Events

My first ever triathlon

High on the waves of another race, I signed up to my first ever triathlon! With just over a week to go, find out how I’m getting on.

Here’s the disclaimer: my foray into competitive races only started two months ago, on a tropical island in Malaysia (more of that another time!), and given the sheer enjoyment I took from training for it – no, genuinely! – I decided to sign up for the AJ Bell London Triathlon (the world’s largest triathlon!) on 22-23 July. This is to be my first ever triathlon!

Bold, you might say, but high on the endorphins and adrenaline of finishing in the top 20 in the Chapman’s Challenge on the island of Pangkor Laut (not that big a deal considering there were only 150 people taking part!), I felt ready to seize the day and my newfound Olympian status and sign up for my next challenge.

Not one to bite off much more than I can chew, the Super Sprint was my race of choice. In the AJ Bell London Triathlon, that’s a 400m swim, 10K bike ride and a 2.5K run.

In my mind this is all relatively doable: my race in Malaysia was a 1K open-water swim, AJ Bell London Triathlon is just 400m; The 10K ride is almost equivalent to my London commute, and the 2.5K run is about half (or on a good day, a third) of my chosen run-for-pleasure distance.

So, like me, you must be thinking, she’s got this, but no, I haven’t… Here’s the fine print: the swim is in the London Docks, not Malaysia’s tropical waters, but to be honest it’s not the Docks that worry me, it’s the fact that I’ve never swum in a wetsuit before; the 10K ride really is totally doable for newbies, my difficulty with it is I’ve never ridden a road bike, ever. My bike resembles a tank – read 12-year-old Dutch bike, it’s a sit-up-and-read-the-paper road position and not a face-to-the-ground racer style and it’s not even heard of cleats or clip-ins!

And last but by no means least, the run. A distance of 2.5K is doable for ANYONE – you can walk that if necessary, but the tricky thing with triathlons, which i’m just discovering, is the jelly legs you have to run on, after that 10K bike race!

However! All of this is surmountable for beginners and that’s why the Super Sprint distance exists!

My first ever triathlon

Obstacle one:

New to swimming in a wetsuit

Overcoming it:

It’s actually easier to swim in one! Wetsuits provide you with more buoyancy, so you actually float better in the water with your suit on. It’s easy to get down to your local pool and practise your race distance donned in your suit. You’ll be surprised by how many other people are usually there doing the same thing!

Obstacle two:

New to riding a road bike

Overcoming it:

It might have been a while since you learned to ride a bike but the same rules apply. Take it slow and steady, in your garden or a park – bascially anywhere where you won’t be a hazard to traffic.

Cleats and clip-in pedals might seem like an added complication but they provide you with more power on your ride – being clipped in means you exert force as you pull up the pedal (as well as pushing down), so you’re basically 50 per cent more efficient in your riding style.

A good place to get used to cleats and clip-ins before you even get out on your bike is in a spin class, get there a few minutes early, suss out how it works and practise clipping in and out. And as someone new to a road bike (and anyone else for that matter!), always wear a helmet!

Obstacle three:

Jelly legs for the run

Overcoming it:

The key to avoiding this feeling is to incorporate ‘brick’ training into your routine. A brick workout is the practice of combining two disciplines in one workout, in this case cycling then immediately running.

As you move from one to the other your body and mind needs to be prepared for the next discipline, while recovering efficiently from the last. It’s not as tricky as it sounds, just be sure to incorporate these types of sessions in your training so your body is used to the change as your heart rate increases to shift blood flow from one set of muscles to the next.

If you fancy it, why not sign up! There’s still time! It’s a great day out too, so come down and get a feel for it – maybe next year could be your year.

From £87, Sign up here.

AJ Bell London Triathlon, Excel Centre, Victoria Docks, E16 1XL

If you’re looking at signing up to your first triathlon, be sure to check out our triathlon tips for beginners; or if you’re a keen cyclist find out more about cycle to work day.