By Lexie Morris When I signed up for a triathlon, I didn't really know what one was. Sure, I knew that there were three sports involved, but I was shaky on the details. I didn't realise that they had to be done in a certain order for starters.
I was already working out in my head which one I would like to do last to conserve energy - would I prefer to swim last? That sounds like a leisurely way to finish off a tough event - a bit of breast stroke in the slow lane, I thought. Or maybe I would get the cycling out of the way first, as it is the discipline I find the most challenging out of the three, so it would be good to get that one out of the way sooner rather than later. Right?
It wasn't until a friend told me the structure of a triathlon that I knew it was swim first, then bike, then run. I had a lot to learn.
But I am not doing it to be the best, or to get the best time, I am doing it for charity.
I want to show that someone who has very little knowledge of an event like this can (hopefully) make it round in one piece, in a half decent time and live to tell the tale.
I am doing the triathlon with my boyfriend, who is just as a beginner as I am. We have been supporting each other and trying to make some sort of plan so that when ‘The Day’ arrives, we don’t have too much of a shock. That’s the idea anyway. The plan is sort of vague at the moment, but we’re working on it.
The event itself looks like hard work, and the more I look into it, the more I realise that this is not going to be easy. A friend who is running the London Marathon in April said he wouldn't be able to do a triathlon. That worried me. He's doing the Marathon! Surely that's the toughest challenge ever, pushing the limits of human endurance, tougher than a bit of swimming and cycling to raise a few dollars. We decided to start training early, so here we are, around six months until our first triathlon and training has begun in earnest.
Before 'the training' started, admittedly I did go running occasionally (probably once every few months) and I have been cycling (twice a year tops) and swimming, well if splashing around in the sea counts, then I’m an expert. If it doesn’t, then I literally can’t remember the last time I took to the pool before this.
So the running bit doesn’t worry me as much as the rest and at least I can swim even if I haven’t done so for a gazillion years. All I know is I have a lot of training to do, and hopefully by the end of it I will be a sculpted and toned triathlete, ready to take on the world. I have signed up for a sprint triathlon in September. I will be doing a 400 metre swim, followed by a 15 kilometre bike ride and a 5 kilometre run in an event organised by Leonard Cheshire Disability. On the triathlon scale, this one is classed as beginner, but that's fine by me.
Next stop the Abu Dhabi super-triathlon? Maybe. Let’s see if we get through this one first. I decided to start off the training slowly- there's no need to over-do it! So I dusted off my running shoes and went to buy some new sports clothes so I at least looked the part. I began running once a week to build up my fitness again, and started swimming at weekends in the local pool.
This all started before Christmas, and I will admit it was difficult to get out of the front door at times as the evenings were cold and dark. On one occasion I trudged through the ice and snow to get to the pool, and wondered what on earth I was doing out of the confines of my warm house on a day like that. Dedication to the cause, that's what.
At that point, and even now, I can't imagine putting it all together. The swimming and running are alright separately, but after each I am ready for a sit down and cup of tea. I haven't even looked at my poor bike in months, which is currently hiding underneath a cover outside the house. I got a puncture about four months ago that I haven't got round to sorting yet, so before I even take to the saddle again I have to go down to a bike shop and ask for an inner tube, then hopefully get my boyfriend to fit it. I have no idea about inner tubes, but a friend said that’s what I need to get. I have no idea about bikes either for that matter.
We have decided to hire bikes for the event. The triathlon will be held a tube journey away from our house, so it will be easier logistics-wise to have a bike ready and waiting. I don’t fancy being worn out before I even get there after lugging a bike across the London transport network. I didn’t think that would go down too well to arrive red-faced and out of breath to such an event. Plus bikes aren’t allowed on the tube trains here, so to save the hassle, we will be reserving hire bikes on the day. Back to the training, the first swimming session was particularly brutal. I managed one length of a 25 metre pool before stopping to get my breath back - one! I was basically trying to get some semblance of a technique back, harping back to my childhood days with an instructor barking directions at me. I had forgotten most of them, and now floundered around, gasping for breath in a front crawl and not quite keeping in a straight line. For some reason this seemed to annoy other pool users, I am not sure why. You do get some characters in public swimming pools, and not just the competitive kids, but the serious swimmers in tight hats and keen parents calling from the sidelines. They get in the way. But I am glad to say things have vastly improved since then. I even managed to swim one kilometre (with stops) a few weeks ago, which I was pretty pleased about. So now I feel more confident about the swimming aspect of the challenge. I think with a bit more practice I could do alright in the swimming stage, I just hope I'm not in a group with lots of good swimmers on the day.
A triathlon is not familiar territory for me. I do martial arts, and writing, and, occasionally, drinking. I don’t do swimming, cycling and running, in that or any order. This will be a major challenge for me, and I will be sharing my preparation, however slow, however frustrating, with you.
Below pictures used with permission from Leonard Cheshire Disability