On the back of my first ever Triathlon at the weekend, I thought I’d write a review of it to hopefully inspire a few of you to sign up as I absolutely loved it!
I have done so many run events that I wanted to change it up and do something a bit different, give myself a new challenge…not knowing when I signed up that there would be no blinking races for 18 months due to Covid but that’s a different story! So after umpteen reschedules, the day finally came on Sunday when I took part in UK Triathlon’s North West Tri.
The event took place in Nantwich and the primary reason I signed up for this one over others was due to the fact that it wasn’t an open water swim, but the swim was in an outdoor heated pool – much more in my comfort zone! I did a sprint Tri which is 500m swim, 20k cycle and 5k run – all doable distances on their own but when put back to back, I was intrigued to see how it would work!
So lets talk prep…
I wouldn’t advise the training plan I used as I didn’t actually really use one. A classic example of do as I say, not what I do but as some of you are aware, I’ve had a few other events going on recently so I didn’t have much time to dedicate to specific training. I have tried to get a swim in every week for the last 6 – 8 weeks so that was good as swimming is not my forte – I’m relatively quick but I cannot do front crawl to save my life. So a fast breast stroke it was going to have to be. A few days before the event I realised I hadn’t ever swam in the tri-suit that I’d bought – error! I couldn’t have the first wear being at the race so I took myself off to the leisure centre and luckily for me, turns out I could still swim in the suit!! Phew
I’ve obviously been doing a LOT of running so didn’t need to add that into my schedule and then bike – I should have done more, lets put it that way! But I did so a couple of “brick training” sessions and I did a mini duathlon which I was very chuffed with. Brick training is practicing the cycle then run element as it’s pretty insane. The reason it’s called brick training I think is due to your legs feeling like bricks post cycle when you try and run. You do it to build muscle memory and to help regulate pace and effort so that you’re able to hit your goal distance.
So with the not so perfect training plan executed, it came to a few days before the event when I manically text a few of my friends who have done triathlons before and organised to go and see my friend Kate briefly after the kids swimming to get a run down of do’s and dont’s!!
So I scribbled down notes of what Kate said and took down instructions of what I need to take with me, advice on what to take to help fuel the event, what to do when I got there, etc and it was brilliant. I started to feel a bit calmer – I knew I had everything I needed and that was a relief and with the loan of her tri-belt for my race number I started to think I could actually do this.
So the morning of the event I felt pretty nervous (standard for me!!) Had my porridge and then got in the car. It’s been a long time since I’ve done an event all on my own – normally I know someone from my group who’s doing it or there’s a huge crew of us – this only compounded the nervousness. Hopefully I wouldn’t get lost. Plus – who knew how far Nantwich was…an hour! Thought it was just past Northwich – turns out its pretty much Crewe!! Anyhoo…I made it there and parked up.
First thing to do was go grab your number so you were officially registered – number 413! I got given a bag and an envelope with a set of rules on it. Who knew how many rules there were for a tri – very different to running. 3 stickers – 2 for your bike and 1 for your helmet. A wristband to go on your right wrist and a chip that goes in a black band for your left ankle – for anyone who knows me, you know I struggle with left and right so this sent me into a panic. Nervous panic almost resulted in a few tears but I had a word with myself and realised it was all ok and I started to feel better.
I got all my stuff (or so I thought) and put it into the blue plastic bag provided and then headed over to the transition to get sorted for the swim and bike – I dont have cliques so was just cycling in my trainers so there was nothing required for the 2nd transition from bike to run. It was about a 10-15 min walk down the road from the car park and event registration to the pool which was really well sign posted and I was feeling good. Got to where I needed to be, had a nervous wee and then waited to have my number called forward. Due to Covid, they were limiting the numbers going into transition so it wasn’t too busy – it worked well. I then suddenly realised I’d left my swim hat and goggles in the car – nightmare.
But I couldn’t do anything about it so I just had to crack on. I got set up for transition – bike racked, helmet off, shoes and socks laid out, towel and t-shirt over rail and number put onto belt along with gel for the run in holder. Drink of choice for the bike is tried and tested Tailwind which is a fab supplement which fuels you with and I quote, “the perfect ratio of calories, electrolytes and hydration”. Tastes ok too (I’ve got the raspberry one) which always helps.
I then headed over to the pool (the only novice without goggles or a bloody swim hat!!) and waited in line till it was my turn. Everyone was lovely – lots of women, loads of first timers which really helped to put me at ease. Pool looked nice and inviting – was dreading it being freezing and a bit of a scrum. But no, everyone set off at 30 second intervals and the pool was split into 4 lanes and it was warm!! Lovely leisurely swim on a Sunday morning – not!! You did 4 laps of the 30 metre pool in each lane and then moved to the next one and then there were steps to get out (did have visions of me having to hoick myself out ungracefully!!)
500m swim – done. Then onto the bike. This was the one bit which blew my mind more than any other – how can you cycle soaking wet?? Well turns out in a tri-suit its fine!! Towelled myself down a little, socks and shoes on, charity t-shirt thrown over suit for a little extra warmth. Then helmet on (as you get disqualified if you dont have your helmet on before taking the bike of the rack) and finally clipped my race number round my waist and then I was good to go. Threw the towel and bits in the bag. You left this where it was and then volunteers grab them up and take them to the bag pick up bit at the end – genius as I had no idea what in the world to do with my car key!!
Then the cycle. It should have been 20km but due to a diesel spill on the road, the police had advised was unsuitable for cyclists so they had to last minute change the route so it was only 15-16k (wasn’t bothered about this in the slightest as you can imagine!!!) The weather was amazing – we were so lucky. It was forecast to be rain all morning but it was properly cracking the flags. Fab flattish route on some lovely country lanes – really well sign posted so I didn’t worry about getting lost at any point. Had to keep reminding myself to drink my Tailwind…this I now know I should have practised more. It’s surprisingly hard to get used to taking the bottle out, drinking and putting it back in (well it was for me anyway!!). Anyway.. then all of a sudden we were back at the park and were going into transition 2 to get ready for the run. Making sure not to get disqualified, I dismounted at the correct line and dashed into the transition area. I ditched my bike in a suitable spot (almost forgetting to take my helmet off!!), switched my number round to the front as you have to wear it on your back for the cycle and then went running.
This was my bread and butter so I wasn’t bothered but god that first 500m off a bike running is mental!! You cant understand it until you actually do it but I knew it would get easier. The run was a 5k but it was 4 laps of a 1.33k loop which I knew but on grass – not what I was expecting! It was better than I thought – I was hoping for approx 27 – 28 mins and did it in about 26 something so was buzzing. What I didn’t expect was to see how many people were walking on the run – proper fit (athletic fit) men were walking on a 5k – blew my mind a little. But I loved the run – after doing the GNR 1/2 marathon the week before, I knew that a 5k no matter how hard it felt was totally doable and I just had to keep my legs and arms moving.
So then it ended – it was fab it wasn’t a mass finish so the guy on the microphone announced everyones name and where they were from on the tannoy which was a lovely thing. The medal was handed to you straight away and then you were into the main event bit with all the spectators and athletes celebrating their achievements.
Brilliant event. I was buzzing! Bag collected, then went and found my bike and got back to the car. No changing rooms which I thought was a little annoying (minor annoyance!!) so just threw on some tracksuit bottoms and sat on a carrier bag so as to not ruin the seat!! and headed on home to eat alllllll the food!
So in summary – loads of rules to follow but quite simple ones, lots of stuff to remember (I will never forget my goggles again!!) but it was brilliant. Fabulous event – so well organised and I will definitely be back to do another one in the future. It was no where near as brutal as I thought it would be – I was stressing and overthinking the transitions where in actual fact there’s nothing to be worried about at all. Yes I could have been quicker, yes I could have trained a little bit better but do you know what – I had fun and I was in good company as everyone I spoke to was so supportive and lovely it made it much less daunting.
If you’re thinking of signing up for one or even contemplating the thought of it – get in touch as I reckon there’s a few of us who will do one next year…