My First Middle Distance Triathlon by Nia Dunseath
My First Triathlon Experience
I first joined the club back in May 2017 when I was training for my first ever race – I had entered Cardiff half marathon and had never run a race in my life.
Fast forward to September 2018 I had well and truly caught the fitness bug and had been inspired by other members of the club to enter my first ever triathlon – the Cotswolds 113 – Half Iron Man distance event.
As soon as I’d hit the ‘enter’ button I started to feel sick. What on earth had I done? Could I really do this?
But it was now too late to have negative thoughts. Once I decide to do something, I’m all in. Next step was to get myself a training plan. My aim was just to finish the event in one piece and not feel too knackered at the end of it.
Winter training was tough, trying to get out on the bike in the wind and rain, but with other members of the club also signed up we kept each other going.
By April 2019 a few of us signed up for a short distance tri in Llandysul. I was terrified! But it was to be a good rehearsal before the main event in June. Lots of questions were running through my head
1. The tri suit was ordered but was I brave enough to wear it?
2. Could I wear my sports bra underneath my tri suit?
3. Would I get hypothermia coming out of the pool and going straight out onto the bike?
4. Did I have a tri belt – WTF was one of those?
5. Could I get my feet out of the clips on the bike?
But I needn’t have worried. The Llandysul Tri went off without a hitch, all thanks to some lovely people encouraging me along the way.
Spring came and went and it was now time to start thinking about open water swimming. Now anyone who knows me will know how much I hate the cold, and the thought of swimming in a freezing cold lake did not fill me with enthusiasm. One of my training swims in a lake in Llanybydder I had to come out after a mere 10 mins as my teeth were chattering! And that was in my wetsuit.
I was too scared to try swimming in the sea, so the only option was to drive to Llanelli dock and swim there. The first time was quite scary, not having the reassuring sides of the pool close by. I remember brushing past some seaweed and almost turned inside out. But I managed to keep going and each swim got a little less daunting, albeit still freezing cold.
The training continued apace all through May, but with better weather, motivation was easier to find. Mileage was ramping up on the bike and during a family holiday in France I managed 60 miles, my longest before the race. By this point I was still unsure how on earth I was going to run a half marathon after it, but I put my faith in my training plan and hoped for the best. My goal was to run this in 2 hours, but I had no idea if this was going to be achievable after a 1.2 mile swim and 56 miles on the bike.
Race day was soon upon me. And more questions. Had I done enough training? Could I find my bike in transition? Could I get out of my wetsuit? Would I manage to eat enough on the bike? Could I run 13.1 miles? Would I get around? Could I finish?
4 am and I was up, tucking in to porridge I had prepared the night before. All bodily functions completed (thank the Lord!) 10 minute drive to the race and I was ready to go. A mixture of nerves and adrenalin.
Sue and I go off in the same wave, it was nice to have a friendly face to start with. We found our own spot in the lake and off we went. I had been worried about spotting the buoys in the water, but with everyone else heading in the same direction it was not as scary as I’d imagined. My swim goes well, but when I get to transition I spot someone who was starting in the wave after me and begin to think that my swim must have been really slow. This knocks my confidence, and I’m already starting to think that I’m no good at this.
I struggle to get my wetsuit off as I can’t get it over the timing chip that’s attached to my ankle – more minutes lost as I have to sit on the floor and yank it over my ankle. When I finally get it off, transition seems to be empty. “I’m going to be the last one to finish” I say to myself. “Why did I think I could do this?”
I finally get my arse on to the bike remembering to wear my helmet first before touching the bike (something I learnt in Llandysul). The first few miles on the bike feel ok, but as soon as I start to eat, I really struggle. I know from my training that I really must keep eating but the mixture of lake water and adrenaline made me feel quite queasy. Still I approach the end of the first loop and know that I’m half way. I see my wonderful husband shouting encouragement and my spirits are lifted. My time looks to be ok, so I feel a little happier as I set off on loop number 2.
Sue passes me at some point during this second loop. I try to keep up with her, but my legs are having none of it. I wish her luck and think to myself that’s the last time I’ll see her until the finish line.
I finish the bike in 3.5 hours and feel happy with that. Now just the half marathon to go. I dry my feet and change into my running trainers, I instantly feel better. 3 loops and I’ll have finished!
Luckily by the time I start my run, the sickness I felt on the bike has passed. I settle in to a steady pace, trying to keep to around 9 min/mile. Gus is a welcome site, and I spot a few more home supporters on my way around which lifts my spirits. By the second lap, I’m constantly reminding myself that I’ll only need to do one more lap. I’m also passing many people who are walking and I’m determined not to join them. This spurs me on as I’m still feeling ok. My running form feels good. By lap 3 my legs are feeling heavy and I’m looking forward to the finish line but I start to believe that I’m actually going to finish this race.
When I approach the final few miles I pass three more people who I recognise and see more familiar faces amongst the supporters, it’s just the final push I need to get to the finish. As I round the last corner I can hear the announcer shouting encouragement and although feeling ready to drop, I look down at my watch to see that I’m within a couple of minutes of achieving my half marathon goal of 2 hours. My smile grows bigger and I cross the finish line in 1:58.59. I DID IT!!
One word of caution before joining our running club, think carefully as it is full of encouraging runners who will get you to do things you never thought possible. Go on – what have you got to lose?