Monday, July 2, 2012

My First Triathlon

The fact that I have called this post my first triathlon is a clear indication of how much fun I had at the Cockermouth Sprint Triathlon on Sunday.

comparing muscles with my lane buddies
 This is something I have been building up to for some time now and this event, less than 5 miles from home, was the perfect triathlon to start with.

I come to triathlon with a few years experience of running (including entering events from 5ks all the way up to marathons), a decentish road bike (one sportive) and the ability to swim without putting my feet on the bottom for the required distance (something I have learnt to do over the last six months or so).

I was very nervous on the day.  I think my main anxiety was getting my gear mixed up and absent mindedly setting off on the run with my helmet on or something like that.  I packed my transition bag (Morrison's Bag for Life) over and over, thinking of the order in which I would want things.
trying to remember how anti-clockwise works (getting it wrong)

I was number 23 in the race which meant that, taking out some superfast junior competitors, I was the 23rd slowest swimmer, or at least I had given the 23rd slowest time.  The swim time I gave was 13.30 which was a time I knew I could easily do and would mean that I wasn't being hurried by other people in the same lane.  The plan was also to take it easy so I had plenty of energy for the rest of the event.

Sitting on the bench waiting to set off I spoke to number 21 who was a really nice guy and reassured me.  I could also see people already swimming who were, there's no nice way to say this, awful swimmers.  This made me feel much better.

I had in fact underestimated myself.  I was slowed down by one of the people sharing the lane with me.  The 20 lengths went in really easy (must have been the occasion) and I finished with a swim time of 12.39

Hannah, "Cheering me up"

One of my big anxieties about entering a triathlon had been swimming in close proximity with others.  This event was three to a lane, which isn't many at all, but all three start at once and have to race it out for the lead.  I managed to manoeuvre myself into the middle of the lane (not good) and we swam the first half a length together before I let the other two go ahead.  We all seemed to have different ideas about what 'anti-clockwise' meant but after a few lengths we seemed to get into a groove.

The tap on the head that indicated two lengths to go soon came and before long I was walking along the side of the pool to the transition area.

 I felt all right, I mean, I didn't stand up and wobble or feel sick, I may have broken into a trot across the leisure centre car park to the transition area but post race analysis of times showed that I spent far too much time in the first transition.

3.11 to change from a swimmer to a biker was very slow.  I think I was concentrating on not getting anything wrong (put your helmet on before you unrack your bike, put your shirt on before your helmet)

 In fact, my T1 (fancy triathlon speak for the first transition) time was the second but one slowest so lots of room for improvement there.

Something else I had worried about was what to wear.  I eventually went with things I felt comfortable with (as opposed to a skimpy tri-suit).  I was happy with the gear selection but it did take longer to put on (especially when you are wet from swimming) so some time could have been saved there.

After getting fully dressed, having a quick tidy up and making sure that I had not forgotten anything, there seemed to be nothing else to do but set off on the bike. I used a sneaky strategy of following someone else so that I didn't have to think too much.  It seemed to work well for me.

 Luckily there were plenty of marshalls out pointing the way along the 20k route.  It was a windy day but I think I did ok on the bike section.  The fastest time for the bike was 31.54 and my time was 41.02 so I was pleased with that.  Again, I didn't go full on for the bike as I was conscious of wanting to save some energy.  I was 64th fastest in the bike, slightly ahead of my overall position.  Having said that, cycling is something that I have not really trained for, apart from going up hills and gradually longer distances and ten minutes difference in the bike was the biggest amount of time between me and the fastest for any of the disciplines so I might look into some specific speedy sprint training.

Hannah during the bike and run
One slight frustration was that the distance markers were in miles rather than kilometres but I knew that 20k was 11 and a bit so it was no real drama.

I had a sports drink on my bike and made a concious effort to take on some energy on the bike as I was not going to carry a drink or anything on the run section.  Swigging away half a bottle seemed to sit ok in my stomach and I soon got around the course.

Into T2 and the family were nowhere to be seen (I later learnt they had got bored and gone for chips).

This transition was much quicker, 1.13, still slow but not quite the disgrace that was T1.

Off for the run and, for the first time, I felt a bit of a slump in energy.  The course was out and back but was mostly uphill for the first part.  After a mile or so, I seemed to get an energy boost.  I'm not sure if it was that at this point I knew I was going to finish the event or some kind of delayed energy boost from my fuelling strategy on the bike.  Whatever it was, I was able to speed up and, after reaching the halfway point, was able to really sprint back to the finish line.  My run time of 24.19 was definitely my best performance of the day out of the three (four including transitions) disciplines.  My run ranked 38th which was significantly better than my 69th place overall finish.

 My overall finishing time was 1.22.44 and I was elated to have achieved my two goals of getting around and getting around under an hour and a half.

Hannah was excited to see me, when she finally returned from the pub.  She told me that cheering me up in the swimming was very very hard work but that it made me swim good and fast.

Apart from the excitement and feeling of achievement of doing my first triathlon, I learnt an awful lot - some by experiencing first hand and some by watching or talking to other people.

I'm sure I will do more triathlons, they really are great fun.  The Cockermouth Triathlon was really well organised and friendly.  The marshalls were excellent and everything seemed to run really smooth.  If you are nervous about doing a triathlon, just give it a go - I'm really glad I did.


  1. well done,and well supported by Hannah Chapman Arts.

  2. Nice one Paul! Almost make trying one sound tempting!