Beginner’s Guide to Triathlon
Starting with Fitbitch as a fitness novice just over three months ago, Bec Taylor weighed over 15 stone and had not exercised for years. Three camps on and she reveals what it was like to train and race in her first triathlon
Triathlon? That’s just for super sporty athletes, not for the likes of me. Or that’s how I viewed triathlons back in May. I admired triathletes in the same way I admired a heptathlete like Jessica-Ennis-Hill. Amazing, but super human.
Then, Rachael at Fitbitch suggested I train for the Ardingly Sprint Triathlon, (500metre pool swim, 24km bike ride and 5km run) as part of my Dream Challenge year with the Fitbitch free triathlon training group.
I’d swum as a kid but had never run 5km and had not been on a bike for years. In fact, I didn’t even own one. But, I was ready for my next challenge.
My first hiccup was trying to ride my friend’s road bike. The tyres were so thin, I thought they’d pop under my weight and it was so light, I was convinced I’d fall off. I swapped to a friend’s hybrid with a comfy seat, wide tyres and my feet touching the floor in time for our first training session.
It was pouring with rain, and there were winds of over 20mph. But there were still 15 other Fitibitches, all waiting at the swimming pool reception.
After swimming, we all dried off (pointlessly, as it happened) and it was on to a 23km bike ride, with two laps from Hove seafront up to Devil’s Dyke and back.
The faster group were off like a shot, leaving us slower ones to form a second group. Within 500 metres, I was panicking. My knees hurt and I wasn’t going anywhere.
One of the other women told me my seat was too low and so after a quick adjustment, we were off again.
I was so glad to be with a group as there is no way I’d have coped on my own. But on the top of every hill, we shared a few jelly sweets, congratulated ourselves and carried on.
I felt completely out of my comfort zone and there were times that I was unsure whether it was rain on my face or tears. But we survived, cycling back into the park to the cheers of other Fitbitches to face the run.
My legs were like jelly after cycling but somehow, I managed my first 2.5km training run.
I was so proud of myself for having got through it. As I told my friends later, it was the toughest thing I’d ever done. And I had to do it all over again, three more times including the actual event, the Ardingly Hedgehog Tri on June 1st, just three weeks away..
Fortunately, the following weekend’s training session was in beautiful sunshine, and knowing that I’d done it once already made me feel stronger.
That and the support of others helped me throughout my training, especially posting things on Facebook where my friends and even complete strangers would tell me what an inspiration I was. And hard though the training was, the buzz I felt after every session made it worthwhile.
On my final training session, I decided, on the advice of Rachael to try the road bike again. This time, I had it serviced first and adjusted for my height. It was a revelation.
Despite torrential rain on our last training session, I felt strong on the bike, able to push up hills easily and power down.
Finally, the night before the race arrived. I was so nervous, I checked my kit bag three times and started feeling stupid for having purchased an all-in-one Triathlon suit. I’m of the tracksuit and t-shirt ‘hide my body’ kind of workout wardrobe.
A Tri-suit makes it easier because you can swim, bike and run all in the same outfit without having to change. But I was just worried that everyone would expect me to be better than I was because I was wearing it!
I needn’t have worried there were men and women of all different shapes and sizes on the day. Some professional with expensive looking bikes, others like me.
There were 15 Fitbitches racing but we had all entered different swim times, with the slower ones going in first. I was nervous waiting in the pool but it helped to see that so many were as nervous. And while I was worrying about the run, I was better than some there at swimming.
Finally, it was my turn in the pool for 20 lengths, counted by a marshall who had a noticeboard that he put under the water to signal when I had two lengths left.
From there, I exited the pool, grateful for my tri-suit and headed to collect my bike.
Having spent so many days feeling anxious about cycling, it was fantastic, whizzing through country lanes in the sunshine, with spectacular views of the Sussex countryside and the North Downs.
And this time when I got off the bike, I was prepared for my jelly legs. While they didn’t feel as bad as in training, the 5km run, involving 4 slightly hilly and off road laps of the school playing field, was hard.
To keep count of laps, we were handed elastic bands to put around our wrist every time we passed a checkpoint.
Finally I sprinted over the finish line to the cheers of some of the Fitbitches who’d already finished. It was an amazing feeling.
As I hung the medal around my neck, I felt an incredible sense of achievement. And I caught myself thinking, ‘Next time, I’m going to make sure my nose clip is fastened properly on for the swim.’
Yes, I was already thinking that there was going to be a next time!
This has been my biggest Fitbitch challenge so far and having achieved it, it’s given me an inner confidence and belief that my body really is capable of achieving things I thought only possible for athletes.
I was an overweight, unfit woman who didn’t own a bike, hadn’t ever run 5km and last swam when I was at school. But with support and encouragement, and the focus of having a goal to train for, I’ve achieved something that I would have thought impossible just four months ago.
My philosophy now is to just go for it. You will never know if your dreams are possible, in all aspects of life, unless you at least try.
Taylor’s Tips for Beginner’s Triathlon Success
Test your bike: make sure it’s set up correctly for your height and if you’re unsure, ask. It makes a huge difference.
Be brave: don’t go for the comfy bike option but use a road bike. It will feel unbalanced to start but the difference in the ease and speed on a road bike is huge.
Pack all your kit the night before. And then double check that you have everything.
Invest in a tri suit. You may feel like you look silly but it makes the event so much easier.
Train with group. They will help keep you motivated right up until the start whistle.
Since starting with us as winner of our Dream Challenger, Bec Taylor has lost over 2 stone and 6% body fat.
If you would like to be part of our next FREE training group for a Cyclo Sportive or MTB ride, join our online Facebook Group, Fitibitch Rides Series.