What better thing to doing a Bank Holiday Sunday than swim, bike and run around Nottinghamshire in the Southwell sprint triathlon?
A triathlon is a great way of testing yourself and your fitness over a shorter space of time than a sportive and less impact on your body than a half marathon. Another good motivation for doing it was that the family can come along, see Dad (or Mum) doing all the bits and pieces whilst enjoying some time out in the fresh air. A triathlon is a much better spectator sport than just cycling or running alone and yesterday was perfect as the kids demolished a picnic while cheering me on.
It was my first triathlon in 22 years after having a go at one as a teenager with my Dad. Training has involved all my normal cycle training, a few runs and a visit to the pool to swim about 1000 meters every 4 or 5 days. It’s fair to say there will be better training plans available elsewhere on the internet but I felt reasonable confident about the activities themselves but was uncharacteristically nervous about the more technical aspects of the event.
I’d invested in a pair of Tri-shorts and elastic laces for my trainers so had satisfied my kit urges …. until we arrived. 90% of the people there had Tri-suits of some description so I instantly felt under prepared and felt a bit amateurish. Despite practicing the swim-to-bike transition at home after a shower and a bath (much to my wife’s dismay) I was still lacking in confidence and made a daft mistake of switching the top I had planned to wear. This meant that rather than putting a technical t-shirt on, I pinned the numbers on to a cycling top and with the grippy hem material, this got stuck when I tried to put it on after the swim. It took me 2 attempts to get on, I ripped the number off on one side which meant I had to reattach it and probably cost me 30 seconds.
The ride was a lumpy, straight, out-and-back route but started with a tricky climb. I hadn’t practiced cycling after swimming and really noticed a weakness in my upper arms on that first climb. It was a strange sensation that wore off after 5 minutes but cost me some time on that first hill. I was pleased to have taken a sports drink and gel with me because it got warm and you soon start to feel worn out putting that level of effort in.
The run was a 2 lap affair and started with a 300 yard hill. The laps were a good feature for me because they meant I got to see Mrs G and the kids 4 times on the run and once the first lap is complete you’re know exactly what to expect (another 300 yard hill!!). A bit of concentration is needed to make sure you navigate the finish area effectively, but with a name check over the PA it was good to reach the end…..and see what scraps of picnic the kids had left me!
Driving home I reflected on how brilliantly organised the event was. As a novice, I haven’t got much of a benchmark, but everything worked, I knew where I needed to be and everything went of completely on schedule. I’ve now got a time to try and beat, can see where I could save time on another one and learnt a lot.
My tips to myself are:
Get a Tri-top and number band (the right kit is the right kit for a good reason)
Practice the exit from the pool after race pace training (I rolled out like a beached whale)
Tri-bars would be useful on the bike but by no means essential
Practice the swim to bike activity more
Take a smaller bag/rucksack because space at transition is limited
Keep a towel on the floor near the bike
Combine training more often to overcome the jelly legs!
The Southwell Triathlon is part of the Midlands Sprint Triathlon series and the next one is at Woodhall Spa on 21 July in case anyone fancies it?