12 years ago, August 2008 I completed a super sprint triathlon. Who would have thought? Fast forward 12 years, I am coaching Open Water Swimming and helping swimmers get ready for their first activity of the triathlon, open water swimming. You really never know what path your life will take and where you will end up. If you had said to me in 2008 you will be coaching open water swimming I would have laughed at you.
My mom in South Africa, who is are also in very strict lockdown and whilst doing a clear out, came across my emails I had written when we first arrived in the UK in 2004. It was a very lonely time for me, and a way of me coping was to write funny positive stories about my new life in a new country. I thought I would share the email with you when I did my first triathlon
When you sign to do the London triathlon, you get the opportunity to book onto a skills workshop. All is well until I look at the advertising brochure and see what type of person was entering, well worked out men in skintight wetsuits. Very nice to look at but where do I fit in, a housewife with two young girls, from Harpenden!!! My nerves were rattled and I was feeling slightly out of my depth. I did book onto the 1-hour session which was held at the Regatta centre, Prince Albert Dock, London. I was hoping not to come across any dead bodies floating while swimming.
The next obstacle was getting into the hired wetsuit, that was another whole business. “I am finding this whole triathlon activity a lot of work and faff, but I shall persevere”. It was stated on the hiring instruction to get the correct size wetsuit, I had to be brutally honest about my measurements. I thought it was quite cheeky and who would lie about their measurements for a wetsuit to fit correctly?? So, I get on the scale, get the tape measure out. Holly S*%T!!! None of my measurements are on the female sizing guide. So, I get on the blower to find out if I can wear a men’s wetsuit. Just imagine, baggy around the crotch and extreme tight around the boobs. I had no idea!!! At least I had a story to tell while waiting to start my swim. Bra dilemma, do I wear it under my costume and have a pain free run? So, the housewife triathlete is almost all set, baggy in all the wrong places wetsuit, swimming costume with sports bra. Maybe I should attach some bells to bicycle and really get people staring. This whole triathlon is quite a mission!!!
The training has progressed and I am pretty impressed with what I have been able to achieve. I used to swim well at school but can’t remember when was the last time I had curled into a ball to do a tumble turn. Anyway, the mind was in the right place and it was time to put tackle these turns. Cruising along the length of the pool, making good judgement for the wall to perform the amazing turn and “bam”. I am 2 metres away from the pool edge, feet beautifully planted but no wall!
Next obstacle is to tackle the treadmill. I have clear visions of doing a Mr Bean stint and shooting off the back of the treadmill and out the window of the gym. Why are windows so massive in a gym, I can be seen and spotted on the dreaded gym equipment? Note to self -when running on the treadmill, never look down, you go all wobbly. Chatting to friends could be a problem. It can’t be done, well in my case, not, trying to string sentences together, breathing was a priority.
Bike riding is my favourite activity. I embrace the open air, beautiful fields and the company of great friends, though I seemed to be the only one to consistently get punctures.
I can see where I started off and how far I have come and what was achieved. I know I am never going to be a top-notch athlete but my little journey to complete a triathlon has allowed me to control the ups and downs, with boredom, and missing my family in South Africa.
Early rise on the Saturday morning, raring to tackle my challenge. Leon loaded the bike on the roof rack that was not broken. Yes, I drove under the height restriction barrier at the Harpenden pool totally oblivious to the fact that I had my bike on top. Car damage, broken roof rack but my bike was fine. Having my family there to support me for my triathlon challenge was so amazing and the support was sorely needed.
Arriving at the Excel centre was daunting and seeing all these professional looking athletes, their zooty gear and what I imagined, was every single conceivable gadget invented. I honestly wanted to run away. I looked like the clumpers!!! Nothing matched, my bike couldn’t be held up with one finger and I certainly didn’t have any muscles to flex.
I got a timing chip; now how do you attach the thing? Then it’s your security tag for the bike and helmet. Where does that go? The marshals seemed very stern and strict about the bike safety and helmet safety. I thought this was meant to be fun. I racked my bike and feeling quite smug that I actually knew what that meant and chuffed to be able to use the triathlon lingo. Thank goodness I had watched a YouTube video to understand what was meant about laying all your goodies, the bike helmet and shoes but not to forget the face cream as I can’t stand my face being all stiff and dry when I had to start cycling part. I am such a dolly (madam) but needs need to be catered for. Oh lordy!!!
There were 274 women doing the super sprint and 98% were first timers. I was more relaxed as I felt I was with the right group of people. Grouping together for the start was electrifying. A mixture of nerves and exhilaration to be at the Excel centre. Totally amazing to be in amongst all likeminded people. My stomach was doing the rumble and tumble. The start of the race was utterly awful and trying to control my panic was hard but manageable. I did breaststroke most of the way, the best way for me to control my panic. I felt open water swimming was tough. I managed to get the wetsuit off pretty quickly. The cycle was great. The run, my total weakness but my greatest achievement as I managed the whole run without stopping. Having the spectators there to cheer us on, was a definite plus and gave me a boost to keep chugging.
Wow what an experience! I have completed a baby triathlon.
When I crossed the finish line, I burst into tears. A bonus was to have my family with me and to meet me at the finish line.
If you want to do a triathlon or open water swim event, do it, you will surprise yourself what you are capable of. I also know a lot more than I did in 2008 and are able to guide you so you can have a positive transition into the open water and achieve your goals of doing a triathlon.