Monday, 7 March 2011

43things: do a triathlon

Unfortunately I’ve been without internet access for the last month (and yes I did feel like I was missing a limb). Life did not end, nor did it stand still. In fact for the last 6 weeks I’ve been training for a mini-triathlon and finally did it yesterday.

And since I’m sitting here typing this, that means I lived to tell the tale. What’s more, I even enjoyed it!!

Six weeks ago I made a big decision. Despite it nearing the end of summer and triathlon season, I wanted to achieve this goal. Its been on my list for over a year now, and if I ever wanted to make this happen, I just had to get in there and do it.

There were 2 main things that helped my motivation. Getting back to the pool and swimming laps, and realising my other goal of swimming 1km without stopping. Sure I’m not fast, but I can swim and I do feel safe and confident in the water. Whilst I was at the pool doing laps one day, one lane was closed for a group called Tri-alliance. I picked up one of their brochures and that got the ball rolling…

Another thing that helped move that ball along was a friend of mine talking about doing a triathlon as well. We live on opposite sides of the city, so couldn’t train together, but we decided to both sign up for a mini-triathlon – The Gatorade ActiveFeet race at Elwood Beach which involved a 300m swim, 10km cycle, 3km run.

Just before Christmas we both made the decision to sign up for the March race, giving us adequate training time after Christmas and New Year’s festivities were over. It also gave me time to sign up for Tri-alliance’s Try the Tri 6 week program. Not having done anything more competeitive than the Sydney City 2 Surf (and that was many years ago now!), joining this program was one of the best decisions I ever made.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. I missed over 2 weeks of sessions due to illness, and couldn’t make every session due to work commitments. But I made enough to learn the basics of transitions, to improve my running (although I still have a long way to go), to experience open water swimming, and I even had fun in the process.

Tri-alliance training

After the first session I was a bit intimidated. We literally spent 1.5 hours learning how to get on and off a bike. It was hard! And I was sore for days afterwards. And I’m still not very good at it!

I was suprised to discover that comparatively speaking, swimming was my strongest leg. I know it’s an indiviual sport, but I couldn’t help but noticing that whenever we practised transitions, or did running training, I was always dead last. By a long shot. Never the case swimming though. I have to admit that gave me a mental boost, for if I was consistently coming last in everything, I think my competitive side would find that difficult to cope with.

But enough about the training, how about the race itself!!

I was a bit panicked waking at at 5:30am yesterday and realising it was still pitch black. I had planned on carrying my gear in my bike basket and riding to the race, however I can’t attach both my basket and my light to my bike. A last minute repacking ensued, and I rode down to Elwood beach, still with plenty of time to spare.

After checking in my bike and setting up for transition, I made my way to the Tri-alliance tent to wait there with the other people I’d been training with. It was lovely to be around other first-timers in the same boat along with more experienced athletes and coaches. At 6am it was a chilly 12 degrees. We had to leave our shoes in the transition area and I hadn't thought to bring a spare pair. As a result my feet were in agony from the icy grass.

During Saturday’s training session I was dismayed to find that the water temperature had dropped signficantly. I am a wuss when it comes to cold water at the best of times. Also being one of the few people without a wetsuit, I was even more freaked out. Since we were only doing a small pre-race swim, I couldn’t even force myself to get in the water. I was worried that if it didn’t warm up overnight I’d be too wussy to do it for the actual race the next day! But luckily the water temperature had warmed up (and was warmer than the 12 degree air!).

The race itself was amazing. The swim was both my favourite part, and the most stressfull. Being accidentally kicked and having people pulling and swarming around you can be stressfull. Luckily the ocean was flat as a tack, so currents and waves didn’t add to this stress.

Image from

As always my transition time was slow. I think I am the slowest person alive to put on shoes! It didn’t help that my feet were deadened by cold. In fact I didn’t get back full sensation in my feet until halfway through the run.

The cycle leg was fine, I think I could have pushed it harder than I did though. I hadn’t done enough
10km length cycles to properly gauge how long and how hard I had to work for. I was also conscious of saving my legs for what I knew would be my toughest leg: the run.

I’m not a natural, nor a fast runner. But I can get myself into a slow rhythm and just plug away. And plug away I did. My legs sure felt it from the riding, but I was just happy not to have to stop and walk. Towards the end, I even got a comment from someone on the sidelines about how I was still smiling. With
100m to go, my deadened legs made a final sprint for it. At the finish line, I didn’t even see the clock, so I had no idea what my time was.

I got my results in the mail today, and here they are:
  • Swim – 08:55, 26/68 in my age category, 368/599 overall
  • Transition 102:23
  • Cycle – 23:25, 40/68 in my age category, 396/599 overall
  • Transition 201:15
  • Run – 18:04, 48/68 in my age category, 482/599 overall

Overall stats: 54:01, 42/68 in my age category, 142/239 females, 428/599 overall competitors

Not bad, but definite room for improvement!

Things I would do differently next time:

  • Swim – Ideally wear a wetsuit. Yes this would involve buying one.
  • Transition 1 – need to be at least 1 minute faster. Shouldn’t have worried about socks (most of the sand had come off anyway). Do more training in shoes only to make sure this would work. Also shouldn’t have bothered putting on a dry singlet, it only got wet!
  • Cycle – could have pushed harder, especially the first half. Also getting a proper road racing bike might help too!
  • Transition 2 – don’t bother drinking my own water this time. Plently of water stations along the running route.
  • Run – faster faster. More practice!!

Despite the room for improvements, I’m happy with my race, and more than happy that I got off my butt and did something I’d wanted to do for ages. It didn’t cost a lot of money, and the only new equipment that I bought were elasticated shoe laces ($10) and tri shorts ($30 from the 2XU factory outlet). Of course the gadget-geek in me is already plotting away at future purchase ideas - a wetsuit and maybe even a new bike too!

Speaking of room for improvement, the St Kilda race is on in only 2 weeks. Whilst part of me wants time to recover, another part of me wants to give it another go. Another part of me is also afraid of how much colder the water will be in 2 weeks. Another part of me thinks that part of me is a wuss. Which part will win is yet to be determined!

Regardless, my new goal is now to to a full-length Triathlon when the season starts again at the end of the year!


Anonymous said...

This is so incredible! I'm so proud of you!

yublocka said...

Thanks Natalie! Hearing about your running has defintiely been an inspiration too!