My First Triathlon. Step out of your comfort zone to break free from your limiting self beliefs.
In order to grow as a person physically and mentally you need to place yourself in positions you are unfamiliar with in order to learn!
Take a baby for example. "They" (the most well funded well researched group on the planet) say a baby is capable of learning at a rate incomparable to that of an adult. You can look at these studies and statements two ways the first is to accept that as adults are neural capacity is diminishing every day and we are incapable of learning new skills (defeatist attitude) Or we can side with the other paradigm and realise that babies are absorbing so much information as all information to them is brand new. Every sense is being stimulated for the first time. So we need to be doing the same!
If only as adults we could experience new stimulation?? Well that's just it we can! But we in general choose to stick to our routines and stay within our comfort zones this is a recipe to numb the mind body and soul to live a painful and draining existence.
It was with this thought in mind and the fact I had finished playing rugby well over a year ago and had not competed in any physical activity since my hip operation. I one night after a few too many glasses of red wine booked the salford morson triathlon olympic distance. In my inebriated state i stated i had an exceptionally fast time overall just to really pile on the pressure. What better way to put yourself in an uncomfortable position as a tri-virgin than to line up next to a group of seasoned athletes. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
I was tired of the same routine and the moment I committed to this challenge something changed in my mindset. The embers of passion and determination that used to burn ferociously when i was a professional athlete began to reignite once more. I set aside time 4 days a week in order to get me backup to the fitness level i needed to be at in order to complete this challenge in a good time.
The first hurdle I faced was not having any of the equipment needed for a triathlon and there is a lot. So the following week after I had nursed the hangover from the weekend! I got online and started scouring for the essentials. Now this list is longer than I thought. I did however manage to do it on a budget of under £1000.
The Starter Pack
- Specialized Allez 2017 Road Bike (used)
- Helmet - van rysel roadr 500
- Padded Cycling Shorts
- Water bottle
- Nike React Flyknit
- £89 (sale)
I used the mindful chef food delivery for my dietary needs leading up to the event just to keep things simple, they are brilliant i can't recommend them enough. Great Vegan range too. This is a huge advantage for all you vegan warriors out there.
The Total for all my purchases minus my supplement regime came to just under £900. When you consider most worthy road bikes are upwards of £1000, I think I ended up with a good Tri starter pack.
You really don’t have to go crazy when it comes to equipment for your training and your first competitive tri. After all the chances are you are not trying to compete to win the event so I would focus on getting a well-maintained second-hand road bike and spare a little bit of money for a multisport gps watch.
My best purchases – The watch
The Garmin Forerunner 735XT multisport watch was and is one of the best purchases I have made to date…Period! I used to have an expensive day and night watch. After using this daily for my training and tracking multiple data sets (love a bit of data) I decided it was the only watch I needed. So I sold my other two watches and replaced them with the one. It really does have everything you need in a watch let alone a fitness tracking watch. The best features for me are the heart rate variability, the multisport tracking functionality enabling you to track your swimming as well as your bike and run. The connectivity to your phone to keep a track of notifications (you can’t read messages; however, I love this feature, you don’t feel obliged to reply straight away like using an apple watch). The integrated Garmin connect app that comes with the watch is excellent with graphs charts and data streams for all your data collection needs. Finally, the look and feel of the watch is perfect for any situation. I purchased the black version and I wear mine every day. If I want a more formal look another great feature is the option to download various faces from the Garmin app. So, your sport watch can fit any occasion. Take it one step further and alternative watch straps are cheap and changing them is very simple. I can’t recommend this watch enough.
As a very poor swimmer I knew I would need all the help I could get especially with some of the times I was hitting in training. Let’s put it this way, Cats look more graceful than me in H2O. I did some reading and found that it was helpful for buoyancy to have a wet suit. It was the end of July and water temperatures were steadily dropping so a wetsuit was perfectly justifiable. Quite frankly anything to give me a lift in the water I would have gone for. As a wetsuit virgin I didn’t quite know what to expect, however the Orca TRN I finally settled on was brilliant. Although buoyancy isn’t huge in this suit, (there are some suits out there that are floatation devices) it was enough to allow me to gain that little bit of confidence I needed. Also, to help me believe that I could complete the swim alive and not make a complete show of myself against the seasoned pros I was facing. (note to self: never book a triathlon drunk). For the £89 price tag and for what it gave me in confidence and warmth it was well worth it. I still regularly use it today for training in open water.
As I mentioned earlier, I stated to the event organisers I had an exceptional overall time. This probably isn’t what I would recommend you do. Especially being such a poor swimmer and a tri-virgin!! However, in light of putting your mind and body in stressful situations for accelerated self-development. It severed this purpose and then some!
It was a 6am call and registration. For those who have competed before will know there is a lot of red tape and protocols to follow and being green to the triathlon circuit, I certainly looked like a rabbit in the head lights. I walked around aimlessly for 45 minutes trying to find my race number, register for the race officially, get all my equipment set up and ready. Then “slip” into my wetsuit. I just want to mention here that the expression slipping in or out of a wetsuit is a lie and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Make sure you buy some grease and talcum powder as there will be no slipping in or out of any suit.
Lining up at the start of the swim in wave one and wearing the number 1. That sinking feeling (no pun intended) started to sweep over my body. The invisible doubt daemon is putting all his weight on my shoulders now. These are the feelings of anxiety and stress that we experience every day, some more than others. Stress and anxiety after all are just nerves, and nerves are the way that your body readies itself for battle and to perform at its peak. Releasing adrenaline, which increases your heart rate elevates blood pressure and boots energy supply to the muscles and the most needed areas for increased functionality. Cortisol is also released which is our primary stress hormone which increases glucose levels in the blood and increases the brains uptake of this. So that feeling of dread and doubt through my perception of it has now become a feeling of excitement. Let’s Go!
5..4..3..2..1. The hooter sounds and I dive! 50 or so athletes jostling for position arms and legs colliding. Visibility reducing even more as the heavens open and a torrent of raindrops exploding on the surface create a thin meniscus mists on the water. I forget to breathe for the first 30 meters! Gasping for air and trying to remember my training I settled into a rhythm and drop to a safe distance at the rear of the pack. Now we have started. My aim wasn’t to break any records and I was under no illusions that I wasn’t a strong swimmer. Well it certainly showed. Halfway into the swim and my position at the back of the pack had turned into a lone wolf scenario. This actually calmed me down I could of let the occasion get to me the cramp in my shoulder or the burning in my thighs. But I trudged on and vowed I would not stop even if I was 10 minutes off the pack I would make up some time on the bike.
Slipping at the edge of the pool I manage to steady myself. Lactic acid surging in my quads, my right leg slightly giving way. I check my watch for the time and press the button which enters me into the transition phase. I’m focusing on pulling my wetsuit zip down under fatigue whilst trying to remember where I left my bike. For a moment I am running the wrong way and the steward Sheppard’s me to the correct zone 150m in the other direction. I could have gotten overwhelmed, but I remained focused and determined to stay on pace to finish under my own personal 3hr goal or at the very least just finish. As I come into the bike transition paddock, I locate my bike and shoes. I glance up to see there is not one person from my group here and worse the leaders of the second wave are just leaving the Quay. Not a great start but I won’t be deterred in sport as in life. I glug some electrolytes and water. Pressing the transition button on my watch again. The ride has begun. 40KM to go, legs heavy and rain now at monsoon levels, all that said I am beginning to enjoy the struggle and the prospect of catching some of the back markers of my group. This is after all my strongest leg. Let’s make up some time! I can see why people enjoy this now…. Kind of!
Five minutes into the bike leg the pain and suffering of the swim is evaporating. The lactic is being transported away and flushed out with the increased blood flow to my legs. I find a second gear and close in on the back cluster of the pack, I can’t believe I’m gaining this much ground on a £400 bike. This goes to show you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a good go although the front runners on their bikes worth more than my car are gone with the wind. 20km in and the rain is now becoming a major problem. I pass several crashes and pile ups ambulances are called as there were a few quite bad injuries. The pace of the peloton slowed, and I took my opportunity to make up some more ground.
I pass the start finish line of the Circuit on lap 4 of 5 and I have posted in the top 10 fastest times on the track. This is met by a huge roar from my family and friends supporting me. My lungs are burning, and my heart is pounding through my chest, yet a huge grin is plastered on my face. I have no chance of placing at this point or even coming in the top 100 as more experienced riders from the second wave are gaining on me every minute. However, at this point I know I am going to finish, and focus is switched to my personal 3hr goal. I come back to the transition area press my watch again for transition number two. Let’s bring this home.
My legs are now cramping every step I take. No matter what scientifically engineered sports supplement I chug and stuff into my face at this point isn’t going to make a difference. I press my watch again. This is between me, my mind and the clock. 5 laps of a 2km circuit seems like an epoch away. I check with my body and receive acute signals in my hamstring and quads to stop and rest to avoid injury. I check with my mind and I’m composed focused. Deep breath in, and long breath out. In 1 2 3, out 2 3. The circuit is relatively flat and with the rain subsiding and the sun pushing its way through the clouds I forget about the times and the pain and soak up the occasion. I’m filled up with joy, I am smiling ear to ear not because I am doing well but because I know I have pushed my body to breaking point and whist still in pain its driving me on to meet my family at the finish line. 1km to go I check my watch and I can see my 9km time is around 45 minutes. This galvanises me as I thought I was moving a lot slower than this. The finish line is in sight and I can see the large clock ticking away by the iconic Salford media city. I call on every sinew within my body to sprint to the line.
I battled my fears in the water, had a good talking to myself on a number of occasions. Managed to stay on my bike in a freak July monsoon! Posted one of the laps fastest times and finished in the top 100 of a 500+ strong field with an official time of 2hours and 50 minutes. Job done. I can safely say I have been well and truly indoctrinated into the tri family and caught the bug along the way.
Stepping out of your comfort zone is one of the best ways we as adults can challenge and grow just as rapidly as children and babies alike. This definity isn't limited to physical activities either.This was just my example. So, do something daring today. Do something amazing tomorrow sign up to that event you have been putting off for a million reasons. Get it in the diary and jump in feet first you won’t regret your decision, I didn’t mine!