed in the face by a fellow swimmer – male, no apology either then or later, most unsportsmanlike. That threw me off my stroke somewhat, bruised my eye and renewed my fear of death… but I finished the swim in 11.07 – not fast but not drowned either. Take that, decompression sickness and jerky bloke!
The transition thing is much easier than I thought it would be. It’s not that hard to run to your bike, put your shoes and helmet on and get moving, right? I must have faffed around a bit though – it takes Ali Brownlee about 45 seconds to do this and it took me 2 minutes 12. Um, must work on not faffing.
Not my finest hour. Vintage bikes, however gorgeous, are apparently not the kit you need for a hilly 22k bike ride. As the commentators say, I was off the pace. Very off the pace. At 1.08.28, I was 19 minutes behind the first female – 19 whole minutes!!
Faster transition – a mere 1.08 – and straight into the run.
Somebody’s legs were running but they weren’t mine! As Bibi had predicted, I wibbled my way round the course. Miraculously though, I made up time on the run without actually knowing what my legs were doing. Go figure.
Who cares about the time? I came second in my age category!
What I learned:
1) Triathlons are ace! I totally, definitely, absolutely want to do another one asap.
2) I can swim again. Not fast, but it’s a start. I don’t like mixed lanes though.
3) A lighter, less retro-cool but more aerodynamic bike may have helped. I’m thinking carbon fibre that you can lift with your little finger – *takes out bank loan*
4) I need to learn not to faff in transition. Whadda time waster.
5) I definitely need to work on the bike-to-run technique for future races; running 5k on someone else’s legs is doable but any further might be a teensy bit more problematic.
The best thing I learned though was that triathlons are actually quite easy. Not the swimming, running and cycling bits – they’re as hard as those things generally are. The whole thing though, the fitting it all together, is straightforward and really, really good fun. The Leeds Xpress Triathlon was also the perfect taster; big enough to be well-organised, small enough to not make you feel like a rabbit in the headlights. Definitely recommended.