I remember turning up to my first triathlon –and wondering what on earth I was doing. I had never been to a race before- so I wasn’t prepared for the sea of lycra and expensive bikes that I was greeted with. I thought seriously about backing out…I had no bike to ride, no experience of running 10km after a bike ride, and had never swum properly in open water. Everyone starts somewhere.
To cut a long story short – I managed to find someone with a spare bike (after a communication problem meant the bike I was meant to ride had gone to a different race) and despite being so disorganised I was still running to the swim start as the gun went off -I did start that race and I did finish – just about in one piece. I was literally thrown in at the deep end and I loved it. It was the start of something brilliant, a sport that has shaped the last ten years of my life introducing me to incredible people and taking me to amazing places.
Triathlon can be totally overwhelming at first. From the outside it can seem as if everyone is incredibly fit, very serious/obsessive, and that there is no way in for the newcomer. But in reality everyone has their own fears about the race. Most of the triathletes you see wearing GB age-group vests once swam in a surfing wetsuit that was too big, rode round on a mountain bike gasping at the back, and then did a full change from bike kit to running kit in the second transition before hobbling to the finish. Chances are they are only a couple of seasons into the sport and like nothing more than sharing their passion with people who are just starting out.
The plethora of kit and equipment required for your first race can be prohibitively expensive, and can seem like a logistical nightmare for the uninitiated. But triathletes are kit junkies. If there is a new gadget/wetsuit/running shoe/bike wheel on the market then they are the first to buy it. The advantage of that for the newcomer is that generally people are really happy to lend out old kit to help someone get started. The best thing you can do if you are thinking about starting the sport is to join your local tri club. There are many fabulous and friendly clubs in the UK, and you will be welcomed with open arms and helped with advice, guidance and even some second hand kit.
You won’t know until you try it – and what is there to lose? New friends, wonderful places to travel and a huge health kick – triathlon is just a fabulous sport for so many reasons. I don’t know many people who have only done one triathlon – most are bitten by the bug after just one race. Look at me – my first triathlon was 13 years ago now. It seems like an age ago – but I can still remember the uncertainty. So don’t judge triathlon by your first impressions – once you scratch the surface you will find a sport driven by the novice, keen to offer you a warm welcome and encouragement whatever level you want to compete at.