Long distance cyclist Martin Cox was set the challenge of taking on his first triathlon. Here’s 10 things he learned.
Swim, bike, run. How hard can it be? My first ever triathlon was set to be at Chia Laguna in Sardinia. I’d spent most of my training in the saddle, the occasional swim and run added in for good measure. With a mix of false bravado and trepidation, I donned the (borrowed) wetsuit on the glistening shores of the Mediterranean.
Over the next 96 minutes I was to learn some interesting racing, and life, lessons…
1) Get swimming lessons.
I’m not talking about a coach, I’m talking about learning how to swim properly in the first place! My preferred stroke is breast-stroke, as a sea-swimming youth I was too uncomfortable to swim front crawl in the sea so breast-stroke became the default.
The kind lady at TFN in Nottingham sized me with a loaned wetsuit, explaining why front crawl would be so much better for me. I tried it and it looked like my head was about to fall off I was so ill at ease!
Breast-stroke remained – by golly I was slow! So slow that the life-guards ALL checked that I was ok in the water! The 750m swim was over in around 30 minutes.
2) Don’t try to run up the beach if you are the slowest swimmer!
I nearly puked just getting to T1!
3) Judge not, lest ye be judged.
I’ve got a swish bike (a Specialized Venge Vias Pro), others weren’t so swish. The standard of bike doesn’t determine the ability of its owner to ride fast! I caught a lot of riders (see point 4) but there were people on bikes a fraction of the cost of mine who finished the bike section before me!
4) You are not racing the winner, you’re racing the person ahead! Now go catch them!
I was happy to simply finish the swim, and found myself way down at the end of T1, but with a good bike and strong legs I caught every person I saw in front of me. Yes, I nearly puked, but I can cope with that when I’m on the bike, it felt good to play catch-up with 30 people – shouting encouragement in Italian as I went past.
5) To sock or not to sock, that is the question.
Some did, some didn’t. I worried about tan lines (this was my first event – don’t judge – see point 3).
6) Take a support network with you!
My wife came along for the trip and was happily shouting at every single rider and runner she saw – so busy was she with the rest of the racers that TWICE she had her back turned as I went past…But when she did see me, the shouts of ‘Go COXY GOOOOO’ lifted my spirits no end!
7) What the heck do you do about going for a wee?
I knew in the Sardinian heat I’d need to hydrate before the race; at breakfast I chugged my way through the fluids needed. As sure as gravity, just AFTER I came out of the water I needed the toilet! There’s no way I’m peeing on the bike and all over my lovely Dura-Ace chain! It’s a race, you can’t stop, and even if you could, there’s no gap in a triathlon suit for a comfort break.
What do you do????
I hope the answer is wait until a drink station, take two bottles and nonchalantly drink and rinse at the same time (incidentally, the Ashmei suit has got some interesting properties when you pour water over it – everything rolls off instead of being absorbed).
8) Overtaking in a weak part of your race is amazing!
I caught one person during the run and that was a great feeling, it took me 3km to make the 200m gap. See point 4!
9) Recovery is important!
I took myself and wifey off to the Chia Laguna Spa for a just reward – after all the swim, bike, running I felt like we had earned a sauna and steam bath!
10) By far the biggest lesson I learned… before the race I was incredibly self-conscious about how I would do, what I would look like in the tri-suit, and would I be last.
What I learned was that – a) it doesn’t matter, and b) nobody cared!
I should have gone for a large instead of a medium tri-suit, that would have been a more honest assessment of my body shape. The suit was snugger than hoped for, trying it on in private I was nervous to say the least, but during the race aesthetics made no difference.
I was too far gone in my own little bubble to worry about what others would think – if they even did!
I’m not built like Frodeno, and the crowds are not checking me out like they are him.
When the klaxon went, so did all my aesthetic apprehensions, it was simply about surviving the swim and enjoying the course.
All things considered, I’ve discovered that triathlon is more (type-II) fun than I imagined it would be; despite my lack of ability I’m still as competitive as I ever was as a nipper and that I definitely suit the whole multi-sport watch thing!