Quite how I got myself into this one I’m not really sure, but back when I was cycling a lot, I always fancied having a go at a triathlon……. except my swimming was a bit ropey and I couldn’t run for toffee. I then made the mistake of entering a 10K cycling time trial, but ended up so far off the pace of the rest of the pack I never dared to show my face again. So, if you can’t swim fast, bike fast or run fast, there’s not much point in stringing all three together, right?
So like I say, I’m still not sure why last Sunday saw me racking up my bike ready for the annual North Berwick Novice Triathlon. My feeble efforts at preparation involved an eight week novice training schedule downloaded from the web, but with the first two weeks deleted (I only had six until the event). The results were steady if not dramatic, going from “four lengths of the pool and knackered”, improving to “ten lengths in 5:30”, and finishing with a PB of “ten lengths in 4:20”, aided and abetted by £3 worth of cheap budgie smugglers from Sports Direct (“He was afraid to come out of the water, he was afraid that somebody might see”). These alone were responsible for knocking 25 seconds off my 250m time when compared with my old football shorts!
My ego was not helped the week before the event though, when I went swimming with my Mum, who remarked “You’re still quite podgy, aren’t you?”. Then, two days later my 19 year old neighbour watched me come back from a bike ride and reportedly remarked “I really need to go to the gym – I can’t stand the thought of old people being fitter than me!”.
So, officially old and podgy, it was with some trepidation I racked my bike up ready for the start of the race and collected my race number: 42 (Blimey, I really HOPE the meaning of life isn’t triathlon, or I’m really stuffed!).
The swim went off in two heats, with one swimmer starting every 10 seconds, in order from fastest to slowest, according to the expected times we’d confirmed the week before. The drill was to swim up the left hand side of the lane, back down the right, then at the second turn, duck under the ropes and into the next lane. This system worked remarkably well, and I didn’t spot any crashes or pile-ups. Essentially everybody zig-zagged down the pool until they got to the exit, then amid cheers and clapping from the spectators, it was out and onto the bike!
The cycle was hard work, since the first uphill section was extremely windy, but I managed to overtake at least as many folks as had overtaken me on the way round.
Unfortunately when I started the run section, my calf muscles started to cramp up quite badly, but I ran on through the pain, and it eased after a few minutes. I was not quick on the run however, and many people passed me – more training required methinks! One nice feature of the course was that the run was ‘out and back’, which meant that you saw just about everybody else at some point on the course. The fact that we’d set off in number order also made it easy to see roughly how you were doing in relation to the others. Basically if somebody with a higher number than you was ahead of you, it meant they were definitely beating you, but of course the staggered swim start meant that you might still be in front of some of the people in front of you, if that makes any sense!
After the swim and cycle, the run seemed to be over quite quickly, and I was soon attempting a very slow sprint to the finish. The atmosphere at the end was great, with an army of supporters cheering all the runners home. Overall, I came in just outside the top 2/3 of the men, and in the top half overall, so I was pretty chuffed with that.
So, if you’re thinking of having a go at an event like this, I’d I really recommend you do. After all, if an old podge like me can manage it, so can you! 🙂