Triathlon Training: My Personal Experience

 In October this year, I decided to set myself a new challenge a little out of my comfort zone after seeing an advertisement at my work place. I signed up for a TRIATHLON with http://www.resultstriathlon.co.uk/events/ferndown-try-a-tri-for-adults-children-8/ just 3 weeks before the event date! Risky?!

For anyone that is unsure, a Triathlon consists of 3 elements including a swim, a cycle and a run. The event will determine the distances for each sport. The Triathlon I took part in was a “sprint triathlon” meaning it has short distances: a 400m swim, 11.5 mile cycle and a 5km run.


I had so much to think about after committing myself by a £44.50 entrance fee and only 3 weeks to prepare myself physically and mentally.

  • I haven’t competed in sport for years – will I enjoy competition? 
  • I’m rubbish at running, will I struggle?! 
  • I need to get back into swimming ASAP.
  • What do I wear?!

How do I train for this? Being a Personal Trainer doesn’t make you an expert in all sports, and I feel in my job especially there is always more to learn. So, I did some research into Triathlons as a sport and used my current knowledge to develop my training from this. 

SWIM

I used to be a competitive swimmer so this element was not too concerning for me. I decided to start a swimming session once a week leading up to the event – swimming only the distance I was needing to complete for the event, with the addition of a warm up and a cool down. Each session I was aiming to complete the 400M as fast as I could and improve my time by at least a small amount  each week. This was made easy by the addition of a “Swim Tag”. This is a wrist band my centre offers customers for FREE to wear during their swim; similar to my Fit Bit. It uses clever technology to monitor my swim and track my speed, distance, strokes etc – very clever! I tend to lose myself when swimming and find myself in my own little world so this can be so useful. More information here.

BIKE

The 11.5 mile cycle ride wasn’t too daunting for me either as I consider myself to have quite good aerobic fitness from the spinning classes I teach very regularly. However, outdoor cycling is a different type of fitness to spinning and I find outdoor sport a lot more difficult, especially during winter months. My goal for this was to cycle the exact route I would be during the event. This was mainly to familiarise myself with the route and to become more confident on my bike. I cycled an extra 3.2 miles from my home to the starting point, the 11.5 mile route then 3.2 miles home in as little as time as possible. I did this every week leading up until the triathlon. I really enjoyed the route and being in the outdoors, and after the third time cycling it I felt OK about the triathlon!

RUN

The run… my worst fear. I have never dedicated much time to running, mainly because it is not my first choice sport. The main problem I have with running in recent years is the fact it is so time consuming and I don’t have much time to give up! However, I now had a reason to prioritise running and needed a plan of action. Due to not giving myself much preparation time, I still didn’t have much time to give up so needed an alternative. I decided to run 1 mile/1.61 KM as fast as I could during my gym sessions. I managed at least twice a week aiming for at least 10 minute miles and felt much better for it. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to do any pre-triathlon runs outdoors before the event; but in future I will have a date planned for my next triathlon with a better idea of what to expect, how to train and will have more time to do so.

The RESULT?

Sunday 11th October arrives, 5.30am alarm, 6.15am registration. I’m at work wearing my swimming costume with training clothes over the top, I have my mountain bike, water bottle, running trainers and bike helmet yet I still feel so lost? The people surrounding me are clearly professionals, in full tri suites, road bikes, sprint helmets, and clear jelly boxes full of equipment. They are all sporting serious determined faces and are timing themselves running from pool side to the bike docks outside.

My swim time wasn’t until 7:50am so it was now just a waiting game. I watched the first 3 waves of people set off before it was my time to head to poolside.  I spoke to several participants yet didn’t meet anyone who had not taken part in a triathlon before! EEK! A race marshall explained what was to happen from now and gave an opportunity for questions in which I only had one: “are we allowed to tumble turn?” said the ex-swimmer in me. At which every person in my heat turned to give me an awkward glare. “Yes of course you can”. Me and two other girls headed to our lane and I was asked to start last, so had the awkward task of overtaking within the first lap. It was a great swim, I won my heat and as I leapt out of the pool the marshall said to me “that’s the best swimming I have seen all morning, well done”.

A quick 30 second change out of a swimming costume and into a sports bra and I headed to my bike dock – being told to run as I casually walked the route. Helmets on before you touch your bike and off we went. I was fascinated by the professionals speeding past me faster than the wind with heads down and parallel to their handle bars. I enjoyed my cycle and luckily wasn’t too tired from my swim. The only problem I was facing was that I was freezing cold; with wet hair, bitter cold winds on a very cold October morning and only two thin layers on. I arrived back at the docking station after a 45 minute cycle and hopped off my bike with numb legs, shivering and really not ready to run.

The 5 km run was 4 laps of a distance including the running track and the field behind our centre. The atmosphere was motivating and the distance wasn’t torturous but I was just SO COLD. Spectators had asked if I was ok as I was a white as a sheet with purple limbs as I just couldn’t get my blood flowing! The feeling you experience when your in the freezing cold and then come into a boiling hot bath with tingles all over your body, is how I felt for my entire run. I was running with tiny steps instead of striding which is not how I like to run, it was very frustrating but I couldn’t feel my legs to make them move properly. OUCH. I managed to complete my 5k in 34 minutes which I was quite pleased seeing as it had been more than 6 months since I completed a 5k run. I received my medal and that was that.  I completed the whole triathlon including transitions in 1 hour 34 minutes. Considering the fastest professional completed in 1 hour exactly, I was quite chuffed with my time! I refuelled with a Bounce coconut and macadamia ball and wrapped myself up as best I could. It took me an hours bath and an hour sat by the fire to warm my body back up; but I had a great feeling of accomplishment by now.

 

WHAT I LEARNT AND WHAT I WOULD CHANGE FOR NEXT TIME:

I am researching now for when triathlon season is starting up again (March) and signing up in the New Year to ensure I have a date in my diary to prepare for. I plan to train for 8 weeks – no less and no more. This is because if I prepare for too long I feel I will lose the excitement for the event. I will mainly focus on improving my running time and technique by running outdoors as often as possible, and also focus on improving my transitions between sports! Now I know a little more about what the events include I understand the importance of the transitions and how I can prepare for these better. I will also plan my training gear more accordingly, trying to ensure I don’t have to face the feeling of the bitter cold again. My goal is to complete the same distances in less than 1 hour and 25 minutes.

I love to challenge myself and this was a great event for me. I look forward to more challenges and working hard to improve at different sports in the New Year! Please leave any comments or questions you may have about this blog post – I would love to hear your thoughts and answer anything I can to help. xo

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