By Lexie Morris
There’s so much to learn when it comes to taking part in your first triathlon event.
Since I signed up, I have come across dozens of websites and magazines dedicated to getting the best time, doing the best transition or wearing the right thing.
It has been quite overwhelming to realise there is a whole sporting world out there that I was happily oblivious to before this. But that makes it all the more fascinating coming into it completely fresh.
But it also naturally throws up a whole load of issues and questions that I need answering, and it’s not just, “Where do I dry off after the swim?” (Apparently you don’t, you air dry along the way.) It’s about clothing, equipment and style. Yes, style has to come into it somewhere. There is an awful lot of lycra in the shops for sports people and I for one don’t fancy donning a lycra suit. This brings me onto the triathlon suit. This is a suit that is all-in-one and made out of something stretchy, and therefore in my own mind, unflattering. It seems to have shorts that go into a strapped top, so it’s like a lightweight and sleeveless wetsuit for those that haven’t seen one.
I can see the benefit of one – it seems to be easy to use, it allows a smooth transition without the flapping around and changing clothes in between events. Apparently it’s quick drying and has padding in the right places, which is handy. But I haven’t made up my mind on this one yet.
To be honest I haven’t figured out what to wear on the day. Maybe just a sporty top and shorts would work best. I could easily pull them on over a swimming costume on the move. Men have it easy – a pair of swimming shorts double up as normal shorts and away they go.
I probably need some new sneakers, as I currently wear my mom’s old ones as they fit really well, but they are quite tired. I am put off by the cost of a new pair, but it is definitely something I need to investigate before the Tri Together triathlon event I’m doing in September.
Shoes are generally a minefield. It’s important to get comfortable shoes for the event itself and for the training. I’ve heard about tests that you can get done on your running style so that you get the right sneakers for the job. It’s called gait analysis and it all sounds very clever.
There is so much written about the ‘transition’ time between different disciplines. But it looks like speed is definitely key. So how do you tie up laces that quickly after a swim? How do you even get your shoes on again when you have wet feet? Then there is the socks or no socks debate. Surely running without socks will end up in blisters and damp feet? Nightmare. The solution may be getting laces that are elastic so they don’t need to be tied. Or Velcro – but is that acceptable passed the age of twelve? See, it’s a minefield.
Thankfully the Tri Together event I will be doing for Leonard Cheshire Disability will have a lot of other beginners taking part, so there will be plenty of people like my partner and I who will be floundering around the course trying to remember to breathe, and be in the right place at the right time. At least we have a training day in a few months so we will get to see the course and try out the sports at the venue where it will be held. I think this day will be a bit of a reality check for us, but I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like and what is expected of us on the actual day.
I am by no means an expert, but I think you just have to pick what works for you when it comes to equipment and training. If you aren’t rich, don’t spend a fortune on equipment you probably won’t use after the triathlon anyway. If you work long hours, fit training in whenever you can. I have found that a burst of activity after a long day at the office actually feels good. I went to an indoor cycling class recently, which was really hard but it was worth it. I felt really motivated, if a little exhausted, afterwards and I was glad I went.
I decided to go so that I can start to build up my legs for the cycling part of the triathlon. Now that I have been swimming a few times I feel better about the swimming stage, but now have the cycling hurdle to get over. I know I am not a strong cyclist and have been probably a handful of times in several years. So I figure if I can do a few indoor cycling classes on top of training then it will only be beneficial on the day.
The indoor cycling class was an intense session that lasted 45 minutes but felt a lot longer. It is cycling on bikes fixed to a frame on the ground. In the session I went to, the instructor called out instructions on how fast to pedal and whether to do it standing up or crouched over the handle bars. This is usually done to music, and it is very fast paced. Mine had multi-coloured disco lights illuminating a dark room, so it felt like a very strange Friday night out.
Although you come out of the room with jelly legs, it is really good exercise and is good for people that can’t get out cycling or wouldn’t push themselves so hard if someone wasn’t stood in front of them shouting, “Don’t stop, go faster.”
One of the other elements to race day that I have been looking into is diet. The advice seems to be to eat sensibly and healthily, then load up on carbohydrates the day before. There are some really nice low calorie meal ideas in magazines such as 220 Triathlon.
For someone taking a triathlon really seriously I can see how diet would be a key element to the training and performance on the day. An athlete can’t survive on burgers for six months then expect to smash the world record for transitions, I imagine.
I will be reading the advice and making sure it works for me. Applying the principals of eating healthily can be nothing but beneficial for one’s health generally, so maybe taking part in my first triathlon event is a good excuse to enjoy the benefits of eating a better diet and cooking a range of different recipes. I am certainly eating more oily fish than I used to – got to get that omega3 – and trying to cut down on unhealthy snacks. The problem is when work colleagues bring in cakes for birthdays, births of babies or Fridays. The antidote to that is a good old run in the evening to work it off. I guess the other thing to do would be to resist the temptation, but that’s easier said than done when everyone else is scoffing beautiful, flaky pastries.
Picture used with permission from Leonard Cheshire Disability