Health | Taking on the Triathlon

Do you ever get those moments where you think you just need a good challenge to look forward to? Having rediscovered the joys of sports and the outdoors and found my love running, I love looking forward to the next crazy challenge. Races are a great example and they really help give me something to look forward to and train for but doing a 10km race has become a bit too normal. Please don't get me wrong: if you are about to run your first, second, third, even tenth race that's brilliant and you should be so proud of yourself but there comes a time where 10km races are all about hunting down the perfect time and completing the race isn't really the challenge anymore. 

Feeling I needed a challenge that was a bit more, well, challenging, I signed up for my first triathlon: a nice local race featuring a pool swim. I entered the Walden Sprint Tri: a 400m pool swim, 25km bike ride and 5km run. And I have to be honest, I was pretty terrified. My terror came from three main sources: 

1. I don't swim. I do know how to swim and I used to swim as a child but as I've grown older body consciousness in the past has always prevented me from being much of a swimmer. But I treated myself to a new racing bikini (as in one designed to swim properly not simply pose in) from Sweaty Betty and when I went for a couple of training swims I loved it. I also discovered that swimming is a little bit like riding a bike: once you've learnt you never really forget. 40 laps in the pool in my training session took away that fear of the swim and I'd definitely recommend if looking into triathlon's with pool swims if it's your first race and swimming is your weak discipline.

2. I don't own a proper bike. I love cycling and I'm pretty good at it. That said I own two bikes: a vintage 1970s Raleigh bike with a cracking wicker basket and moustache called Maurice and my adorable Bertie the Brompton folding bike. They are both brilliant bikes but not designed for 25km road races. Who cares though right? So the Brompton got packed in the back of the zip car and after a slightly fraught experience at the start where I almost got disqualified for having wheels that were too small (a squabble ensued here as I was told the reason that was an issue was it made me less stable at which point I pointed to a painfully light and expensive carbon-fibre bike and said "Surely I'm more stable pootling round the course than that guy is".) Avoiding disqualification as they couldn't quite work out the rules Bertie was lined up at the start to the amused smiles of my competitors.

3. I've been struggling with a back injury. If you're a fanatic follower of the Cambridge Parkrun leaderboard (really? Just me?!) you might have noticed that I lost my top spot a couple of weeks a go and haven't been running since. I had a horrible back injury rip through me during my normal parkrun about 4 weeks a go and have been desperately trying to rest and work out what happened since. So normally 5km would be easy. However 5km after all the spine problems I'd been having was a bit daunting...

With the husband
So there I was, feeling daunted and lined up in my tri-suit, swim cap and goggles at the start of my first triathlon thinking "Why on earth did I think this was a good idea?" And then the whistle went and off I went and it was amazing. The swim was great: challenging and I struggled with my breathing a bit, but great. Then my first transition was fantastic: off I went running out to my bike, quickly dried off and stuck on my t-shirt, helmet, socks and shoes and I was off - out in the countryside on Bertie Brompton ticking down the miles. No, I wasn't fast on a folding bike, but I did it! Then as I came back in to transition I was made for the cycling to running swap: no shoes to change and used to a commuting bike dump I was out like a lightning bolt. Running after you've put swimming and cycling in to your legs is hard and I struggled with the first 500m which was a hill ascent but after that it was just like the second half of a long race- you enter a section of your brain where you aren't really thinking about what you're doing its just happening. When the finish lane came I'd recovered enough that I was surprised it was over so soon. My husband (who naturally beat me as always) greeted me at the finish line with a smirk.

Me: "What's so funny?"
Him: "You found that a bit too easy didn't you."
Me: "It was great! When's the next one?"

Unflattering but accurate! Image: Joe Higham Reportage
Swim: 10:50
Cycle: 61:00
Run: 28:44
Total: 1:40:34
Final placing: 23rd female out of 31 (only person on a folding bike!)


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