If someone asked me 8 weeks ago why I decided to do a triathlon I think my answer would be that I was ready to try something new. Also, I was trying to distract myself from a recurring foot injury that isn’t compatible with marathon season in Canberra. And the final reason would be that Paul from Ride365 had been suggesting for a while that I join their “triathlon team”. He was very encouraging that this was something I could do and I knew that the Ride365 team had a presence at many triathlon event expos so Paul knew what he was talking about.
The best decision was getting a coach to propel me through the 8 weeks. As a surprise, my husband did some research and found Jess Faulks on the Bilby’s website (one of the Canberra triathlon clubs) who did some coaching. Unknown to Matt, Jess was actually someone who I had already done some running with and I felt comfortable talking to her and making a plan.
If I had approached this sport without a coach I think I would’ve taken a much slower and measured approach and spent the autumn and winter training and then found an event much later in the year being fully prepared.
Jess had much more faith in me and explained that there were still quite a few events before winter arrived that I could enter. The Bateman’s Bay option sounded perfect – the lure of a day out of Canberra, it was in 8 weeks time and a great way to start the school holidays.
I found Jess’ way of structuring my new weekly training plan very straightforward and manageable. I had no specific goals other than learning a bit more about riding and swimming and then putting them all together on the day. We talked about how many sessions I ran each week – four. Jess’ plan for me was to “drop a run” and then add 2 rides and 2 swims. It seemed logical, reasonable and all a bit of fun.
The next 8 weeks
I followed the plan. The highlights were my 3 weekend sessions with My Coach:
Session #1 was at the pool in an effort to extend my swim beyond 50 metres. Jess gave me a few tips on technique and I thought about these during all the following swim sessions.
Session #2 was an “open water” swim at Lake Ginninderra. I coped with this well and was grateful for all the families also using the water. What we were doing wasn’t so unusual!
Session #3 was the best – over Easter we did a couple of very mini triathlons and combined a swim with a ride then a run. Jess’ mum, Pam, was my training buddy for this session and talked me through how to set up my transition area and kept me company as we did each swim, ride and run.
The Enticer at Batemans Bay
The event Jess recommend I do was the “Enticer” – an entry –level event with a 200 metre swim, 10 km ride and 2km run.
Jess travelled down for the event and was already there when we arrived. As the Enticer was scheduled for 12.15pm it seemed that a day trip was the perfect way to do the event. I could sleep in my own bed the night before and only need to pack “race gear” and not a carful of supplies for a family weekend away.
I think I had the biggest support crew of any of the entrants! My husband, three kids and both my parents came down to see how I would go in the new world of triathlons! The weather was perfect and we could see the runners in earlier events running along Beach Road as we arrived.
Cinea (a fellow runner) was also at the Bay doing the Enforcer (twice the distance I was doing). I am very grateful to Cinea for helping me to set up my transition area and rack up my bike. It was almost time to tackle this tri!!
Jess was very keen to take me for a warm up swim in the beach before we started. I hadn’t thought about this earlier but this was my first salt-water swim as part of my training. It was great to do this as it made me realize that to avoid thirst later on it was better not to swallow any of the water!
Each of the events had different colour caps and I was very focused on being an orange-capped triathlete. I was keen to see who else was wearing this orange cap as they would be sharing my journey for the next hour and perhaps had similar emotions to the ones I was experiencing. I was very pleased that I didn’t feel nervous and I attribute that wholly to the preparation that Jess had provided me with and her company and explanations of all these new sights at the event.
I loved how big the bouys were in the ocean. All I had to do was swim, not overly-concentrate on navigation. They looked as high as a two-stoey building and it was very reassuring to see them so big and visible. Although it’s not physically possible I thought that it would take a lot longer to swim between the bouys if they were little but these monstrosities made the course seem visibily smaller!!
I watched the starters in the event before and noted they ripped their goggles and swim caps off as they ran up the beach. I had to remember to do that and not wear them until it was time to put my helmet on, or worse put my helmet over the top of them!
So, the swim was great fun. A few times I felt other swimmers arms and legs hit mine but the sensation was reassuring. I wasn’t alone! Every time I took a breath I could also see the swimmers so it was all okay. I had to swim around 4 bouys and I just ticked them all off as I went then aimed for the shore. Jess had explained that when you feel your hand hit the sand you can get ready to stand up and run in and when I felt the sand it was a mixed feeling of relief but also disappointment that the biggest challenge of the event was over.
I had the cheers of my family as I ran up the beach and Jess ran with me. It felt great to hear her say what a strong swim I had done – I had discussed with her only a few weeks ago that I was struggling to get to 100 metres. I think I had impressed her.
I felt comfortable with transition into the bike gear. I had watched other riders earlier that day over and over and also practiced with Jess so it all went like clockwork. It felt good to ride in my new trisuit from Ride 365 – like I was in a hurry and actually a real competitor with some potential and credibility.
The ride up George Bass was fun – I only have a couple of set routes in Canberra I ride which I am familiar with so a new road was entertaining and engaging.
Cruised back into the transition area and time for a run (sans socks – Jess encouraged me to skip these if I could as they are unnecessary extra job in transition if you don’t need them). The run was flat and I found myself wishing I could tell which event all the other runners were doing. It was hard to tell from their race numbers whether they were fellow Enticers, Enforcers or another event.
Crossing the finish line with all my supporters to congratulate me was amazing. I was surprised that the first thing I found myself thinking was how weird it felt not to stop the time on my Garmin. I had decided there was too many other things to focus on and I didn’t want to be fiddling with a strap of a Garmin from ride to run!
And to tip of the whole weekend in the car on the way home Cinea called to say the results had been released and I had come 3rd in my age group. Wow – what a reward and nothing I had expected. I had never achieved that in a running race despite being a regular dedicated runner for the last 4 years. I am very excited to think about where and when to do my next event but in the meantime, to quote Cinea – “there is only ever one first triathlon”.