Elsewhere on this website there are wise words from experts on how to swim faster, run more efficiently and fuel your body to perfection. I can’t compete with this array of knowledge so instead I shall impart what I’ve learnt from triathlon. Take heed!
1. Tan lines – you’ll get lots. Halfway up your arms from your cycling top, halfway up your legs from your cycle shorts, around your shoulders from your tri-suit, around your neck from your running vest and so on… From a distance you’ll look like a walking barcode and strangers will mock you. But the alternative of slathering your face with sun block looks much worse; I saw a guy at a race recently who did this to the extent that I thought he was a Goth.
2. Money – you’ll need it. Although from the bike bling I’ve seen at most races lately I don’t think this is a problem for many triathletes who must sleep in a gigantic rustling money nest. Money won’t buy you speed, but it can mean you don’t stick out like a sore thumb. One example is the emergence of aero helmets. When I first started they were a rare sight, but nowadays they’re so common that if you aren’t wearing one you might as well have a saucepan on your head.
3. Standards – they’ll decline. Behaviour that once horrified you will become perfectly normal. From stripping off in public to emptying your nose while running, nothing is off limits if it means saving a few seconds on your race time. In my case I decided I could save time by ‘letting go’ while running instead of stopping for the toilet. The first time I achieved this I ran down the road with my arms aloft, cheering. How many other sports lead you to celebrate incontinence?
4. Food – it’ll rule your life. If a plate of biscuits appears at work I have to be pinned to the floor to stop me demolishing them. I went for a curry with some non-triathlete friends recently and I ate it so fast that they said they’d never seen anyone inhale their dinner before. When I come in from training I’ll raid the cupboards for food and eat it in combinations that would put Heston Blumenthal off. In summary, prepare to be hungry. Permanently.
5. Clothes – your dress sense will vanish. I haven’t bought work clothes for two years yet I own bike shorts made by every manufacturer on earth. Where once I was to be found in suits and designer shoes, I now spend my life in vests and trainers with elastic laces. The only time I think about clothes now is to decide which T-shirt I can use to clean my bike, and which one to wear to a race for maximum pose effect.
6. Home – it’ll turn upside down. There’s a turbo trainer in my lounge, a wetsuit hanging in my bathroom, my towels are never dry, the shower tray is full of congealed leg hair and I’ve more water bottles in my cupboard than glasses.
7. Perspective – you’ll lose it. Actually you’ve probably already lost it, because prolonged exposure to triathlon means you lose your grip on what constitutes normal behaviour for most people. If you want to test yourself, ask yourself this – when someone at work asks you if you’re racing at the weekend, have you ever said, “Yes, but I’m only doing a 10km so it’s not really a race.” See, I told you…
Martyn has a monthly column in the monthly magazine 220 Triathlon and you can subscribe here