“What on earth are you doing that for?” That was my mother’s reaction to the news that I’d decided to enter the Vachery Olympic-distance tri. I wanted to be annoyed at her lack of enthusiasm but, to be honest, I didn’t really have an answer.
I’ve never been much of an endurance athlete – at school I favoured team sports over anything that would show up my lack of fitness. Hockey, tennis, football –even a spot of rugby in my pre-teen tomboy years – pretty much any activity that involved a shot at glory and the chance of an occasional rest.
But since moving to London seven years ago, I’ve found running to be the most accessible (and least expensive) way of getting regular exercise. I’d previously scoffed at those people who spent their weekend mornings jogging smugly around a park, but soon I was one of them… albeit considerably slower.
But being naturally lazy I discovered I needed a goal to work towards, otherwise I’d find an excuse not to go out: It’s too cold/ I don’t have time/ my hair hurts… so I did a 5k, then a 10k, then a half marathon, all the while picturing my preparations as being part of a Rocky-esque training montage. Minus the chicken-chasing.
When my knees started to disapprove of doing nothing but running I decided a sprint triathlon might be a nice goal to aim for. A few friends had done them before, so I scraped together various bits of borrowed kit and signed up for last year’s London Tri.
As with a lot of triathlon newbies, it was the prospect of the swim I found most daunting. Even though (unlike my mother) I’m not so casual a swimmer that I wear sunglasses in the pool, I’m not exactly a natural water baby. A few lengths of front crawl were enough to leave me jelly-legged and gasping for breath.
So I invested in a couple of private swimming lessons at my local lido. Once I got over the embarrassment of the instructor’s shock at my flailing technique (“oh goodness me, yes, you DO need a lot of work”) I picked up enough tips to ensure that I got through the sprint swim relatively unscathed, if not exactly quickly.
The bike and the run were also pretty uneventful, so although my time was very modest, I was glad to have got through my first tri without drowning or falling, and with just enough left in the tank to know I could go faster if I tried again.
I immediately felt the urge to sign up for another. I didn’t, however, feel the urge to plunge back into the murky depths of the Royal Victoria Dock, so decided to look for a more picturesque event. And so, carried away with the descriptions on the website of a “spring-fed lake” and “festival of fun” I found myself signing up for the Vachery Triathlon in July. I’d failed to notice the other important words: “testing climb up Leith Hill,” but that’s a problem for future me to deal with.
So I guess now it’s time to start training. My preparation for the London Tri was fairly haphazard, so I think I’m going to have to be a little more structured in the run up to my first Olympic-distance. Watch this space…
The Vachery Triathlon takes place on 21 July in Surrey, with more info at www.vacherytriathlon.com. You can follow Bronwen’s progress here every month and on twitter at @bronwen_morgan.