Almost a Triathlete for 13 years!
When one sport isn’t enough, try three (or should that be tri), that’s a phrase often thrown around by triathletes. For me I have had a different problem, why try one sport, when you can try and do them all!
That is how I have almost been a triathlete for 13 years, over those 13 years I read many books, magazines and studied the sport. I knew it well, but it took me 10 years to enter my first triathlon and 11 years to actually compete in my first event. Yes you read that right, there was a year’s gap between entering and competing, after finally biting the bullet I signed up for several local events, only to aggravate an old injury and have to pull out.
My first triathlon snuck up on me, it came in the form of race entry carried over from the previous year. Something I had completely forgotten about, until I got an email during my honeymoon reminding me of my race in 2 weeks time. Luckily I swam regularly and being a cyclist my bike fitness was pretty good, so after an over indulgent two weeks of sun, surf and … you get the picture, and a handful of 5K runs along beach, it was time.
Unlike all the advice you will read about, preparation and checking out the course, my plane landed Friday evening and I scrambled around for my supplies Saturday, borrowed a tri belt from someone in the parking lot Sunday morning and away I went!
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, although I have run, swam and cycled, I had never done any of them back to back, let alone been through transition, this was going to be a baptism of fire.
The swim was an eye opener, although I was a strong swimmer, I wasn’t the fastest in the water and I would have been naive to think I would have been. At first my plan was to try and hang near the front, go out as fast as I could, I was in the front group, but I soon found out that being in the middle of that group was much like my days playing rugby. With arms and legs everywhere, being swum over and not really being able to see where I was going, I decided to drop to the back of the fast group. Giving my self some open water, meant I would at least be in one piece by the end, at the cost of perhaps 2 minutes, I felt safe and comfortable.
Coming out of the water I was surprised to see how slow everyone was to get to transition, I set off out of the water like a five year old hunting down birthday cake! For me the cake was the bike leg, my sport, this was my time to shine.
Once on two wheels it became apparent that I was out of the water before the other cyclists. In among those that clearly came from a swimming background, I felt invincible, constantly passing people and being the fastest on the road, an amazing feeling that I perhaps got a little carried away with. I decided to put everything into the bike, with the run coming up, I needed all of the help could get (I’m not a natural runner). All of the way to T2 I was overtaking people, especially as we entered back in to the country manor. It was this last stretch that I put my BMX skills to use, a skill set that I didn’t think would come into play during a triathlon! Hopping the speed bumps and pre-jumping the hump back bridges, rather than slowing down, to carry my advantage as far as possible.
If I felt like I was flying on the bike, then the only way to describe how I felt on the run, was like I was going backwards! I’d been told the half way point of the 5k was marked by a significant hill climb. So when I came to a slight incline I thought two things, someone had exaggerated the steepness of the hill and I was making better progress than I thought. Those positive thoughts didn’t last long when I passed the 4K to go mark. This was going to be tough!
A slew of runners came past me like I was stood still, but I knew technically I was moving, whether you could class it as running, well that’s not for me to dictate, but I was doing my best. I knew however bad I was feeling, I could make it through, I dug deep and kept a consistent pace to the finish.
I did it, I had completed my first triathlon!
I was really happy with 9th at my first attempt, I had the third fastest bike leg for my age group, my saving grace in giving me a competitive time, but it was also what probably killed my run (14th fastest).
Over the two years that followed, life got in the way from me entering transition again, degree work and emigrating to another country and finally a recurrence of an old BMX injury.
Recovering from my second ACL/PC tear gave me time to focus and also forced me to reconsider what my body could handle. For most that would be a reduction in sport and a more sedentary life, for me… I booked myself an entry into my first Ironman 70.3!
I am ready to head back to the world of triathlon and this time I am more committed, time to go from Zero to 70.3!