What better way to kick off my first post on my triathlon page than with a post about my first triathlon? Whilst this was a year and a half ago now I thought it would still be useful for any beginner triathletes out there to have an idea about what another athletes first race was like if you are currently in the build up to yours!
I signed up for the Isle of Wight Triathlon in the summer with the race scheduled for mid-September. I had given myself most of the summer to start some training which for your first triathlon is plenty of time in my opinion, especially given this was only a sprint race with a pool swim rather than open water (that year it was 750m swim, 40km bike, 7.5km run). As the months and weeks drew closer I started to get excited.
For over 10 years of my life when I was younger I was a competitive swimmer training 6 days a week and competing most weekends of the year. I hadn’t done an individual race like those I used to do as a swimmer for nearly 5 years and I missed it. The build up, the adrenaline, the anticipation, the excitement, the nerves. I absolutely loved it and I couldn’t wait to have that feeling all over again, not to mention the fact that I am extremely competitive so with the chance of being able to win something, I was ready and raring to go. That year I was in the 20-24 age category which generally in triathlon is the easiest category and despite it being my first triathlon I was determined that I could win my category. Whilst I knew I was a good swimmer I really had no idea how fast I would be on the bike or the run but you will begin to learn this about me – if there is something to win, my goal will be to win it.
By the time it got to race day I’d say the excitement had probably turned into anticipation and nerves and I was feeling a little sick. Fortunately for me this has never stopped me eating. I fueled up and packed and repacked my bag about 3 times to make sure I had everything I could ever want. I’d say the number one thing to reduce your nerves at this point is to BE PREPARED. The more prepared you are the more confident you feel and the less likely something is going to go wrong, it’s as simple as that.
Being the Isle of Wight the whole registration process was extremely relaxed, no one was in a rush and it was generally very easy. I’d say this is probably true of most tri events these days – they tend to be very well organised, you don’t ever feel like you don’t know what to do or where to go. I laid out all my things in transition area, looking around to see what other people had done because I really had no idea what I was doing – transition was not something I had researched or practiced at all! I do remember sprinkling talc absolutely everywhere though not really having any idea why, I just decided it would soak up excess water….does it actually do that?! I went to line up for the swim and they were running late, not helping the nerve situation…let’s just say I visited the toilet a fair few times during that half hour wait. I’ve decided this reaction is my body’s way of trying to lose any excess weight before racing, which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t accompanied by a churning stomach as well!
Swim – as an ex-swimmer this was the part I was most confident about and it went just fine (thankfully!). I’m not sure the timers at the end of the pool had ever had people doing tumble turns however so they didn’t seem too pleased when I got out that I had apparently splashed them with waves of water every time I turned.
T1 – Absolute disaster. I wore a normal swimming costume to swim in and as it was not that warm I decided I’d put on shorts and a cycling top to cycle in – big mistake. When you’re wet, lycra simply DOES NOT go on. I have no idea what my time was but probably around 5 minutes in transition would be a good guess….I have learnt my lesson from that experience. Buy a tri suit.
Bike – My first tip here even as a beginner would be ride the course the day before. I had done that and so knowing where I was going was a huge huge help. Coming out of the swim onto the bike is a strange transition the first time you do it. It’s rare that you get on a bike already out of breath so starting the ride huffing and puffing took time to get used to but then that just kind of lasted the rest of the race!
T2 – Much better than T1! Despite the fact my lycra top and shorts were still all twisted up around my arms and legs at least all I had to do here was take my cycling shoes and helmet off and put my trainers on so that was alright, I just shoved my feet in with the laces already done up, twisted my ankles around a bit like a child puts on their school shoes and I was off….
Run –….or not! If you’ve never done a bike to run transition before like I hadn’t, well all I can say is it’s a dreadful feeling! All I remember feeling is that my legs actually felt like lead and thinking to myself that I’d have to walk the last half of the run. However I kept going and finally (probably didn’t actually take that long) the lactate (or whatever it was that was making my legs not want to go round) wore off and I kind of managed to get going on the run. Hunting down other runners ahead of me my urge to win kicked in and I gave everything I had left all the way to the finish.
I won my age group! It wasn’t that big a triathlon but for my first triathlon I was extremely pleased to have won a little glass trophy and have something to show for my efforts. Overall I absolutely loved the race and it definitely fueled my hunger to get better especially as my relatively small amount of training had got me a pretty good result.
Thoughts & Tips
- Just give it a go. If you’ve ever wanted to try a triathlon, just enter one and do it. Enter a sprint so that lack of training won’t matter too much and just see if you enjoy it! I’d say 9 times out of 10 you will so get entering and it’ll give you a good target to get training.
- Don’t fuss with equipment. For your first tri or even your first few tri’s it really does not matter what you wear or what equipment you have. Other than not trying to put lycra on whilst wet, any clothing will do as long as it’s practical and comfortable. I saw a lady swimming in her trainers so she could get straight onto her bike….this is not practical.
- Learn from each event. Every event you do you’ll learn something new about what you can do better next time, what worked and what didn’t work. Just by learning from previous events you can get a lot faster with not that much extra training.
- Enjoy it. Yes be competitive and want to do well but triathlons are also awesome fun so embrace the opportunity to compete and go fast and chase people down because it really is a lot of fun.
The following year, 2014, I did the same triathlon again and not only won my age group but was the fastest woman in the whole event by 6 minutes and 17th fastest out of men and women in a field of 180 athletes. I’ve definitely got the triathlon bug….more triathloning coming soon.
What are your experiences of your first triathlon? Did you enjoy it?