The Scribbler

10 November 2010


Filed under: run,swim,training,triathlon — The Scribbler @ 19:38
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I just want to record some reflections on my first aquathlon before they slip away completely.

I was incredibly nervous on the day. Couldn’t help it. Just was.

I did what I could to bring it under control – deep breathing, not overthinking, positive thinking, trying to make light of it. But I was still a mixture of nerves and adrenaline at the start.

I knew that getting into a pool full of water already being churned up by other people swimming was likely to be a bit off-putting.

I didn’t expect to find myself really gasping for breath on the first couple of lengths and grabbing onto the sides of the pool so often for a breather. I didn’t find it a problem swimming with other people in my lane – largely because I was never in danger of getting close to any of them.

During the swim I did think ‘Why am I doing this? It’s not fun.’ But I did it. Something kept me going. And I’ve only recently got up to swimming the race distance of 500m in one go. Previously, the kind of spluttering, panicked breathing that I demonstrated at times during the swim would have stopped me completely.

And when it comes to annoying distractions during your first multi-discipline event – having the alarm go off and being told you’ll have to get out of the pool is a pretty good one. But I’m just treating it as an interesting and amusing anecdote. If that’s the worst that happens to me in a race – I’ll take that.

My time for the swim, including the disruption caused by the alarm, was 12:51. The last time I did a 500m swim in training, it was 12:18. So really, I didn’t do that badly. In fact, I probably need to slow down and conserve some energy in the swim when I come to do another event.

Transition wasn’t a problem. In fact I relished the chance to catch my breath. My Hilly twin skin socks were like kisses on my feet and I trusted my Nikes that have seen me through so many miles this year to get me through.

But I think I carried a bit of the anxiousness of the swim into the run. I was still uncomfortable with my breathing and didn’t push it, allowing myself to ease off to run at a more conservative pace. I think this is something I need to work on on shorter runs. I spent so long trying to slow down and take it easy on longer runs in preparation for the GNR, that I’m avoiding the chest burning, slightly anaerobic state that I can sustain on shorter courses.

For most of this run I was on my own, no one else in sight. That’s probably because I was last in my lane and towards the later end of the first wave. So I didn’t have my competitive instinct fired up. Also, I’ve got used to racing at parkrun where there’s always someone ahead to chase down or someone behind that you can make work to overtake you.

Again, that’s something to work on for triathlon and dual discipline events. It’s not about who you beat, but your overall time that counts. So you really are just challenging yourself.

Good points about the run. I was never cold, which was surprising, given it was pretty darn chilly. My new tri suit was very comfortable and dried out very quickly. And somewhere after the first lap I did start to enjoy it, mainly because I knew I could finish.

And that’s what it was about really. Finishing it. Gaining the experience and knowing what to expect, so I’ll be a bit better prepared for the next one. Because make no mistake, there will be a next one.

There will be a next one because, after having said all that, I loved it. The adrenaline buzz and sense of achievement are massive. I am really proud of myself for having tackled it and I want to do it again.

I want to do it again because I know I can do better. Even if I just avoided the long pauses at the end of the swim length to catch my breath and settle my head, I’d be faster.

But I can work on my swimming. Swim longer. Improve my technique. Try and get some more practice in a busy pool. And I wouldn’t expect to go through the fire alarm drama again.

I’ll try out some swim coaching sessions with a tri club. I’ve already had some very friendly invitations and will take up one or two of them and see how I get on. Right now I have a couple of runs that I’d like to focus on, and I don’t want to take on too much. But pool swim training over the winter would be good and I’ve already dropped my run mileage considerably.

I keep coming back to my experience of my first race, the North Tyneside 10k in 2009 . Now when I think about it, I remember the buzz, the sense of achievement and the sheer joy captured in a photograph as I crossed the finish line.

But I was incredibly nervous then too. I did get a stressed head on. I didn’t like running in a crowd of people, being jostled, being passed, hearing others’ heavy feet and heavy breathing.

At the end of that race I was pleased to have finished but had a sense there was more in me if I looked for it. At that point I was projecting forward to my goal of completing my first half marathon. And I had a sense that it was going to be hard. That it would take some serious training and commitment. But it wasn’t impossible.

That’s how I feel about taking on a triathlon next year now. Struggling a bit and being at the back of the pack in the aquathlon has been a useful reminder that this will be a challenge and I shouldn’t take it lightly. I should respect it and celebrate that achievement when it comes. But it’s not an unrealistic challenge. It is possible. It is within me.


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