The Relay Wild Triathlon, organised by Perth Tri Club, was first held in 2013. Competing in teams of 4, each member of the team completes a very short triathlon before tagging the next member of their team. The event aims to attract people who have never tried triathlon before, as an introduction to the discipline, although there are teams of experienced triathletes taking part too. Steve entered a team last year and as I watched, I realised that it was something I could manage too as there was no need to be an especially good swimmer or have lots of expensive, specialist kit, so this year Steve entered two teams: the guys and the girls.
For me, not only would it be my first experience of triathlon, but my first running of any kind since seeing the podiatrist in July. Yet despite the fact that I’m a terrible swimmer, not very fast on the bike and a bit rusty when it comes to running, the thing which filled me with the greatest fear was transition.
The night before the event, I laid all my kit out on the bed and tried to think through each stage of the event and what I would need to do in transition. It all seemed so much more complicated than just running, and I was conscious of rules like not touching my bike unless I had my helmet on and fastened – so much so that I wouldn’t have been surprised if I ended up running with my helmet still on!
Fortunately, I was in a team of girls who felt very much like me. Only one of us could actually swim, two of us were injured runners and none of us had done a triathlon before. Unlike the guys, who were having in-depth discussions about practising transition so they would be as quick as possible, we were simply looking to survive (the swim), complete the course and have fun!
But my unease about transition stayed with me and surfaced when I arrived at the triathlon site (a nearby private school) to set up. I was the first of my team there and Steve was away talking tactics with the guys. I racked my bike (initially the wrong way round but a friendly and patient member of the tri club sorted me out!) then got all my stuff out before realising that I wasn’t really sure of the best spot to lay it out or if there was an “optimum” way to have it. When Steve came to help, I immediately jumped down his throat because I was fed up of people (including him!) telling me that I couldn’t have my stuff spread out so widely as there wasn’t enough room. I was well aware of this, I just needed help to put my kit in the correct place! Eventually, though, I sorted it all out, the rest of the team arrived and we were ready to get started.
The race director talked us through the course and the relevant rules then there was a narrow window of time to return to transition for any final preparations before it was closed. I was the third member of our team to go (we sensibly put the swimmer first!) so I had time to get organised and watch some of the other participants so I would feel a bit clearer about what I had to do.
Before I knew it, my turn was approaching. When the team member before me set out on the run, I headed to the tag zone to don my swimming cap and wait for her to arrive and hand over the tag (which was our timing chip). We had agreed that it would be easier for the team member taking over to remove the tag and reattach it to their own left leg, so we had a quick turnaround and before I knew it I was heading for the pool.
The swim leg was 8 lengths of a 200m pool in a “chain gang” style. I regularly swim 20-30 lengths of dodgy head-up breaststroke in a similar pool at the gym, but haven’t done so in ages as I’ve been beginning to learn the front crawl. I knew that I wasn’t ready yet to swim 8 lengths of crawl, but thought I might manage a length or two. So I started off on the crawl then reverted to breaststroke for the 2nd length. I must have been swimming quite hard though as this made me feel tired so I opted to carry on with breaststroke for the remainder of the swim. About half way through, a marshall alerted me to the fact that my tag had come off my leg, but they had it (along with one or two others which had suffered the same fate) so I had to reattach it when I got out of the pool and before crossing the timing mat on the way into transition. Thank goodness this wasn’t a super-serious event!
I made my way to my kit, conscious of people shouting encouragement and conscious also that I should get my helmet on as quickly as I could: a quick dry of my feet, team Tshirt on, helmet on, shoes on, number belt on and sunglasses on then I was ready to unrack my bike and head off for a 3.6mile loop around the outside of the school grounds.
Just like with the swim, I have been regularly cycling much further than this, but with no experience of brick training sessions and some of the stress of my first triathlon no doubt catching up on me, I quickly realised that my legs felt quite weary. But this was still a race so taking it easy and pootling round was not really an option, I had to keep pedalling. Thankfully the cycle route was fairly flat and familiar to me as it’s part of a running route I use for some of my longer training runs so I had a good idea of how far I still had to go.
Soon enough, I was back in transition to rack my bike, remove my helmet and head out for the final 1.2km cross country run. As I jogged out of the transition area I felt ok, but I wasn’t far into the run before I realised that when people talk about feeling like they have jelly legs when they begin to run after a cycle, they’re not joking – even over a short distance! I wasn’t wearing my Garmin watch so I had no idea what pace I was running at, all I knew was that it felt hard yet I was convinced I was dragging myself along at a snail’s pace.
The run section was within the grounds of the school, hence its cross country nature. It began heading downhill, followed by a loop around the far end of the grounds before returning UP the hill. Despite the weariness in my legs, I was pleased that there was no pain or flare up from the injury that has been plaguing me for months, however the lack of running in that time was certainly apparent as I huffed and puffed my way round. My legs and lungs were screaming at me to stop, but with such a short distance and one more team member to go, I had to keep going. Worse still, Steve was the 4th member of his team and as I returned up the hill towards the finish line the marshals were telling me that he wasn’t far behind. Drat! I couldn’t let him catch me up, so it was time to grit my teeth.
Rounding the final bend towards the finish, I could hear guys I know from the tri club telling me to go for it. In my mind I did, but I’m not sure that my legs actually moved any faster!
Exhausted, I was handed my goody bag and I got a print out of my times before going to find the guys, get myself cleaned up and take some team photos:
Once showered and changed, there was a super post-race spread and the prize giving. The guys won first local team, while the girls were pleased to discover we were not (quite) last! There were also some spot prizes which were throw among us and I scored a Tshirt which turned out to be female fit. Perfect!
Once home I was able to take a proper look at the goody bag: water, chocolate, cereal bar, sweets, wrist band, fridge magnet and leaflets all in a Perth Tri Club drawstring bag. Nice.
Although tough, I really enjoyed my first triathlon experience and can definitely see myself having a proper go at a tri in the future. I know I need to do something about my swimming so am booking another session with an instructor and I’m in the process of buying a road bike as my mountain bike just isn’t going to cut it for more serious road cycling. Hopefully I’ll also be able to start building up my running again now too. If you’ve ever considered having a go at triathlon, then I highly recommend finding an introductory event like this and having a go.
Maybe I’ll see you out there sometime…