Having spent the past 2 years learning to run and cycle it seemed only fair to give a triathlon a go, its only a matter of adding swimming to what I have already been doing and learning about transition. So rather than jumping in at the deep end, I have taken my usual measured approach and started off my triathlon journey with a GoTri. For those who don’t know, a GoTri is a taster session where you swim 200m (in a pool in this case), cycle 8k and run 2.5k. The idea behind this came from British Triathlon with a view to getting new people into the sport and priced at just £12 it is a great way to spend a morning and learn from other more experienced triathletes. There were around 75 people taking part in the GoTri Biddulph event, around 50% of these were first time triathletes, including myself.
As it was dry, I would have liked to say warm and sunny but just dry is a bonus right now. I cycled to Biddulph Valley Leisure Centre, a nice steady 8.5-mile warmup ride. I wanted to get there really early because I didn’t really know the best way to setup my stuff in the transition area. Fortunately as this is a taster session aimed at encouraging new people into the sport there were more experienced people from Newcastle Tri Club (NTC) on hand to give advice on all things triathlon. For me, this was how to setup my bike and running shoes in transition as well as learning what items I need to get for when I take the next step up to a sprint triathlon.
One item I did not have was a tri suit, this is a body suit which you can swim, cycle and run in, meaning transition is just a matter of putting your cycle helmet, shoes, socks, gloves and race belt (something else I don’t have) on and blasting out on the bike. As I don’t own one I swam in my swimming trunks. I was a little worried about this because virtually everyone was wearing a tri suit. One of the NTC guys did suggest I swam in my cycle shorts, but as I had bib shorts for the ride I didn’t feel comfortable enough to try that. So after a quick race briefing the first wave of 5 swimmers were off at 8:30am, I was in wave 10 of 15 due off at 9:20.
Swim – 200m – 04:56
So 9:15 ticked up and it was my turn to line up at the deep end, having only started back swimming for the first time in 23years two weeks ago MY FIRST POOL SWIM FOR 23 YEARS and only completing three 1,000m swims so far, I am not sure what expected time I put down for this but swimming in wave 10 out of 15 didn’t feel right, surely the other guys are going to be faster than me, surely they will know what they are doing, surely they will be better in transition BUT I bet they aren’t better on the bike and definitely not as fast on the run, even though, I am injured and just taking it steady on the run. Looking around there were only four of us lined up, the other three all wearing their tri suits, me in my bright orange CK swim trunks, I felt very out of place and wishing I had brought a tri suit. 9:20 came, the whistle sounded and off we went, I started my Garmin (you can’t race without tracking it right?) then shit it hit me, where are my goggles!!!! on the bed at home, thats where, dumbass!. The pool at Biddulph is 25m so we had 8 lengths to swim, I flew out of the blocks, got to 50m a good 10 lengths ahead of the guy next to me and nearly half a lap ahead of the other two. I did fade somewhat over the next 6 lengths but still finished the swim in second place.
Transition 1 – 04:23
After the swim I ran to the changing rooms, towel dried off and swapped out of my swimming trunks into my cycling bib shorts and jersey. Not ideal as mentioned previously but I am doing this event to learn what is required and learn about transition, this is lesson one being learnt right now… get a damn tri suit next time. Ran out to the bike, helmet on (DO NOT touch the bike until your lid is on!!!), shoes on, sunnies on and run out to the mount line with the bike. Nice and easy, but 4mins 23sec!! that is terrible, I lost at least three and a half minutes here.
Bike – 8k – 16:20
Argh thank god for that, I am on the bike doing something I know and feeling comfortable at last. The bike route was two laps starting at the leisure centre going up the bypass, down St John’s Road, Moorland Road and back to the leisure centre and onto lap 2. There is a slight climb up the bypass which, with living in Biddulph for 29yrs I knew this route very well and knew how to ride it, what gears to be in and where to place the bike. The climb seemed to catch a lot of people by surprise. I say climb in the sense that its a 4% incline, its not a mountain. So the first lap, I passed around 15 people and got around quite quickly, I was still getting my breath back from the swim but second lap I passed another 17 people including the guy who beat me in the wave 10 swim, happy days!! then he shot past me on the last downhill into transition. That was the bike section done averaging 17mph and topping out at 32.2mph
Transition 2 – 00:56
The bike to run transition is something I have done a few times before when brick run training so I was quick at getting my bike racked, gloves, helmet and shoes off and running shoes on and out on the run.
Run 2.5k – 11:10
A 2.5k run, normally this is something I would get done in the 9 minute zone but with having a piriformis injury and not meant to be running I was going to take this steady(ish). The run route is two laps around the grassy parkland in front of the leisure centre. I set off, legs feeling a little wobbly after the bike but this isn’t a new feeling I knew it would pass. The piriformis, didn’t feel great but I ran on, its only 2.5k. Quickly went past my wave 10 buddy and another five guys and got into my rhythm. I used two women about 500m down the road as a target and caught them on the last bend for home. I ran at 7:09min/mile pace, which isn’t great but it will do. I had raced harder than I had planned but I didn’t want to be too slow.
I finished up in a total time of 38:22 in 15th place overall and 3rd in my age group. Not too bad for my first triathlon and considering I lost a good 3:30 in transition 1, I was quite pleased with that. If I had a tri suit and not lost time in T1 then I could have been in the top 4, I could have won this had I had the correct equipment and not been injured. Thats the competitive side coming out again. This was a great event and a fantastic way to bring new people into the sport. I spoke to a number of newbies afterwards who all said they will do another GoTri and keep working towards a sprint triathlon. I learnt a lot from this event, key things I need to buy: Tri suit & race belt. I now need to go away and work on my swimming speed, get more miles in on the bike and invest in some new kit before moving on to a Sprint Triathlon. I had originally planned on a spring 18 sprint tri but having enjoyed this event so much I am going to look for a late Aug early Sept sprint tri now.
Anybody looking at trying a triathlon but feeling nervous about not understanding it or having the right stuff, give a GoTri a go, it is perfect for learning the ropes. Just give it a tri, you will love it.