5 things I learned before my first triathlon

Sarah Moor’s just completed her first tri – Keswick Long Race. Here’s what she’s learned:

1. Don’t be embarrassed about your bike.
Legs and lungs get you around the bike course, not a fancy bike. Riding it beforehand helps (the bike and the course). Learning how to go downhill (the only time I pass anyone in the race!) is also useful.
Sure, you might have to give away a few minutes if you ride your loyal-commuter-bike-hybrid, but you’ll regain them in transition if you prepare with an Alnwick Tri Transition Training course in the Bolam front garden.
And on the day you feel quite heroic at the effort you expend on your not-very-skinny-not-very-slick-tyres in comparison with those much-more-skinny-much-more-out-of-pocket cycle guys who make it look so easy.
One competitor at Keswick told me I’d have saved precious weight by removing the bell from my handlebars, but he had extra kilos for all his carbon bottle-holders and superior components.

2. Smile
I entered a standard tri because only a big enough challenge would make me train, so I expected the event itself to be something I’d just have to endure not enjoy.
Smiling is simple but effective. Seriously, smiling has physical and psychological benefits – the kind that distract the mind from pain and the body from, well … pain. Smiling creates chemicals, doesn’t it? And those chemicals helped me just as much as the gels the Breeze boys sell (I recommend the rhubard and custard).
(Jane Hardy also suggested concentrating on the slow-swimmer-but-fast-cyclist bottoms as they whooshed past and this, too, turned out to be advice worth taking!)

3. Train, but not beyond the limits of what is enjoyable
I’m the kind of person who gets a book out of the library when they want to learn something new. ‘Triathlon Made Easy’ is a great book. It means I can nod knowingly when people talk about ‘cadence’ and ‘brick sessions’. I copied out its Olympic training programme and began in February. By the end of the month I was anxious and injured.
So, instead of its 6 recommended sessions a week, I did 4, sometimes 5, and didn’t worry if the odd week went by and I’d done nothing more than a fun sea swim and my weekly yoga.
Andy Ternet pointed out that if running intensively made me injured, then I shouldn’t do it but concentrate on swimming and cycling. After only 8 jogging runs, all except 1 of them under 35 minutes, I managed a 10km fell run and enjoyed it. Andy was right. And I think the mountain walking I do prepared me as much as the road running I didn’t do.

4. Do yoga
Or something to balance your competitive instincts. (Read on all you competitive people because I really think this works.)
My yoga teacher practises restraint. He reckons if the body and mind are to be in tune, a competitive person’s instinct to push must be balanced with an activity in which they hold back. I struggled with this but eventually started accepting the low intensity and now I breathe more deeply (crucial for swim bike run and handy in transition); I have body awareness and act on it (v useful for avoiding injury); I’m better at relaxing while doing exercise (good for translating energy efficiently) and my core is stronger.
Men take note – yoga is not a girly cop out: it’s not easy to do properly and if you go to the right class no one will care how bendy you are.

5. Be in a friendly club and ask stupid questions
Lots and lots of club members have helped me out with tips, encouragement and war stories – thanks to all. Andy T told me I’d fall off my bike when I got the clippy shoes, Siobhan S suggested I try Keswick and Jane H thought I shouldn’t sleep in a tent the night before the race: they were all right. And even if I didn’t follow Tracey’s urging not to wear socks – her advice on lining up my shoes and wearing my race belt under my wet suit saved seconds.
Thanks to the coaches and committee members who give up so much time to enable less-able souls to complete triathlons.

The conditions on the day were perfect, the nerves a bit jangly … and for all my going on about just wanting to get round, I’m chuffed at my time (3 hrs 1 min 11 sec) and even happier that I enjoyed it.

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2 Responses to 5 things I learned before my first triathlon

  1. Tony Lummis says:

    Well done sarah! Not just for completing the event but the way you did it. To me thats what the club is all about. People join the club, get in the water, get on the bike then run.
    Now Sarah, whats next?

    • Sarah M says:

      Thanks Tony,
      I’m definitely hooked! Keswick next year to find that 1 min 11 sec – no doubt by then I’ll have searched ebay for a fancier bike!

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