The Scribbler

10 August 2012

The Olympic triathlon I won’t be doing

Last week I replied to an offer of a place  in a standard or Olympic distance tri in return for blogging about it. I was excited and nervous in equal measure about taking on an event that doubles the distance that I’ve done so far in all three disciplines with only 3 weeks to get ready for it.

But since then, despite an assurance that I would hear on Monday, I haven’t heard anything more about the place. So I’ve decided it’s off and I’m taking the pressure off trying to fit in lots of tri training and will switch my focus to running and get back to the Great North Run and fundraising for my chosen charity.

I’m a bit disappointed. Mentally I was up for the challenge and people had stepped in to support me. Ian had put together a tough, but manageable training plan and was filling me with encouragement in our training sessions. Peter had suggested an open water swimming session I could get to and Lesley and Al had told me to go for it. Friends had offered accommodation and I was getting as set as I could be.

And it would have been a good story, wouldn’t it? A bit of drama and challenge.

Part of me has been tempted to look for another standard and do it anyway. But they would involve quite a bit of travelling and expense and I’d have the additional stress of being there on my own. I already have the promise of racing my first standard distance next year, in the company of great friends, so I’ll stick to that and look forward to a great event.

Does that make me sound like a glory hound, that I would like someone to be there when I do something that for me, would be a significant challenge? Maybe I am inspired by an audience, my own Olympic stadium cheering me on. But I also know I’ve had the best fun at races where I’ve had friends around me.

On a positive note, it’s shown me that actually I can do this. And that I really want to. I’ve got some really decent training in, particularly around my swimming which I’m very much enjoying at the moment. And I’ve got back on track eating clean, resting well and training hard.  But now I can get my mind back to the Great North Run and do another long run in this weekend.

And I can go have some fun. Starting with a trip to Edinburgh, to run, to see some friends and to enjoy some festival shows. So I’m not looking at it as a DNS (did not start), it’s a start having fun and seeing what I can do at half marathon again.

It’s been an amazing week for triathlon as it’s made headlines and front page news with British success in the Olympics. I really enjoyed watching both the men’s and women’s events and in particular hearing Chrissie Wellington working for the BBC and pouring out her obvious enthusiasm for this multi-sport event.

Seeing Alastair and Jonny Brownlee winning medals in London was thrilling and the close finish of the women’s race was simply astounding. These are the elites of the sport and their performances are stunning, but I hope people  haven’t been dissuaded from giving it a try by the quality of performances.

Because there was evidence too, even at this elite level, that this can be a friendly and supportive competition. Triathletes like the Brownlee brothers compete and train together, making them a formidable force in the sport. But the first thing Alastair did after crossing the line to win, was to shake hands with Spain’s Javier Gomez, who took the silver medal.

In her book ‘Life without Limits’, Chrissie Wellington tells of her second World Championship Race in Kona where she suffered a puncture on the cycle leg and a malfunctioning gas canister used to inflate the replacement inner tube. She was effectively stranded until rival competitor Rebekah Keat passed her a spare canister of air. Chrissie went on to win the race.

And that’s been my experience of triathlon. Luckily I’ve not yet suffered a puncture or wibbled jelly-legged over a line. But I have been encouraged, supported, advised and cheered on by many others in the sport, before, during and after my events. And I’ve had a lot of fun supporting others too.

So, if you’ve been inspired by the Olympics and want to give triathlon a go, I’d definitely encourage it. You don’t have to start with the distances the Brownlees or Chrissie Wellington do. I haven’t even got there yet.

But if you like running, swimming or cycling, I’d ask why not add another sport or two to your mix? Competing in multi-sport  events multiples the buzz you get from doing just one. And really, it’s not as hard as it looks.

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