You never forget your first time
Having set myself the tough turkish targets I duly realised that I needed some help. So I asked around at work and found out that there was a local triathlon club (TriAS Wernau) which was open and friendly and always looking for new members. So I took the plunge in January and went along to my first group track running session (I figured I should put my best foot forward by going to a running session first, before I unleashed my awesome doggy paddle on the other members).
Getting used to the club and getting used to training is a topic for another post, but needless to say I quickly plucked up the courage and signed up for my first triathlon, a local sprint triathlon (mz3athlon in Steinheim)
500 m swim (10 lengths)– 20 km cycle (2 loops) – 5 km run (2 loops)
Here is how it went
Day before: planning the planning
I am a planner, just ask my girlfriend, so having read the competitor leaflet online for the umpteenth time I finally decided to lay out what I would need for the race day. I had most things already, although a trisuit (planetx had a great offer, as always), a race number holder (decathlon to the rescue) and some tinted goggles (decathlon again) were late purchases. As a runner the kit was a lot for my little brain to comprehend, not only did I need to take all this stuff (and forget a few things too, oops) I had to plan in my head what needed to be left at transition, when I should apply suncream (would it survive the swim??) etc etc, for a nervous planner it was quite the trauma, not to mention planning to get there without a car…..
Reaching the startline
As I mentioned, I don’t own a car. I am a man, and an engineer, I have owned and tinkered with my fair share of automobiles, but currently I have decided to forsake motorised personal transport. Normally this is not a problem since I have a manageable 11km cycle to work and live in an area with a great public transport network (Stuttgart, DE). And luckily in this case the local train network came to my rescue along with a civilised begin to the bike check in of 0900.
Waking up early on a super sunny Sunday and boarding the train with bike and loaded rucksack. I decided to wear the trisuit on the way with a t shirt over the top to prevent me looking too much like a prat and also to protect my shoulders from sunburn!
Sadly the train only took me so far, so a short 6km cycle to the event was needed, actually quite a nice way to get your bike legs back after a night in the sack and just to check everything is running smoothly.
Registration, checking in, realising what you have forgotten
Finding the start was a doddle early on a sunday, pretty much the only cars on the streets were going to the triathlon and the closer you get the more people you see carrying their precious transparent plastic boxes with their transition kit (seems to be standard issue this box, I felt left out without one 🙂
So having picked up the race pack and attached the numbers to my bike and helmet I proceeded to the transition area to check in my bike and set up the famous transition zone. Little did I know that I was supposed to wear my helmet to enter the transition zone, I guess so they can check I have a functioning helmet? the only other check was to check if my bar ends were suitably closed with caps. Perfunctory checking at best but rules are rules.
Although I was pretty clueless about setting up my little transition area, I soon got chatting to my neighbouring competitors after being asked a question with the preamble “you look like you have done this before” , clearly reading the competition notes 30 times had paid off! And being a vaguely competent engineer I figured out how to attach the timing chip to my ankle with the two random pieces of velcro from race pack, and then explained it to at least 3 other people.
However, as I deliberated over how to lay out my helmet, shoes etc it doawned on me, I had not brought another pair of shoes! only my bike shoes and my running shoes, both of which needed to stay in the transition area (which closes at least 2 hours before my start time) until I arrived in the race from the pool. Rookie mistake Number 1. Solution, pad around barefoot until my start time.
Then comes rookie mistake number 2, realising that I had to decide between wearing my sunglasses and cap in the run up to the race or leaving them in the transition ready to wear during the cycle and run legs……..solution, leave them in transition zone and scurry from shade to shadow until the my race started.
Then the bit I had really not counted on, although it was clear to see from the schedule, lots of waiting until my start time. The main drawback of the wave starting system in the pool, lots of waiting. And when you are as pale and scottish as me then this also means lots of time avoiding being in the sun too long. But after a good two hours of watching wave after wave of starters swim in the pool I was almost ready for my starting time, and I had made a mini goal for myself in the meantime, namely not to be one of the people who takes more than the allocated 15minutes to swim 500 metres and therefore has the whole attention of the crowd and delay the next group. “Keep a low profile” was the motto of the swim leg.
Go go go
Start time arrived! As context the system they used to ensure that everyone swimming the full 500m distance is to divide up the pool as normal into lanes in which you swim counter clockwise, additionally they gave us coloured swim caps so the volunteers could count off our lengths and give us the heads up when the last one was coming up (with a nice exclamation mark on a stick which they put under water). So in the water and ready to go, except for the little ritual of politeness whereby out lane group decides who is fast and who is slow so we don’t all set off at once, strangely in our case we all reckoned we were slower than the others! I still decided to go at the back which had the benefit of making sure I did not get carried away and swim too hard.
As mentioned before, I am not a good swimmer, at least my crawl is not good, so I muddled through the 500m with a mixture of lengths doing crawl and breaststroke, and lo and behold I did not come out of the pool last and even had 4 minutes spare before the end of the 15minute slot. Jump out of the pool, dump the cap and run out of the pool area, across the (closed) road and into the transition area for a quick dry of the feet, on with the socks and jog out with the bike, so far so good. We were all spread after the swim, so it was time for me to make up some lost ground round the two times round the 10km loop. Cycling was rather uneventful all told, enjoyable to reel in stragglers after my sub par swimming and return to transition higher up the field and ready for my preferred discipline, running. By this time it was hot, damn hot, hotter than I would normally consider for a training run, but needs must so I slap on my hat and start jogging picking up drinks at every station along the way, some of which simply went on my head for cooling. I continued to reel in more of the slower participants and despite some steep sections crossed the line in one piece.
All in all my first real triathlon experience was more pleasant than I had expected. I am sure the well organised nature of the event helped, and my tendency to over prepare but mostly it was probably due to the effects of being a member of an open and friendly triathlon club which helped make it so enjoyable. After all, we do it for the camaraderie as well as the competition, don’t we?
My result was something that came quite secondary to the fun and experience of the event, but nonetheless here it is……Result
Me and the other Rookie, Daniel, smiling because I didn’t get sunburnt