Today I completed my first triathlon, it was part of the Garmin Sprint Series at Dorney Lake, the distances were 400m swim, 21.5km bike and 5km run.
Now, for anyone who has read any of my previous blogs I have had on going struggle with swimming. Me and swimming and not the happiest of bed fellows, just as I feel I am making progress something happens and I go back a couple of steps. Recently I have felt like I have made real progress, my weekly swim lesson has helped, they have simplified swimming for me, tried to take away some of the complexity and tried to basically make me believe that I am actually an ok swimmer.
Pool swimming is different to open water swimming, and I think most people accept this, I certainly did. I have had a dip in a lake previously and didn’t find it a problem, yes my swimming was worse then but I didn’t suffer any kind of adverse effect.
In the run up to today, I have been feeling stressed about the swim, I am not sure if it was the distance or just the fact it was a swim but I have certainly felt the pressure in the build up. So, come today, I put my wetsuit on, and yes I managed to tear it, and then it is into the water. Dorney Lake is a man made lake designed specifically for rowing, the water is pretty clean and clear and not too cold. I was ready for the start, and then it went, the hooter sounded and we were off, except, I didn’t go anywhere. I looked up and suddenly thought I can’t do this, and I never went anywhere. I then called to on of the canoe marshals and swam over to his canoe, he told me to take a minute, catch my breath and then move off when I was ready. I waited a bit, and then I set off, I then proceeded to swim the 400m, with the occasional veering off course, but hey what is a few extra metres!
On exiting the swim, it wasn’t quite like watching the ITU strs on TV as I walked off into transition, rather the pro sprint. I removed my wetsuit and was grateful on put on my cycle shoes and unpack my bike. Now, due to my slow swim I was a bit desperate to try and catch up on the bike, and so I hit the bike hard and I went for it full on. The bike course was 4 laps and on my first lap I was pretty much on my own and took the advantage of having free lines through the chicane and bends, I then started to catch people. It was during the bike I realised my bike computer had decided to take a day off and my Garmin also didn’t want to work, so I was riding on feel, and this meant I pushed on, hard.
By the end of the bike, I thought I must have caught a few and so it was onto the run. By now it was very hot and the heat and the effort on the bike started to take their toll. My pace felt slower than normal and I was struggling to be able to lift it, I just dug in to get it done and to the finish.
The finish line came not a moment too soon, on crossing it I realised that I was basically cooked, I had taken on a decent amount of energy drink but not enough simple water and the gel I took was repeating on me!
So, what conclusion can I take from today, well I came 385 out of 640, my bike time was faster than the 120 people who finished before me, but I had a funny moment in the water. I don’t really know what caused it, a moment of self doubt and lack of confidence for the one element I know I struggle with. The big question is what happens next, do I go on to Blenheim and take on the slightly longer swim or do I just sit back and say I have done a triathlon now? For me it will depend on the next couple of weeks swimming, if I feel better and more confident in the pool then why not, I know if I have a problem I will be rescued.
To the original question, am I a triathlete? The answer for me is currently no, I have done a triathlon but I need to do more to become what I call a triathlete.
The final part of this is to thank those who helped me get to this point, “Iron” Mike Shaw who has provided me with a great training base and put up with my moaning about swimming. Julian Nagi for the free advice on swimming and most importantly my wife, who ams swimming with me, encouraged me when I was down and has generally been the voice of reason and big support all through this process.