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, mounts of equipment, months of training and 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. The great thing is, you can start with the sprint and then find yourself going a little bit further each race until you find your favourite and 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 athlete by any means. 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 slim enough to run or cycle for a long duration of time.
When I went to University, I rode my bike to my lectures, town and even some nights out! (shhhh). I loved it, it was so easy and 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 questionable breaks, 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 the cycling club and could feel my fitness and confidence on the bike improving. It's surprising how quick your endurance progresses.
January came around, 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, 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 after convincing my Dad I was going to keep this up! 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!
When I finished my degree, I returned to Sheffield and wanted to find a club to cycle with. This was quite a challenge as everyone in Sheffield seemed pretty competitive and serious about the sport. However, I found the Sheffield Triathlon Club and embarked on decided it was time for a new challenge. Why do one discipline when you can mix it up and have a go at all three?!
I thought to myself, I’ve built my confidence up cycling, I often partake in park runs and 10k races and I could set swimming as my new goal. You don't have to be good at all three disciplines from the get go! You can learn and progress in all three - it's just having the initial confidence to give it a go!
I couldn’t swim!
Like most people, I hadn’t swam since my Dad taught me when I was a child. 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.
In my first swimming 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.
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 only professionals did as they were so difficult. How could anyone attempt such a thing??
But It goes to show, that when you surround yourself with inspiring and confident people, their energy and mindset becomes contagious. That's why I now believe you can achieve anything if you put your mind in the right place and have a good group of people around you.
In 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 the challenge, so 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 I'm now training for my first Ironman sometime in the future!
My Top Tips to get into Triathlon
- 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 see the results!
- All the equipment you need is a swimming costume, bike and a pair of trainers. As you get more invested, 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 developed a passion for the sport.
- 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!
- Don’t be put off that you're not good at all three areas, no one is! Everyone who races will have strengths and weaknesses and thats OK, that's what training is for.
- Believe in your capabilities - 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!
Ultimately, it's not about being the quickest person on the track, or the fittest in the swimming pool. Training for a triathlon is about taking it at your own pace, and celebrating your own little achievements along the way! You will inevitably achieve positive results if you find a passion for the sport and keep persevering.