A first timer writes.I was VERY lucky to inherit a shiny new “tri” bike from my injured brother-in law a few months back. With all the gear, “no idea” is a phrase that springs to mind. As a mountain biker, I didn’t know too much about the sport of triathlon, but “gift horse, mouth, looking” and all that, I accepted his offer. The bike is indeed impressive (with me on it, maybe not so). While waiting to collect said bike, I had read on a website somewhere that the best way to get into triathlon is by joining a club. A week after receiving my early Christmas gift, I made a slightly nervous phone call to Membership Secretary Steve Braund. He insisted that I join the Barracuda Triathlon Club members in a cold lake in Brandesburton on Saturday morning. Madness.It was downhill from there. It’s fair to say at this point that I had never really run anywhere, let alone swam for at least 3 years prior to the phone call. At the lakeside, I knew I was in deep water and after tussling with the weeds. Convinced that an oversized pikefish was going to take my foot off, I figured that I was definitely not the tri-ing type. The lake really scared me for one - no clear water, no sides to reach for, no life guards—nothing but very fit swimmers a long way away from where I was. I was unfit, overweight, stressed and generally a mess. And those were my good points.
But something told me to keep going. The second week in the pond after running, swimming, and cycling all week felt a little easier…not easy, just easier. Was this an omen? Maybe. I signed up to do the club tri the same day.Five very short weeks later, arriving at the Billabong triathlon, everyone seemed very upbeat despite the rain. As I racked my bike, the reality of what I had been training for kicked in. This was easy pickings for most of the club members, but for me it seemed like a mountain to climb. As I looked down the lake, I was convinced that the buoy was not anchored and was moving further away each time I looked at it.The time from race briefing to actual swim was a blur, but on reflection, the swim wasn’t that bad. I knew I had to settle for breast stroke most of the way as my swimming remained a weak point. At one point I thought the marker buoy had moved forward in my favor, but I soon realised it was the support kayak with a marker on the front. Damn! I also remember watching the pack of swimmers streaking ahead of me, which was not the best feeling in the world. But I knew that if I could keep some momentum, I could make a little bit of time on the bike.Out of the water I was now thinking about my transition. It seemed to be fairly quick, and I even managed to remember my helmet! All was going good up until when I walked through the timing gate and mounted my shiny new bike. Something was not right. I was in the right gear, but the back end was slipping all over. Puncture! I can’t write here the words that came out my mouth. Of all the miles I had covered, the times I had checked and re-checked my bike, MY BEST BIT, only now did I get a puncture. A kind of surreal panic surrounded me. I watched as all (?) the other riders flew past. After what seemed like an eternity (8 minutes after checking my watch), I was back on and really trying hard to catch anyone on the bike route. It’s a lonely road when no one is in sight, and despite my best efforts, I could see no one in the distance.As I rounded the last bends towards Billabong, SLOWLY negotiating a tractor and car (more swearing,) I began to think that it was all over. The sinking feeling soon left me when, coming into T2, I was met with cheers and support from the small crowd of onlookers. After another carefree transition (during which I was amazed) I started on the run with renewed vigour and, as predicted, utter jelly legs.By the time I got to the finish line, the event was almost over. It didn’t matter. I was one of the last to come in – the feeling was fantastic.It was my first triathlon and this is just another article about same. Reading this, most of you will have all been there but if you haven’t…well, as all the books and websites predict, you either love it or hate it. Me? Well on Monday I went straight out and bought puncture resistant tires and tubes. No guarantees of course, but I will see you next season!