Monday 4 July 2011

My first triathlon

Tom persuaded me that I wanted to do a triathlon, which I'd sort of wanted to do for a while. Just a "sprint" tri: 750 m swim, 25 km cycle and 5 km run. It was the Saffron Walden tri, with results here. I was 74th of 186 finishers in 1:35, to spare you the suspense. Or to break it down, I was 98th in the swim, 94th in the cycle, and 33rd in the run. Which (relatively) was no great surprise, as I run a lot, cycle but not competitively, and swim very rarely. In fact a part of my preparation was, on Saturday (i.e. the day before) to do 2*10 lengths to see if I could still swim at some kind of speed. And I could.

As to the day itself: since there is a cycle, it is arranged to be ridiculously early on Sunday. So I got up at 6, and arrived in time for the safety briefing at 7, which was mostly the kind of uninteresting H+S obsessed legalese that you'd expect.

Triathlon - the bikes await I have no pix yet - Tom might get me some, but I forgot my camera in the excitement of the morning, quite unlike me. So here is someone else's. The heart of the thing is the "transition" which is where you rack your bike and arrange your kit all ready and stuff. See how carefully these folk have done it. Note also that they didn't forget their towels, unlike me. Leave yourself a water bottle there, for a quick drink, and maybe some energy gel type stuff - though I used jelly cubes.

So how it goes is: you swim (30 lengths, ~15 mins; if you're me, you leave your glasses on the convenient table). Its a pool swim not a lake, so you go in batches of about 5 at about 10 min intervals, leading to about 2-3 people in each lane. If you're lucky, like me, you never have to overtake or be overtaken (strict rules: don't overtake, just tap their ankle, and they stop at the end of the length for you to go past). After the swim you dump your rubber hat in the bin provided and run/jog off to the transition area, following the taped-off lane, dripping as you go. Some folks swim in tri suits, and so can just leap on bikes. I swam in running kit, so stopped to put on my tee shirt preset with my numbers (top tip from Tom: pre-roll-up your shirt, so it goes on easily). For the sake of comfort, I put on socks and cycled in my running shoes. Which all showed up on my rather slow 2 min transition time - the winning folk were less than half that.

Since we started swimming in waves, there is no great hustle in transition - I cycled off alone, and didn't see many people en route. I got overtaken by 3 people, and overtook 2, on the 2*12.5 km course. Quite hilly, but also quite pleasant and interesting - Saffron Walden is a nice area. So maybe I wasn't going as fast as I might have, with no-one explicitly to push me.

After the cycle I re-rack the bike, quickly wolf down a jelly cube, and head off for the run start. Which is on grass, level briefly, then heads straight up a hill. Quite a long hill, really, and quite steep. Hmpf. Fairly soon I'm overtaking people, which is as it should be :-). The course isn't all that easy - there are some sharp jinks through hedges, some ditches, some hills, and some field edges. Its an out-and-back course, which feels odd to me. But at least you know when you're half way round. And so to the end, and the long finishing sprint down the hill, and I overtake some bod just 10 yards before the line.

Whew: I'm done. Stumble off slowly, and have a little drink, find stuff, and buy a can of coke (well, 2, since they had no change) and sit watching others finish, and applausding (everyone is friendly, and there is a lot of encouragement, cheering and clapping). Its nice and sunny and warm so I'm happy to sit there for a while. Find Tom, chat. It is now about 10 (my start was 8), Tom's start isn't till 11:20, and initially I wasn't going to wait to watch. But we watch the transition together, while his friend Chris Brown (whom, it turns out, I've sold honey to) comes through. Chris is serious (you can tell the serious folk most easily from their bike kit; solid rear wheels, teardrop helmets, quick-on shoes, and so on) and came 16th (Tom came 7th, first in the "MI" age group). Transition is interesting, watching the various styles and levels of competence. In fact the whole thing is better than I thought it would be: I thought I'd be annoyed by all the fiddling, but actually it turns out to be fun. More of an event than a typical half marathon, where you just turn up, run, and go away.

They print out results as the come in. I'm 13th of 61 on the first page, but (alas) it turns out that slow folk go first. So when the full results come out I've slipped down the table. But all in all it was fun, and I'll do another when convenient and I have time.


* Julia did it last year in 2:05. Graeme got 1:50.

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