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How to complete your first Triathlon

We’ve all heard of the Brownlee brothers, the magnificent Olympic champions from Yorkshire!  I used to think of triathlon as an unachievable sport, with 3 disciplines, so much equipment, months of training, long distances, I never thought of it as a sport for me. However here I am, one season down, half ironman completed and gearing up for my first marathon as “training” for a full ironman event, I mean how did that happen! Before I start, I think it is useful to know what the distances are in Triathlon. This is the great thing, you can start with the sprint and then you find yourself going a little bit further each race until you find your favourite/become slightly obsessed:

Super sprint: 400m Swim, 10km Bike, 2.5km Run

Sprint: 750m Swim, 20km Cycle, 5km Run

Standard: 1500m Swim, 40km Bike, 10km Run

Middle distance/Ironman 70.3: 1.9km Swim, 90km Bike, 21km Run

Ironman: 3.8km Swim, 180km Bike, 42Km Run

 My Journey to Triathlon

Well, I want to start by saying that I’m no long distance athletes, I wouldn’t even say runner, I have big strong thighs, boobs, glutes and generally a muscular frame for a 5 ft 2″ girl  (head over to my first blog post to find out more about my sporting past) These factors have always stood in my way of cardio related sports, I believed I wasn’t skinny enough to run or cycle for long distances.

When I went to University, I took a bike to get to my lectures, town and even some nights out! (shhhh) I loved it, it was so easy, it meant I had an extra half an hour in bed and I felt like I was doing some sort of exercise! Bonus! At the time our university had no road cycling club so I found a local club who trained at an outdoor track during winter. My bike then weighed a ton, it had limited gears and I’m not even sure the breaks worked but I gave it a shot anyway! I tell you now, if you want to get fit, cycle on a crap bike and believe me when you come to invest in a decent bike you’ll be flying!

After a few months I was still attending and felt like I was getting faster, its surprising how quick your endurance progresses. January came and I decided to join the clubs reliability rides which were 3 rides, 50 miles, 75 miles and 100 miles. Young and fearless, I gave it my everything but they were by no means easy! I struggled through the pain and I even remember crying on the final 5 miles or so as my legs were so sore! Lesson learnt however, these distances should be something to work up to!

My First Real Bike with cleats and everything!

A year later, I finally invested in my first Giant ladies bike as I had convinced my Dad I was going to keep this going! I think it cost around £550 as a last season model, so nothing too fancy. That bike got me through thousands of miles, a trip across the French Alps, my first season racing triathlons and the Ironman 70.3 and its still going strong! Don’t think you need a shed full of different fancy bikes to give cycling or triathlon a go…you don’t! At every event you go to you’ll see those stupid looking sperm helmets, the disc wheels, the bikes that look and sound more like machines than bikes. Don’t be intimidated, its your race and they’ll be the ones looking silly when you pass them!

So when I finished by degree and returned to Sheffield I wanted to find a club to cycle with but always found it difficult in Sheffield as everyone seems pretty serious and you don’t want to slow anyone down. I found the Sheffield Triathlon club and began to have a think, was it time for a new challenge? I love entering events as they give me something to aim for, without taking cycling more serious, or just doing sportives it was difficult in cycling. Plus why do one discipline when you can mix it up and have a go at three! I thought to myself, I’m confident at cycling and I’d been doing bits of running like Parkruns and a 10k, so surely I could learn how to swim. Don’t think for a moment that you have to be good at all three disciplines, you can learn and progress in all three, its just having the confidence to give it ago!

I couldn’t swim!

Like most people, I hadn’t swam since my Dad taught me when I was a child, anyone else in the same position? Well I have found a new love, I now love swimming! I’m not going to pretend like its not hard work, especially at the beginning, because it is. Its like being out of breathe on a run but in water, yes I did think I was going to drown. My first session, I managed two lengths before grabbing hold of the edge for air! Did I feel stupid? No! Did I feel like I was being judged? No! I felt like this was a challenge in itself and I kept on going until I could manage 16 lengths without stopping. 16 lengths is 400m in a 25m pool, so the sprint swim distance in triathlon.

I have to point out at this point, when I first entered the changing rooms at the pool, everyone was talking about Ironmans and their training, I thought they were all absolutely crazy. I thought Ironman’s were something professionals did as it was so difficult how could anyone attempt such a thing. It goes to show, that when you surround yourself with inspiring people, its contagious and that’s why I believe you can achieve anything if you put your mind in the right place.

So April 2016, I entered my first triathlon in Southwell, Nottingham. A sprint distance that was so friendly and full of beginners like me. It was hard, really hard but I absolutely loved it and thats why I continued to try further distances, I was motivated and curiosity got the better of me. Here I am having completed an Ironman 70.3 distance in Vichy, training for Manchester Marathon which had once been on my bucket list and is now a training event for completing my first Ironman sometime in the future!

My Top Tips to get into Triathlon

  1. Don’t believe that because you don’t look like an athlete, a runner, a cyclist or a sports person that you can’t enter a triathlon, IT’S NOT TRUE! Anyone and everyone can give it a go! Put in the training and you’ll just get better and better.
  2. All the equipment you need is a swimming costume, bike and a pair of trainers. Yes as you get more interested there are endless pieces of kit and equipment that you can buy but don’t let this put you off in the early stages. It’s not necessary to spend a fortune, believe me that will come once you’ve found the love.
  3. Find a friendly local club, this was my biggest motivation. Training surrounded by like minded people pushed me out of my comfort zone. You’ll discover so many new tips about training and racing that will all help you to achieve your goals and more!
  4. Don’t be put off that your not good at all three areas, no one is! Everyone who races will have strengths and weaknesses and thats OK, thats what training is for.
  5. Believe in your capabilities because the sky is the limit, if you enjoy the training, the possibilities are endless with this sport. With cycling camps, triathlon training camps and races you can go all over the world. Think about the amazing achievement competing abroad and then the fantastic holiday after!