Tag Archives: man-tri

A Nice Day Out

11 May

It occurred to me today that I have 5 weeks until my triathlon. I had to take a moment after writing that to stop hyper-ventilating. When I started training over 6 months ago, the triathlon was ages away, training had started, everything was sweet, I had plenty of time. With a triathlon there are 3 disciplines to train in. Add one fun runner who has never learnt front crawl and lacks confidence on a bike and it soon becomes apparent that there’s a LOT of training involved. Although I’m not going to set the athletic world alive, I’ve managed to keep it up with varying degrees of enthusiasm from week to week and now I’m fitter and might just make it through the swim. Drowning would be a bit of a bummer as the swim is the first bit of the race so making it through alive is the aim of the game.


So in April, Manchester Triathlon club ran a Novice Day for similar fools to go through all the things we needed to know to compete in our first triathlon. It was fantastic, there was a really wide range of people, some were members I had met at training sessions, most weren’t but it was a diverse group. The morning session was in the pool at Moss Side. We had to grade ourselves so the fastest went first and the trainers could put us in the right ability group. I knew I was at the back, I’m sure I mumbled something about just learning front crawl as I shuffled to the back of the queue. Then we had to swim 300m, one after the other without stopping. I was terrified but I did it! I didn’t drown. That was the warm up. Another hour of improving technique, learning how to spot so you can swim in the right direction in open water, how to swim around a buoy in a group and getting used to feet in your face, we were ready for the bikes.

Our MTC trainer, Tony took us through various facts and rules of triathlon whilst we had a snack and then it was onto our bikes. We started doing bike checks, maintenance and safety information that you need to know if you are competing. Then we were taught the dismount and mount. Tony made it look so easy as he sailed past the group comfortably on his bike, waving his right leg high behind the seat and bringing it round in a sweeping movement to the floor, where with timed precision and ease he was suddenly jogging gently to the left of his bike. Our turn. Now I was a bit embarrassed to be seen on my bike. It’s a nice bike but I’m not a great rider …yet. I really struggled. The mount was even harder, some of the lads were jumping on their bikes at a run yet I just had a fear and couldn’t trust my balance to get it right. We were put in groups of 4 and set to run to our bikes as if we had just completed our swim and were out of wet-suits ready to go. I had a minor panic attack at this point because I suddenly pictured myself doing a triathlon and realised what that actually meant. I was in the last group so got the chance to see what putting confident bike riders in a hint of race conditions does to ability. Everyone was trying to remember to get their helmets on before touching their bike, not to mount before the line, all racing against everyone else. People were careering off in the wrong direction, others were in the wrong gear, the most confident rider put the wrong foot on the pedal, it was carnage. At this point I decided I was going to have a nice day out and was not going to injure myself trying to be fancy – a tactic I plan for the race. If you messed up, it definitely cost you more time. When we had lunch Tony shared this video with us of the Women’s T1 World Championship race in Hyde Park in 2011. They definitely made us feel better about our abilities. I love it.


Finally we did some running. I was dreading this. As an ex-smoker but occasional fun runner I am a slow runner and some of these people were serious runners. They hadn’t got up hungover, one Olympic morning, lit a fag and thought you know what I want to do, I want to do a triathlon. To hell that I can’t swim properly or that I am a bit wobbly on a bike and don’t like going too fast, I can run a bit for charity occasionally, when I’m not having a cheeky pint and a fag. No they were “I’ve run a marathon or 2, what next?” So again I shuffle to the back and off we go counting our steps. I don’t know why and I just run at my usual pace, ignoring the gazelles ahead of me and a couple of slow folk behind me. When Nick gives us the number we should have to indicate a good running cadence, a couple of the gazelles were too low, shame. I was bang on the number with 45. I was so chuffed. In some small way I felt like I had beaten the gazelles even though they ran at twice my pace. I actually shouted yes out loud, wondering why I’d turned into Napoleon Dynamite and slightly embarrassed that at 42 I still have that school geeky joy in being right in class.


Prof’s Olympic Legacy

13 Jan

I’m sure many of you were like me during London 2012, feeling the same excitement and exhilaration watching our fine Olympians achieving their goals. All their dedicated hard work and years of training, culminating in the joy of being on the podium, receiving their medals.

Before the games started I was a stereotypical English cynic, expecting nothing less than the biggest cock up ever on an international stage. The opening ceremony started, the wine was opened and by the end of Danny Boyle’s extravaganza and a few glasses of wine I was in tears at the sheer magnificence of it all. The ensuing hangover the next morning meant I was sofa bound and overwhelmed by the 20+ channels of sports I knew nothing about on offer. I became addicted for 2 whole weeks switching between fencing, rowing, cycling, archery, beach volleyball, swimming and the list continued. I became an expert in it all. It wasn’t long before as a nation we started clocking up the medals. Moved by the emotions of the athletes I started to think “I want one of those”, ruminating from my sofa what sport could a 41 year old woman hope to get a medal in if they were to start training now for Rio 2016. Something that relied on skill, where age was not a hindrance, it was clear to me – archery.

The next day I set about watching the archery to size up my rivals for Rio. My goodness they had steady hands and nerves of steel. As I watched the commentator casually announced that the South Korean women’s team had won every single team event since 1988 and most of the individual medals. I felt beaten before I’d started, my Rio medal hopes were dashed. Hardly the mentality of an Olympian I grant you, but I knew I couldn’t compete with their cool, calm, robot-like performance. I had to find another sport.

Now I’m not sure how it happened but at some point during that day I caught up in the heady exuberance of the sporting achievements of others and tweeted Sarah, a friend of many years since University. Within hours we had both signed up to do our first triathlon!


Now I understand that it isn’t very likely that either of us will be heading over to Rio in anything other than a spectator role but I was now signed up to the Blenheim triathlon 2013. This was an unusual choice, not least because I can’t swim front crawl and haven’t been on a bike for years. Add to that decades of smoking and drinking and I’m hardly your prime specimen. Unfortunately we had boldly announced it in the twittersphere and so there was no going back. So in October I joined the Manchester Triathlon Club to get some much needed coaching.

My first session was swimming. The coach Tony was welcoming and listened as I explained what a pickle I was in and begged him to help me get to the basic level I would need to avoid humiliation and drowning. He wanted to see my front crawl I said “I can’t do front crawl” he said “Have a go show me what you can do” I hadn’t been in a public swimming baths since my son was a child (he is now 21) I got in and bashed about imagining that I somehow was mirroring Rebecca Adlington, gliding through the water with the grace of an dolphin. I got out of the pool and Tony concluded that I was “a bit Thunderbirds”. I have a long way to go.