Trying to Tri

I’ll set this in context before I go on. It’s January 2017, New Year’s resolutions are already falling by the wayside and I’m looking for ways to keep myself motivated and focus on something other than work. I had already completed a Triathlon and had vowed to never do one again. Nevertheless, I droned on about it and suddenly myself and 2 friends are discussing doing one.

OK, so we’re not super fit and we’d struggle to walk up the stairs, but suddenly this potential event was becoming a lot more real. We talked about bikes, transition, the best clothes to wear on the day, how to fuel up (sure we’re basically athletes, we can say that now) and what sort of times we’d be looking at. We talked ourselves into doing one, the Try-a-tri in TriAthy in Athy. It’s a 250m swim, 20km cycle and 4km run. An entry level triathlon aimed at beginners.  Between us we had a competent swimmer, a decent cyclist and a runner, so now it was just a matter of combining the 3 disciplines over the coming months.

We hit the ground, I’d love to say running, but sure we hit the ground anyway. First up was the swim training. Our competent swimmer was fine. The other 2 had a way to go yet before the open water swimming would be achievable. Next up was the bike. We all had mountain bikes at the start, but we soon realised that would be a mistake and upgraded to road bikes. Some of us borrowed bikes and some of us bought second hand ones. Then there was the running. The running was OK, tough to get out after work, but we managed as best as we could.

So we knew this wasn’t an Olympic sized event, but for the background we had this was our Everest and we were determined to climb it. We swam every week, we cycled every weekend and we tried to get out running/jogging 2 or 3 times during the week. We bought the gear, we squeezed into the wetsuits and we practiced the transition. All we had to do now was train, focus and wait.

The big day came. It was the June bank holiday weekend and we were nervous. The weather was fine, thankfully. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for our nerves. We racked our bikes in transition and set the area up for our change out of our wetsuits. Runners down, socks out, towel down, t-shirt down, snacks out, water ready, helmet ready and then check it again. Finally, the transition area was being closed; we had to face our commitment.

Standing there on the bank of the River Barrow in our wetsuits, trying to close them up over the clothes we had on underneath, reconciling ourselves with the fact that there is nothing more we can do now. Trying to turn the nerves from the enormity of what you are about to start into a focused energy. Then suddenly it’s go time. In the water, go, no waiting. Maintain your form; focus on the bridge, breath, and repeat. Keep the head and focus on getting out. People around us struggled but we supported each other before hand and we were ready. We kept our own time and focused on our task. Then it was over, we were out. Now a jog in the wetsuit to transition. Hat off, goggles off, arm out, other arm out, follow the route, find the bike, hit the floor, suit off, t-shirt on, helmet on, go.

Once you’re on the bike there’s a massive amount of comfort in having the swim done. You relax; take a gel, have a bar and hydrate. The route was 10k out and 10k back. It was a good pull at the start but then you relax and ease into it. You get your rhythm and get on with it. Before you know it you’re done and in transition. Bike up, helmet off, water taken and you’re away.

The run is tough. Your legs are like jelly and your body is sending quit signals the whole way. You think of what you’ve done and the small bit left to go. You distract yourself however you can. Count down time and look around. Stay focused on the end goal. Then you start to hear the distant sound of a loud speaker and you begin to feel the excitement of nearly finishing this mammoth undertaking. It gets closer and closer and your moral starts to lift. You start to engage with people around you and it’s almost over.

Then you get there and make a dash for the finish. Your name is called out and you pick up your medal and a wave of emotions wash over you. You’re tired, but delighted that you didn’t drown and could finish. It’s a very welcoming atmosphere and you welcome home the people who come in after you.

Would I recommend this to people? Yes. If you’re looking for a challenge or to push yourself then this is the thing for you. Can’t swim? Learn. It’s never too late. I started swimming lessons in February of 2016 and did my first triathlon in July 2016. Can’t cycle well enough? Practice. Getting out there is the only way to improve and it’s a great way to clear your lungs and head. Can’t run? Buy runners and use them. Aim for 15 minutes one day, 20 the next, 25 the next week and so on. Know nothing about triathlons? Read up about them. You’re not the first one to consider it and you won’t be the last.

Are we Ironmen yet? Not quite, but we’re stronger than when we started.

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