Why triathlon? ¶
When I signed up for The London Triathlon, I had no experience in the sport. At all.
I learned to swim at an early age; I learned to ride a bike at an early age; and a little more recently I’ve taken up running as a way to keep fit (you’ll probably have seen many of the countless Nike+ runs on my Instagram feed).
But why triathlon?
I’m still not entirely sure. I was asked by my PT at the time if I had a goal in mind, and I liked the idea of doing an endurance event that wasn’t just running.
Triathlon was perfect.
How do you prepare for a triathlon? ¶
So I started training the three disciplines: pushing out my runs to regularly hit half marathon distances; jumping onto my bike more and more, including cyclo-commuting on a daily basis – culminating in a 105.9km ride; and I even got some open water practice in with the Swim Dem Crew at the West Reservoir.
The plan was never to use a specific training regime; but instead to just push each of the disciplines and improve as much as I could before the weekend of the first triathlon, and then just go and enjoy it as slowly or as quickly as it unfolded.
The day itself ¶
Having trained as much as the time would allow, it was time to do a final gear check, pack it all up and head out to Derby.
I’d signed up for the Jenson Button Trust Triathlon as a warmup for London, but kne,w very little about it. It was an event sponsored by HUUB – the makers of my wetsuit, so that seemed a good enough reason to give it a shot.
The day’s structure is unusual in that it was made up of two turbo distance triathlons – one in the morning, and a follow-up (dependant on your time from the morning) that afternoon.
The morning ¶
Here it is.
My first triathlon.
Racking the bike ¶
I’ve never racked a bike before, so I made sure I was there early. I was there a full two and a half hours before my wave time to get everything sorted – and naturally was within the first four or five people there.
As more people flooded in, I sat and watched how others set up their (very expensive-looking wheels), and adjusted mine accordingly. I did, however, forget that if I wore my running shoes to the event… that when they had to stay in transition ahead of the race, I would be left without anything on my feet. One to remember for next time, I think!
The swim ¶
This is probably the bit I was (and most newbies are) most apprehensive about.
It‘s not like being in a pool, where there are sides, clear water, and mostly-observed swimming etiquette.
In the open water, there’s mud, weeds, other bits that I don’t want to know what they were, water you can’t swallow, people kicking you in the face… etc, etc. Oh and loads of other people kicking you. In the face.
Thankfully I’d been blessed to have been put in the same wave as Stuart Hayes – a former ITU World Cup champion – who gave a few, incredibly helpful pointers.
The airhorn went off and I panicked. Smashing my arms one after the other I blazed away (or so it felt) from the start, but quickly realised that, that was a mistake. 120m-odd into the 200m, and I was puffing for air, struggling to take effective strokes, and having a really goddamn-hard time!
I dug deep and managed to get myself out of the water. It took everything to drag an already exhausted body along the grass into transition. My Archimedes wetsuit came off like a dream, I managed to get it all sorted, helmet on and the bike off the rack with relative ease. Clearly all of that running through the house, in my gear came into its own!
The bike ¶
Here’s where it got interesting.
We’d not anticipated the amount of rain that had come down already, and it was still peppering the road with water.
I probably should have been riding a bit slower, given the conditions, but try telling that to the adrenalin-fuelled, not-quite-thinking Rob who was powering through trying to make up time for the poor swim.
You can guess what happened next, right…?
Yep, at a particularly tight corner I leaned too far and came off – pretty spectacularly, I might add – my bike, pulling the chain off, denting my bottle cage, and shearing skin off several parts of my scantily-clad self.
To my amazement, people tried to stop their race to help me; I wasn’t about to let my foolishness affect their times, but I was struck by the kind nature of the other athletes (and everyone who is part of the triathlon scene as a whole).
I dusted myself off, reattached the necessary parts, and got back on the bike with even more time to make up now!
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t any tears.
The run ¶
Even though the distances were short, this was the hardest part of the whole ordeal… Reracking the bike and willing my legs to run when it felt like I only had jelly attached to my hips was a strange sensation.
I supressed my desire to push too hard to get the run out of the way, taking it at the pace I was aiming for… Which all went to pot when a hill came out of nowhere to greet me.
Thankfully the final stretch was pretty flat, and the crowd were yelling loud enough that it flew past.
A last push and I stumbled over the line, with a strange sense of accomplishment-cum-longing-for-more. I think my bike drama made it feel like I hadn’t really succeeded.
Overall though, a time of 41:43 felt pretty good; and I was looking forward to the afternoon’s race – an opportunity to improve on that (albeit only) PB.
The afternoon ¶
I won’t go into similar depth, as it’s much of the same.
The swim was faster (5:33 down to 5:10); the bike came off without a hitch – and I smashed the corner the second time round – and that was also quicker (20:36 down to 19:25); and finally I took 27 seconds off the run (12:00 down to 11:33).
All in all, it felt amazing to have pushed through and bettered each of the disciplines; and shaving a full two minutes, thirteen seconds off.
The tears of pain from the first time round came back again, but as those ‘can’t stop myself welling up, I’m so happy’ kind of tears.
The experience ¶
So how was it overall?
Excuse my language, but f**k me that was fun! What an experience! #triathlonvirginity @JBTrustTri. @robsterlini
I’m in love with the sport of triathlon, and can’t wait to wetsuit up again for the next one, and then many more to come!
If anyone else is a runner, or a cyclist, or a swimmer and wants to push themselves into a different realm, I couldn’t recommend it enough.
The Jenson Button Trust Triathlon itself was amazing, well run (minus a few blips here and there), and so well supported – Derby residents lined the bike route cheering on, even in the rain, and that encouragement was invaluable! The marshalling was great, particularly the girl who dashed over to help scrape me off the tarmac.
Overall, it was just sensational.
I’ll just take this opportunity to thank everyone who has got behind me: either through donating (you can definitely still do that if you want to); on cheering me on, on one of my training runs – strangers in London aren’t all horrible people; or putting up with me in my overly-tight lycra bits. I’m eternally grateful.
There’s one person in particular who has carried me though. She makes up my one woman entourage, my ‘keep a level head’ coach, my ‘makes so much noise whooping at events that people give her funny looks, but I don’t care‘ wind beneath my wings. My mum is awesome.
Onto the next one!