This is a write up from one of our athletes who did their first tri this year. Such a good read.
Blenhiem Palace My First Triathlon
Ok so I lied to you already, this is going well right?!
So I’m fessing up here in my second sentence, this actually wasn’t my first Triathlon, it was my second. But it was my first proper big Triathlon event so that’ll do I reckon. The first only had 30 entrants and had more the feel and professionalism of running the egg and spoon race at the village fate as opposed the scale & grandeur of Blenhiem.
So it’s probably best at this point to give a little back story to my Triathlon journey, this wont take long! 2018 I hauled my sorry arse around Brighton Marathon as a challenge in the totally unspectacular time of 4 hours 40. looking back at it poor nutrition did for me hitting the wall at 18 miles. 2019 and time for a fresh challenge. Tricky, my long suffering and faster running training partner stuck the pin in and came up with….. drum roll, wait for it, Weymouth Ironman70.3 2019! Yes I know what you are thinking, total muppet, Why would you do that? Truth, no thought process or even idea of what it was or what it really entailed other than I didn’t actually know anyone who had done one so that was good enough for me! In fact I did not even relate Ironman to Triathlon, it was all a bit of a joke really. The only thing I really remember thinking at the time was that I was annoyed that I had picked Weymouth, I mean I could have had somewhere far sexier like Malaga or Rio, but I get Weymouth, oh great, just my luck. So basically I’m a Triathlete purely by accident.
By November 2018 I realised I had better pull my finger out and start training if this was ever to become a reality. December I go along to Tri Swim Club at Soho Farmhouse with Coach Janette Cardy. I Swim two lengths, nearly drown, splutter, puff and inwardly and not so silently cry like a baby at the side of the pool. All the time whilst watching this pod of amazing Dolphin like rubber hatted swimmers swim sleekly & tirelessly length & length. What had I actually done, why was I doing this? I shuffled off to the changing rooms a humiliated 51 year old man, welcome to the world of Triathlon big boy!
So instead of doing the sensible thing and quitting whilst ahead and with at least some dignity still intact I elected to plough on, each week slowly becoming part of the squad. lots of ups and downs and a huge learning curve, both physically and mentally. This is proper sport, a squad with GB athletes and a proper Coach who tell’s it like it is. We have fun but Listen and learn. Even at my amateur level this is totally different to anything I have ever done before, we are even referred to as Athlete’s, yes even me, Fat Tony, can you believe it?!
So, fast forward to Blenhiem, and my first experience of a big race, wow what an event. Two days in Sunny June, over 4’000 competitors, more than 40 race waves, 4 thousands spectators per day……don’t panic!
The rational for entering Blenhiem was to gain valuable race experience, getting the practice in for my A race. What does it feel like with 200 Athletes in the water at the same time? The transitions, where valuable minutes just get lost. How will you cope with wobbly legs out of the water or off of the bike? The unknown out of your control elements, like bike crashes or punctures? Even just arriving and the process of registering, racking up and setting up in transition. Hydration and Nutrition have you got the amount and timing right for the day? You really can’t train for these things, you have to experience them, see it, feel it, live it.
So how did the race go? Well rather than a blow by blow account here’s a collection of my rambling thoughts from the day which maybe helpful, or likely not!
I was really lucky on the day to have Ange a GB athlete guide me through the day. Even so moments of near panic and outbursts of numptyism still reared its head! In truth I had been excited about the race for several days and consequently had had little sleep the night before. But at no point did I feel tired, adrenalin was definitely carrying me on the day.
Mistakes and silly little errors which can get you flustered are so easy to make. When putting on my wetsuit I realised I still had my shorts on. I jumped off the pontoon into the lake and nearly lost my goggles. Lining up for the start of the swim I found myself in the excitement at the front with the proper swimmers, I was about to find out what it’s like to be swam over! I forgot to have planned nutrition and a coffee only remembering too late as I put on my wetsuit. Out of T2 going into the run I went the wrong way and had to go back over 100 meters losing valuable time. The list goes on but the important thing is not to let these things over come you, keep calm!
I think the swim is probably most first timers biggest fear, and certainly was mine. There is something about swimming in open water which whilst being beautiful and so natural is also actually scary stuff. This is definitely where mindset comes in to play the most for me and the need to control myself. 300 meters in I found myself breathing heavily & doing the most ridiculous made up, head up stroke, what was that all about?! I stopped, reset my breathing, moved off again, slow but purposeful suppressing the panic which was thumping in my chest. By the time I was around the first bouy the panic was gone, job done, relax, breath, reach and stroke.
Get your crew there. The power of the crowd and your Squad to support you cannot be underestimated. Triathlon is essentially a lonely sport. You can train with other people but ultimately you have to do this yourself, its lonely out there. Blenhiem has a 400 meter run uphill from the swim to T1, frankly it’s horrible. as I came around the corner trying to peel my wetsuit to my waist I was met by Squad Cardy and my family all cheering for all they were worth, I can still here Ollie shouting “dig deep”, and the surprise in my wife’s voice when she realised that I wasn’t actually last! This seriously pushed me on, I had this, I was winning my race.
The biggest lesson I learnt in the race was to push on and push hard. Triathlon by its stop start nature has lots of opportunities for the time to just flit away. If you are there to actually race then push as hard as you can whenever you can. You cannot afford to relax because shit happens that you cannot allow for or control. For me when I was on the bike there was a crash, we had to get off walk around and restart on a hill losing momentum and time. The run was crazy hot, but that was not a reason to slow down if I could help it, take advantage when you can, when others are walking you can be winning.
Trust in the process, if you’ve done the training then you need to believe that you can do this, and let yourself do this, it’s your race. Triathlon is so rewarding, after all in what other sport do you have the opportunity to be crap at three things instead of just the one!