Remember back in February, I told you how my Auntie Rose was about to embark on an adventure? Well, here we are just a few weeks away from her very first triathlon.
I thought it might interest some readers to hear exactly how she’s found training for her first triathlon. What’s been toughest, and easiest? What were the highest highs… and the lowest lows? What are her hopes for the race, and will she do another?
December 31st 2010. It seemed a really good idea to challenge myself physically in 2011. I’d reached my mid 50s and – as ever – was conscious of how my own mother had died at age 63. Because of that, I’ve always been determined to keep fit and active. My latest decision, however, promised to take my activities to a higher level.
What was my starting point prior to triathlon training?
Throughout 2010, my weekly activity had included two swims (usually a mile each time), a trip to the gym, a couple of games of tennis, a twice daily dog walk and the odd cycle. So, although I was far from a couch potato, I was not exercising seriously. Just enough to keep my weight stable and feel fit.
So, when challenged by my exercise buddy Clare to make 2011 the year that I entered a triathlon (something she – at four years my junior – has done twice in the past four years), my resistance weakened. I can swim, I can cycle, I have two strong legs and therefore should be able to run. So, why not, I thought!
We entered the Dextro Hyde Park Sprint Triathlon (London, 6th August 2011) and started to train.
What does the race involve?
First of all, there’s a 750m swim in the Hyde Park Serpentine (“piece of cake”), then a 22km cycle round Hyde Park (“pips”), then a 5km run. Ah, the 5km run. Now we have a problem!
The last time I tried to run was not pretty. Hampered by boobs that risk giving me black eyes, and a feeling that my brain rattles around inside my head when I start to jog, running is something to avoid. Suddenly, however, it became something I had to improve.
I contacted my niece Nic, an accomplished endurance swimmer and triathlete, to ask her for advice, and she came up trumps. One visit to her house later and I was armed with wetsuits to try on, triathlon tips galore, diet advice as well as a swimming session to tweak my stroke. I felt ready to roll.
My husband proved very enthusiastic and lent me his lovely Boardman bike to train on. The only snag was that our heights are massively different (his 6ft to my 5′ 5”). I realised that the frame was too big and my back was taking the strain. So we researched and I got my own Giant Defy road bike.
I’d never ridden drop handlebars before but after 10 seconds I felt at home. We are blessed with living on the edge of the Romney Marsh in Kent, and can leave our house and immediately be on flat country lanes. I built speed and endurance without having to climb hills. That said, we do have some killer hills which I added in to the mix, surprising myself with how much my riding has improved – and with how much I am enjoying it.
Two become five – triathlon trendsetters!
By the end of January, we two became five. Our friends Philippa (62), Nikki (59) and Sue (51) decided that, if we could do it, so could they!
All of us had our strengths and weaknesses. Sue could run forever, but wasn’t a swimmer. Phil was a strong swimmer and keen recreational cyclist, but not keen on running (plagued by a knee problem). Nikki was a spinning fiend, but couldn’t run well, and is scared of “things in the water”!
In late February, whilst on holiday in France, I embarked upon the challenge of beating my running phobia. To my horror, when I did start to jog on the beach, I could do no more that 30 paces before fighting for breath, my chest feeling as though I’d been sat on by a very large beast.
On my return to the UK, I saw my GP who confirmed that I was suffering from asthma.
Two inhalers later and clear instructions on how to improve my lung function, I set about building up the distance I could run.
Sue and Clare were very supportive and before too long I was notching up longer and longer treadmill sessions, and eventually realised I CAN do it. This culminated in my taking part in a 5km run last month – and managing to do the whole thing without a single wheeze!
We all did an open water workshop at Leybourne lake with Mike Russell and Giovanna Richards in late June (www.teamoutrageous.com), and it was thoroughly excellent. I would advise anyone undertaking a triathlon to do such a course, as it serves to dispel myths, but also makes you realise how different swimming in open water is from a pool.
I am learning to cope better with the restriction of swimming in a wetsuit , (even appreciating how weeing in it warms you up) and can get out of it without falling over and wetting myself. Yes, I’m not proud, I did do that the first time I tried! Fortunately that was at a private pool!
We have been practising transitions, feeling like beached whales in our wetsuits, blundering out of the water and running around to find our bikes, then cycling for 30 minutes before parking our bikes and then running on jelly-like legs. This is hard work!
On July 6th, we all did a recce of the Hyde Park Course (exactly a month before the day!) and frightened ourselves silly at what we saw: goose poo worthy of a Great Dane, algae, steep inclines on the cycle course (steep when compared with Romney Marsh anyway).
But we are now all really gearing up for what is likely to be the most challenging thing any of us have done in a long while. We are loving the camaraderie of sharing our training and loving seeing and sharing one another’s successes. We also love the endorphins that flow after a good run, cycle or swim.
Current training schedule
At the moment, our week consists of something every day for six days then a rest day. It has been a revelation to me that I can fit it in and run a business and a home, and still continue with singing in two choirs and play tennis. I just don’t often sit down. (“Or speak to my husband”, says my husband.)
Now all we have to do is put it all together on the day. Watch this space!
Thanks for letting us know how you’ve been getting on, Auntie Rose! I’ve been quietly watching your Facebook updates and helping out when I can. You have to let us know how you get on – will you do another guest post after the race?
Oh, and you never did answer my question about “will you do another triathlon”?
Please all wish Auntie Rose and her friends the very best of luck with her triathlon. She’s an inspiration to me and I’m so delighted she’s taken on this challenge – and risen to it so admirably. Joyce genes are tough stuff! 😉
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.