Confessions of a Triathlon Newbie – by Andy Barton.

Race briefing info you are unlikely to hear too many times – the swim exit is adjacent to the Fighter Jet…….. yep, fighter jet (more on that later)!

The Calderdale Tri Club’s Saturday morning gatherings may well have noted 2 new additions over the last 6-12 months – that would be me and the good lady boss, Jo Dent. Now if hardened Triathletes are anything like dog walkers (typically you don’t’ know the owners names, but can religiously real off all doggy names / vital statistics / key anecdotes), then just in case there’s a similar affliction amongst the Tri community – Jo’s rocking the Black Liv Avail Advanced and I’ve recently upgraded to the vibrant red Specialized Roubaix Expert!

Having watched Jo a number of times at her previous triathlon events, I’ve always harboured that sneaking desire to do this kind of madness. I’ve imagined basking in the satisfied afterglow of having swam, pedalling and jogged / walked / bimbled along (delete as appropriate) in about 3 hours without generally drowning, riding into a ditch or getting overtaken by an asthmatic ant out for an afternoon jog. When Jo completed the Leeds Triathlon back in June, well that cemented the deal – signed up for 2020 that night and went shopping on Wiggle (any excuse for the latter really)!

Cue Tri suit / Wetsuit, Sparth Reservoir to hone my open water non-drowning technique, run to the Co-op and back a couple of times and browse Wiggle again. Figured I’d already got the cycling part of the deal suitably covered, so was cautiously ready to go and sample some low key test event to see how the whole endeavour played out.

And so to last Sunday – Evolve Quarter Triathlon @ Blue Lagoon (Womersley – M62 / A1(M)).

07.20 and the car park is filling nicely.

We weren’t actually off until 09.00, but registration, racking and all that.

The Quarter Tri, comprised a 1km swim (as opposed to 1 mile – a big bonus for us non Michael Phelps types), 45km on the bike (happy times) and the usual 10km run to finish.

Transition racking was a new experience – getting all the right gear in all the right places – given the small area amount of real estate that you are actually afforded. Surprised Ikea haven’t come up with some kind of instant pop-up transition portable wardrobe with shoe insert slots etc. I’d buy one.

08.45 Pre-race briefing (nerves ever so slightly creeping up now)! Welded myself into the wetsuit and keep silently repeating Global Triathlon Network’s top 10 tips for newbies to remember (my new fave YouTube site)! 08.55, into the water. 08.56, water sneaks down back of wetsuit, 08.57, linger to one side, hang back slightly. 08.58, smile nervously at anyone prepared to make eye contact. 08.59, too late to get out now – googles on. 09.00, air horn, arms & legs thrashing as far as the eye can see, washing machine in full effect, yep, we’re off

So, I’m capable of swimming, I can do 40-60 lengths in the pool etc. without the need for resuscitation, but no-one would ever call me a good swimmer (or mistake me for one). Late 2019 / 2020’s objective – front crawl optimisation.

29 minutes of fun later (it really wasn’t actually as bad as I’d figured it would be) over to the Fighter Jet / water exit ramp! Yep a Hawker Hunter. Bought on eBay no less (6 grand if you’re wondering). They even have another – sunk in the lake, for the dive centre to play with.

Transition was about 250 meters away and Jo was already heading out on her bike. A big thumbs up from me equated to proof of life – swim survived. I was already overachieving (by my own modest standards) – there were actually 6 people behind me!!!! I’m 61st out of 67. I’m not last, I repeat, I’m not last!!!

I’m doing a triathlon and life is good, cos now the fun really begins – it’s bike o’clock!

Pan flat parcour (well relative to our own training back yard) = starting to play catch up. Now Jo has a far more chilled and cool attitude to these kind of events. Participation and enjoyment is paramount and I totally buy that. Trouble is……. I’m not really that competitive until the event starts to unfold (and put me on a bike it all gets 10 times worse). Cyclists ahead on the road become targets to be picked off. I can’t help myself. It’s like triathlon catnip. See one, catch one, find another!

Survived the potential ‘instant divorce’ opportunity of catching up to Jo – as per my previous comments, she was totally cool about that, enjoying her day (and clearly saving some energy for her Zebedee style photographic leap on the run phase – more about that later)!

Eighty minutes later, I would appear to have bumped myself up some 25 places. Loved the ride, less so the wind – pan flat and no hiding from some fruity side gusts. The cycle route was brilliantly marked and cheerfully marshalled. Big shout out to all the volunteers who did make it the family fun day out as advertised – very inviting and supportive etc. Having watched GTN to death in the run up to the event, presenter Heather had given me (well all of us really) some top tips on how to avoid ‘jelly legs’ when going from bike to run. So I did throttle back the bike slightly, easier gear for last 60 seconds, higher cadence – hey, who know if this works, but anything to avoid putting my running shoes on, standing up, planting one foot in front of the other and going ‘splat’ Jelly Legs 1-0 Me! (happily I didn’t – no pratfalls for me)!

Run was similarly flat – although minor uphill section between mile 2 and 3 was a little bit of an unwelcome topographic feature. Nothing that a High5 gel couldn’t sort out though. Was nervous about the run, mainly because after 2 surgical interventions for Mr Right Knee over the last 3 years, this was the first actual real run that I’d done (Ride London being 2 weeks earlier, I’d banned all impact athletic activity in the run up to that event so as not to jigger my 100 miles round the capital).

Knee behaved – major relief. Started off slow & steady and even manged to pick up the pace and overtake a handful of souls – major surprise.

Mile 4, water stop, Mile 5 definitely felt longer than the other miles, Mile 6 and we’re into Womersley now – the end must be very nearly in sight. Back into the event centre – spy the inflatable arch, hear your name, cross the line, medal, water, more water, even more water, smile, relief. Even sneaked into the top half on the results list – beginner’s luck!!!

Jo was closing in on her finishing her event – but first a photographer to scare (see CTC FB page for the full visual treat)…… In fact, this would appear to be something of a Jo thing – Malden Tri 2019 advertising committee used her gurning cycle photo (from 2018) as part of their marketing campaign (google and yea shall find)!

Great fun! In addition to our Quarter Tri (as they call it) there was also a Half Tri (double all our distances – almost an iM 70.3). Next year they may even be looking to go the whole hog up to a Full Tri (err, no thanks)! They run these events twice a year (the earlier one was back in June).

Highly recommended.

Monday (postscript) – legs now want to kill me – think I overdid it (especially the run) – more training needed. More Wiggle shopping too…………. Any excuse really!!!