A few months ago, I wrote about how the European Championships was ‘possibly the hardest race I have ever done’. I would like to take that back, because I can now easily say that the World Triathlon Championships in Lausanne last week takes that title!
Firstly, let me just say that Lausanne and its surrounding areas are beautiful, and I would definitely go back again for a holiday. However, I might skip that trip if it is for another race!
I was warned about how hilly Switzerland is, but I wasn’t prepared for it to be so in the city centre – I thought that the undulating terrain would be restricted to the quiet countryside, not right outside the hotel’s front door!
In the short-course (the shorter Sprint and Standard distance triathlons, not the IRONMAN distances) triathlon world, the World Championship events are deemed as the biggest event of the year, or the Grand Final, where triathletes from all over the world compete for the World Champion title. For the elites, it is the final race of the year in the World Triathlon Series, where the athlete who has accumulated the highest amount of points across the multiple events staged all over the world during the year, is crowned as the World Champion.
So you can probably tell that this event is huge, and normally takes over the city that it is hosted in. You can’t walk 5 minutes without seeing another anxious-but-excited athlete wondering around. But that’s what I love about these events; I get to meet with friends I haven’t seen since last year’s World Championships, and also meet new friends from all over the world.
However, the sheer magnitude of this event can also leave you feeling overwhelmed and, like I was in the days leading up to the competition, a nervous-wreck! Watching the normally quiet city being turned into the triathlon-hub of the world can be a bit too much sometimes, so it is nice to get away from it all for a little while and relax. This year, that came in the form of a day trip to Thonon-Les-Baines, a small French town on the other side of Lake Geneva. It was so peaceful and oblivious to the transformation Lausanne was undergoing on the other side of the lake, it was a perfect day to relax and momentarily forget about the race.
I couldn’t stay away from it for too long though. All-too-quickly, it was race day. This one felt different to the others, probably because everyone was nervously anticipating the tough course we were about to race on.
At the unearthly hour of 4am, my alarm woke me up to race day. Setting up transition with my bike, helmet, nutrition (energy drink and snacks for on the bike) and running shoes in the dark isn’t something I have done very often, but that’s just a part of triathlon: you never know what’s going to happen, but you just get on with it!
With the unusually warm weather Lausanne had experienced for the days leading up to the competition (around 29 degrees Celsius), the swim was deemed a non-wetsuit swim. If the water temperature goes above 22 degrees Celsius (for races up to 1500m of swimming, which is what my event is), we are not allowed to wear wetsuits for safety reasons (chance of over heating in the wetsuit if it is too hot).
After a very choppy swim – which is weird, how did a lake have waves!? – it was time for the dreaded bike course. I had cycled around the bike course a few days before, so I wasn’t surprised when I arrived at the hills. But there is something totally different about racing on them than training on them! The first hill was within a mile from the start of the bike course, so not much time to get the legs moving on the bike. And it was mostly uphill from there!
I’m not bad at uphill climbs, but I’m also not brilliant at them. But I am quite happy with how I paced the cycle section of this triathlon, enough that I still had some energy in the legs for the equally-hilly run course.
I would say the run was the part of the race that I was most nervous for. I’m not ashamed to say that my running hasn’t been brilliant this year – mostly, its been ‘just get around the course’. When Kris Whitmarsh, my coach, realised this earlier on in the year, he factored in a weekly track session with the ‘fast boys’ into my training schedule. After I was left lying on the floor from exhaustion after the first session, cursing Kris for putting these sessions into my training plan, I was adamant I wasn’t going to do it again. I mean, these guys are running 16 minutes for a 5k, a time that I am NOWHERE near!
But he told me to persevere with it, that I would eventually get used to it. So the following week, and several weeks after that, I reluctantly dragged myself to the track on a Tuesday night.
And I actually started to enjoy it! (Shhh, don’t tell Kris that!)
I didn’t realise how much it had helped until this race. No, I didn’t get a PB run split for this race (I would be surprised, and suspicious, if anyone did!), but I felt good during the run. This is probably the point where non-triathletes say, ‘what do you mean you felt good, how can you ever feel good running!?’ but ask any athlete this and they’ll know exactly what I mean. Sometimes you just feel confident and strong on a run, even if it doesn’t result in a best performance. That’s how I felt on this run – the hills were tough, with 20% inclines on a big portion of the course, but I got up them. And on the flat sections, I felt like I was running at a good pace. I even had enough for a sprint finish at the end!
Going up to a new age group and racing against athletes four years older than me has been hard, but I expected nothing less from the best triathletes in the world. And I am so proud to say that I am 34th in the World!
Let’s be honest, some people will look at this placing, compare it to my achievements from last year and think ‘well that’s not very good’. But these girls are serious – many of them have performed well in elite races before this race, and many have a lot of extra training time than I do (some are lucky enough to train full-time!). So, to say I am amongst the 35 best triathletes in the 20-24 age group IN THE WORLD is a privilege, no matter what other people think!
I am now back to reality (aka back to work!) and on my two weeks break before getting back into training in preparation for my first IRONMAN 70.3 race in April next year, as well as the European Championships in Estonia and the World Championships in Canada. A busy and expensive year coming up, so time to rest, recover and start saving the pennies for next year!
As the Swiss would say in Lausanne, au revoir!
noun: serious thought about one's character and actions.
Not many people take the time to do this. I will admit, I’m one of those people. I wake up, train, get to work, and then it’s suddenly 5pm and I’m on my way home to do some more training. And then repeat the next day.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the training – this isn’t a blog to complain about how cyclical my life is at the moment! Instead, this is a blog about how I’m getting out of that endless cycle of train, work, eat, sleep, repeat!
I recently competed in the European Triathlon Championships 2020 Qualifiers. The 7 hours of driving it took to get there gave me a lot of time to listen to good music, mindlessly scroll through social media and angrily moan from the passenger seat at the people who were sitting in the middle lane going slower than I could cycle (seriously if this is you, please just MOVE OVER!)
It was a fantastic race - barring the fact that it was an evening race - and the volunteer marshals were nothing but welcoming and encouraging, even after spending the whole day setting up and then directing the competitors.
I came away first in my age group and a ticket to the European Triathlon Championships 2020!
It wasn’t until I got back in the car for a long drive home that I realised this season is almost over. I am now down to my last two races of the year: the World Triathlon Championships in August and the National Aquathlon Championships in September. Then I’m done. Just like that, I’m back to the long winter training sessions and having to put at least three layers of clothing on for each session.
Self-reflection. Nothing like a long drive home and a realisation of the speed this year has gone for you to look back at what you have achieved.
My sporting endeavours have again surprised me this year – going into a new age group, I had no idea what to expect from myself or the other people I would race against. But I managed to hold my own this year and can only say I will be better and stronger for next year!
But outside of sport, I haven’t done anything to progress myself as a person. I have been stuck in a cycle, without even realising it.
I heard a quote a little while ago: “You need to live a better day tomorrow. You need to live a day worth writing about”. Now, quotes don’t usually have a big effect on me; where people feel inspired by them, I normally just see words strung together in a sentence.
But this one stuck with me. It made me think, what had I done that is worth writing about outside of sports? If I was told to write every day of this year in a book, what would I fill it with?
I came up blank, and that frustrated me.
So, I’ve done something that I had probably, subconsciously, known was the right thing for me for a while: I’ve started my Level 4 Gym Instructor and Personal Trainer course!
Over the next few months, I will qualify in:
I know, throwing myself in the deep end with this one! But why start small when I had the opportunity to do it all at once!
Not only is this going to help my future clients, but it is also going to help me. There’s no limit to the amount of knowledge one can acquire, and when your main hobby consists of not one but three sports, there is a lot to learn and improve on!
I am really looking forward to starting my studying and getting my qualification. I will be showing my progress, as well as my sporting journey, on my Instagram: @kieratippett.
Self-reflection. A small task that produces some amazing realisations!
What are you filling your life-book with?
Two races in two weekends!
Now that all the travelling and racing is done - for now at least - I can finally write these blogs.
The first race was the European Triathlon Championships in Holland.
Moving up to a new age group is more daunting than I thought it would be, as I had no idea what to expect from myself or my competitors. Added with the stress of a confusing course (which this most definitely was), it’s fair to say that in the run up to the race I was a bundle of nerves!
We arrived on the Tuesday afternoon, four days before the race. It was weird to see the whole event being built from the ground up on the Wednesday, as I normally get there during the preparations. In a way, this made me more nervous – it was all becoming so real!
I had never done a triathlon that had a split transition before, so it took a lot for me to understand how they were both connected and the amount of time I had to leave myself before the start of the race. Added to the fact was that I had to cycle between the two transition – which were 7k apart – as there were no buses running due to roads being shut. Timing was crucial.
Once everything was set up and I had made my way to the swim start, it was an anxious 20-minute wait before we were called up.
I was the first wave to go off with a run-in beach start (running into the water when the start horn goes off, instead of already being in the water). I’ve always liked those starts, so I managed to stay away from the carnage of people diving on top of each other behind me and got into the front/middle pack.
My swim, as predicted, wasn’t the best in the group but enough to keep me in the middle of the rankings (not that I knew that at the time, I don’t find out all of this until after the race!).
from exhaustion and heat stroke. It didn’t help that the water at the aid stations on the run were made up of plastic bladders that were impossible to open whilst running! I think I must have only had one sip of water during the whole 10k run, and I was lucky to get that much. I know quite a few people that didn’t get any water during the run, and unfortunately that was reflected in most people’s run times.
All triathletes will say how happy they are to see a finish line, but I would have cried happy tears if I hadn’t been so exhausted! That had to have been the hardest run at the end of a triathlon that I had ever experienced. There’re not many times when I feel like I can’t carry on, but I must admit that there were a few of those moments during that run. But the spectators, and especially my parents running around cheering me on, made me pick myself up & continue – after all, I hadn’t gone all the way to Holland just to give up!
I managed to place 8th in Europe from that race, which I am over the moon about! It was a lot higher than I had initially expected due to most of the other competitors being 4 years older than me and even higher than I would have thought with my run being so bad!
There are quite a few things to work on, but with the World Champs not taking place until the end of August, I am confident that with Kris’ help, I’ll get there!
Look out for my next blog about the roller-coaster of a race that was the British Triathlon Championships in Leeds!
What a roller-coaster of emotions at this year's World Aquathlon Championships in Pontevedra, Spain!
An Aquathlon, for the people that don't know, is quite similar to a Triathlon in that it is a continuous race but without the bike section. So obviously, this should have made the travel over to Spain a lot easier without the bike.
Notice that I said should - of course, nothing ever goes smoothly for the Tippett family! In order to get to Pontevedra, we had to fly into Porto, Portugal and drive the 2 hours up into Spain. Taking into account the time we would land, the distance we would have to travel and the race registration deadline of Wednesday night at 6pm, we booked our flight for 9am on Wednesday morning.
Anyone who lives in the UK near the M25 will know the mayhem that happens between 6am and 10am for rush-hour. I should have remembered that this would cause a problem, as I work in London and have to commute in the rush-hour every day. Long story short, we RAN through Gatwick airport to catch our flight in time, which isn't fun if you really need to go to the toilet!
Once we were safely onboard our flight (and finally had the chance to go to the bathroom!), we had time to relax. We were even able to stay relaxed when trying to figure out what the Spanish signs were saying on the roads (I can speak a little bit of Spanish, so it wasn't too bad). It wasn't until we got to the Portuguese-Spanish border at 2pm that we realised there was an hour time difference between Porto and Pontevedra, so what was 2pm was now actually 3pm. We still had another hour and half to drive, find the destination and somewhere the park, find registration and get checked in - all before registration shuts at 6pm! To say we were stressed was an understatement!
Obviously we made it in time, otherwise I wouldn't be writing this blog! With my registration kit in one hand and a complimentary World Champs bag in the other (which was a very nice surprise, as we normally just receive a complimentary food voucher to the Pasta Party!), I made my way to the competition area. Situated beside the Lérez river - where I would be swimming the next day - was the transition area and run section. Each athlete's transition area was labelled with their name, country and race number. I had two fellow Brits next to me and a USA athlete opposite me.
I normally get to the country where I am racing a couple of days before, so arriving the day before the race was a little weird for me. But what was even weirder was the fact that my race wasn't until 4:30pm then next day.
I'm used to rising before the sun to get myself ready, and finishing my race before some people have even got out of bed! The waiting around is the worst part - once you have set your equipment up in transition (which was only my running trainers and sunglasses for this race), you are just counting down the minutes until the start.
Finally, it was time to start. I had heard that the water was extremely cold, and as I still cannot wear a full-arm wetsuit due to the restriction of movement post-shoulder operation, I wasn't looking forward to getting in! But with the amount of people in the water (I want to say about 100 people in my wave alone) and the inevitable craziness after the start horn, the cold was quickly forgotten. The swim was a one loop, 1km course with the current against us on the way out and with us on the way back.
At the end of the swim was a pontoon and flight of stairs to reach the transition area, and while everyone managed to pull themselves up and start running towards transition, I - in the true ever-graceful fashion - managed to miss the first step and fall flat on my face. I'm sure someone out there has a picture, and I would really appreciate it if they could just delete that embarrassing moment from their camera and pretend it never happened!
Once I had regained my footing (and my dignity!), I ran into transition whilst trying to undo my wetsuit zip which is very hard with numb hands! I placed my hat, goggles and wetsuit in the box provided and made sure it was ALL inside the box (you can be disqualified if the officials find your wetsuit outside of the box, even if it is just a part of it).
With one of the fastest transition times in my age group, I was then onto the 5k run. The simple two loop, out-and-back course was swarming with people from the previous waves by the time I started, but I love those races. There is nothing worse than running on a quiet course where there are too many options to over-think!
By this time the air temperature was a balmy 25 degrees Celsius, something us Brits are not used to! Many cups of water were consumed and even more thrown over my head to cool me down. My mum was near the turn around point, and both times I went past her, she would shout out messages she had received from my coach, who was watching my split times back in the UK.
At this point, I had no idea where I was in relation to the rest of my age group so I just had to do the best I could. The heat was quite draining, but I felt good coming up to the last turn around point. With less than 1000m to the finish, I knew I had to pick up my speed.
My mum and fellow teammate, Charlotte (she was racing in the Aquabike two days later) were waiting for me outside the recovery area. We found a nice shaded area and I was able to look at my results for the first time.
As I was the youngest in my new age group most of the girls I was racing were nearly 4yrs older than me so I had no idea what to expect.
When I saw that I had come 5th in the World, I was so happy!
Even though I hadn't had the best swim, I was happy with the rest of the race and kind of shocked that I had managed to get 5th place in the next age group even without my favourite bike discipline. And I was even happier to see that I was just 58 seconds off 2nd place.
Obviously I was very happy and after about 45 minutes of cooling down in the shaded area and chatting, I made my way to transition to collect my equipment from my transition box.
As all of the boxes looked the same, I thought I had walked past my own numbered box as there was no wetsuit in it. However, when I went back I knew it was my box as my hat and goggles were In the bottom.
All of the Brit's equipment was still in their boxes, meaning they had yet to collect their things, however the USA athlete's equipment was gone along with both mine and her name place cards which were attached to one anothers on the bar above our boxes. I did wonder why she had taken my name place as well and whether it was anything to do with my missing wetsuit.
It really dampened down the joy of coming 5th and as I walked around I found myself quietly checking everyone accusingly and looking into any open bags along the way.
It was another 5 hours before I heard anything about my wetsuit. when I received a call from a mobile number saying they were sorry they had picked up my wetsuit 'accidentally' and had left it in the reception of the Team GB hotel. It was the USA athlete who was opposite me in transition and whom I had chatted to before the race.
I am not sure quite how or why my wetsuit was picked up from a completely separate box, however I am Thankful to have my wetsuit back as with the European champs in less than a month, it would have been one more thing to worry about if I had to find and buy a new wetsuit (those things are not cheap!)
There you have it, the roller-coaster of emotions that was the World Aquathlon Championships.
I am so happy to have come away with a 5th place in my first race in this age group, and looking forward to acting on the game-plan Kris and I have in the run up to the Europeans and the rest of this season!
This blog is a little late, but better late than never, right?!
A couple of weekends ago, Kris and I made the trip to Arras, France, for the Team Zoot Europe training weekend. From following a few of them on Instagram, I was looking forward to finally being able to train with them. So, Kris and I packed our bikes and bags into the back of his car and hit the road on Friday morning.
The drive down to Arras, France, wasn't too bad. I have to say though, do the French just walk everywhere?! There were basically NO CARS on the roads when we got to France! Even though the longest part of the trip was in France, it took us longer to get to the Eurotunnel from home than it did the French section!
Anyway, back to the story. Many of you may know who Zoot are, but some of you may not. Let me just clarify, as I have had a few people ask me: Zoot Sport is the name of a sports apparel company that was started in Hawaii, the birthplace of the Ironman Triathlon – it IS NOT the other meaning of the word, if you know what I mean!
The first day was mainly for people to settle in and get ready for the weekend. As our team, Whitty’s Sport Therapy, is new to Team Zoot this year whereas some people were returning members, it meant we had some catching up to do. Quite a few people already knew each other, so it was nice to see that they have remained friends and team mates even when they are in different countries!
The first night was a team bowling evening – you can imagine how that turned out with 50+ competitive triathletes competing in a couple of games of bowling! Turns out that I chose the right sport, as I am shockingly bad at bowling, however I think Kris has found his new calling in life!
Saturday was the main day of training. After a nice, very-French breakfast consisting of cereal, croissant and bread, it was straight down to the pool for a 3 hour session. I know, that may sound like a lot, but it was split into 3 x 1 hour sessions, taken by Ameo Powerbreather, Masters Of Tri (both partners of Zoot Sport) and Zoot.
The only way I can explain the Ameo Powerbreather is a swimming snorkel that makes you look like an alien with horns! Unlike a normal snorkel where the inhale and exhale of breath is in the same tube, this is a one-way system, meaning you are always getting fresh air. It was weird to use for me, as I am so used to breathing during a length that I kept forgetting I didn’t have to!
Martin and Matt from Masters Of Tri (an online and face-to-face coaching team based in Spain, with regular training camps near Alicante) showed us the importance of the push-back phase during a swim stroke. Being a club swimmer since I was 5 and then with the added weirdness of my stroke post-operation, it’s fair to say that I didn’t find it easy to concentrate on this. However, they were very patient with all of us and understood that it couldn’t be changed in just one session.
The final part of the swim session was from Zoot Sports themselves. This was a chance to try on some of their new swim wear. Some of you may have realised that for the entirety of last season, I wore a wetsuit with no sleeves. This was a result of my limited shoulder mobility after my operation – I literally couldn’t get my arm out of the water if I had a full-sleeve wetsuit on!
However, when I tried the Zoot wetsuit on, I was able to swim partially normally! Although I will probably still have to stick with the sleeveless wetsuit (as I still don’t have full movement in my shoulder), I am hoping I will be able to use one of these wetsuits in the future.
After lunch (which consisted of even more bread!) and a short break, we were onto one of the hardest sessions of the weekend. Many people didn’t bring their bikes with them as it was predicted to be bad weather, just like the UK. However, I am so glad I did! The group of people we cycled with were amazingly good, so we had our work cut out (especially on the uphill sections – I felt like I was in the Tour de France on some of them, these things were like mountains that never ended!) At the tops of these hills/mountains were multiple different war memorials with breath-taking views of the country below. We would stop and admire the beauty of the place and pay our respects to the many people whose names were carved into the memorials. I wish I had taken my camera with me in order to capture some of these places, but here are a couple of photos Kris got:
Once we were back at the hotel, it was time for the session with the Professional Sports Recovery guys. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to use their equipment on Saturday (as we had a team meal that night – well deserved pizza for everyone!), but I did on Sunday and let me tell you, it works! I got to try the full legs suit, which surrounds all your lower body. Once connected to a small machine, air is blown into 12 different chambers of the suit, starting from your toes all the way up to your lower back. This is to get the lymphatic system moving, and basically get the crap from a hard training session out of your legs! It is a surprisingly nice feeling, it’s not too tight on your legs and the machine makes hardly any noise. A few people fell asleep whilst testing this out!
Like I said, I was able to use this equipment on Sunday morning, but not before the team run. Again, the guys I ran with were really good which meant for quite a fast 10k run, but being amongst other triathletes for a few days gives you that extra little bit of motivation to push more and more with every session.
Overall, this weekend was amazing (except the 3 hour delays at the Eurotunnel on the way home, but we won’t talk about that!), and I cannot wait until I am able to go to another one.
I was able to test the new, custom-made Team Zoot kit yesterday at the London Fields Aquathlon. It was my first race of the season, just to get me back in the competing mindset. The trisuit is AMAZING and so comfortable, I can’t believe I’ve never used a sleeved trisuit before!
The race was good, not my best but I wasn’t expecting that at the beginning of the season. There is definitely room for improvement, but I am happy with my times and taking 5th female overall.
I think I need that recovery suit again!
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had the ‘New Year Slump’?! It is when the chilling winter finally drives you crazy, the fact that the next Bank Holiday isn’t until the end of April (for me in the UK, at least), and the only thing lighter after the festive period is your wallet.
*confidently raises hand*
Yep, you’ve read that correctly. What you see on my blog and social medias are only snippets of my life, but a little snippet that I decided to leave out earlier this year was the ‘New Year Slump’. But I am only human, and I feel like I shouldn’t hide the fact that I struggle sometimes!
A few weeks ago, without even realising it, I was in this ‘slump’. I was not motivated to do anything and the thought of the coming year just made me want to hibernate until I felt better. I have no idea how I got into this state of mind and I didn’t even realise it at the time. I think it had been subconsciously building up for a couple of weeks that I didn’t recognise the signs until it was pointed out to me:
It was a cold, overcast (typical England!) Saturday morning, and even though I knew I should be going swimming, my body didn’t want to move. It was like my muscles had been turned to bricks, no matter how hard I willed myself to get up I couldn’t do it.
My mum came into the living room to find a mountain of blankets stacked on top of me, and she said what had probably been on her mind for a little while: “You’ve got to get out of this slump”. Of course, I argued that I wasn’t in a slump and that I was just tired, which just received the trademark ‘mother’s stare’ from her.
But just that one little sentence opened my eyes to what I had been ignoring for a few weeks: I WAS in a slump! My mind had tricked me into thinking that I was just tired, when actually, I had become demotivated and - I hate to admit this - lazy.
It was almost as if a switch flicked off in my head – I instantly felt the motivation come back and felt that I could take on the world! Okay, maybe a slight over-exaggeration, but I did get up and go on to do a very good swimming session that day!
The point I am trying to make is that it is okay to be in a ‘slump’ sometimes. Everyone gets them, maybe not during the New Year, but they would be lying if they said that had never felt demotivated.
The aim is to recognise the state you are in, and get out of it however possible.
A little tip from me, when you are feeling amazing about yourself and your life, write down why you feel that way. Put it in your diary, in the notes on your phone, even plastered all over your house – wherever it is, keep it safe for the times when you need it. When you are feeling demotivated, look at that note to remind yourself of how you usually feel and why. You’ll soon realise that you are just in a slump, and then you can concentrate on getting back to your normal, happy self.
I’m going to write my note on here, so everyone can hold me accountable. I am feeling AMAZING at the moment. My training has taken a sudden, yet long-anticipated, turn for the better, as I feel that my running and swimming are finally getting back to where they used to be before my operation. Kris and I have a plan for the rest of the year, all my competitions are booked in, and I have an amazing group of people supporting me – just in time for the triathlon season!
There we go, I’ve written my note that I can now come back on if I feel I need some motivation from past-Kiera.
Now, time to write yours.
As many of you know, Richardsons Cycles has been one of my sponsors for a year now, and none of you could have missed the beautiful and colourful bike that they gave me?!
What you may not realise is the difference their support has made for me in this past year. After my shoulder operation, I thought there was no way I was going to be able to compete or get back to the speed that I used to be. This is partly true, but not on the bike - I managed to get faster and faster with each race, faster than I could have thought possible! With Kris' coaching and the amazing Trek Speed Concept that Richardsons Cycles gave me, I was able to achieve a lot more than I thought I could!
As a way of saying thank you, I gave them a little gift for their shop. I am so thankful for their support, and cannot wait to see what this year brings!
To make sure I am ready for this year, I had to get both of my bikes serviced. Keeping a bike in good service is like keeping a car in good service - if you don't look after it, it won't run properly. However, it always tends to slip my mind that it needs to be done!
As it is now the winter, my triathlon bike has been retired to the turbo as it is just too nice to take out in this horrible weather! Along with the fact that I only got it last year, it was in pretty good shape anyway.
However, my winter road bike needed some work!
I gave both of my bikes to the amazing team at Richardsons Cycles to get checked over, and I made sure to warn them that the road bike may be a little worse-for-wear as it has been tackling this winter weather for a few months now.
I handed both of the bikes in on Tuesday morning, and no more than 5 hours later received a call to say they were ready to be picked up! The triathlon bike was all fine and just needed a few screws tightened up, but the road bike had a new chain (Kris, you can longer comment on the 'rust-coloured fashion' of my chain!) and new cassette, as well as the gears being realigned. Maybe I'll go even faster n the training rides now?!
Thank you to the guys over at Richardsons Cycles in Leigh-On-Sea for getting this done so quickly, and making sure my equipment is in good working-order for the coming season!
I can’t say that I remember my first ever triathlon, as I don’t remember much from when I was eight years old! However, I do know a lot of people who jumped on the triathlon-bandwagon at a later age and remember every detail of their first race.
If it is anything like how I feel before the race, the most nerve-wracking part is the preparation. With that comes the transition setup, what equipment to use, what to eat the night before and what to wear for the race (dependent on the weather).
I always find it weird when people ask me for advice for their first triathlon, not because it is a weird question but more that they see me as someone who can help them!
However, it does fill me with joy when I am able to help them, even if it just a small bit of advice.
So, in the spirit of the new year and the new triathlon season just around the corner (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway), I decided to list my top 10 tips for beginners:
Tip #1: Just enjoy the day!
It may seem like the most stupid answer, but this is the most important piece of advice I can give you! It isn’t just about the race, it is also about the atmosphere before and after the race. Yes, it may be too early in the morning for you, but the easy-going, chatty atmosphere before a triathlon is something I am proud to say is one of the best things about this sport.
When everyone is in transition setting up their equipment, strike up a conversation with the people around you – you never know, they might be in the same situation as you!
Tip #2: Practice your transition before the race
Many triathletes will tell you that the transition is the fourth discipline in a triathlon. People can spend as little as 30 seconds or as long as 4 minutes (sometimes longer!) in transition, depending on how much time they have spent practicing it.
You may be asking, “why do I need to practice getting a wetsuit off and putting shoes on?!”, but it sounds easier than it actually is! When you are freezing cold from the water, adrenaline pumping and arms aching, it can be quite hard to get your wetsuit off and steady your hands enough to put your shoes on. Run through your transition process before the race, from getting your wetsuit off all the way through to getting your helmet on BEFORE(!) you grab your bike and exit transition.
Tip #3: Use baby oil or baby gel to get your wetsuit off
On the subject of getting wetsuits off, every triathlete can tell you how annoying it is when it gets stuck around your knees or ankles! The best thing to prevent this is to smother your arms and legs with either baby oil or baby gel before you put your wetsuit on, as this allows the wetsuit to slide off easily after the swim. I personally use the Johnson Baby Oil Gel, as I find it doesn’t come off when I put my wetsuit on, but whatever works for you.
Also, it adds that extra layer before the cold water gets to you!
Tip #4: Don’t feel like you have to use bike cleats for your first race
You’ll see many triathletes using a cycling-specific shoe called cleats, which allow them to clip into the pedals, so their feet don’t slide off. The main aim for this is to allow them to push down on the pedal and also pull back up, resulting in more force to turn the wheels and therefore a faster speed.
However, these can be extremely hard to get used to, and if you aren’t comfortable wearing them in training then you definitely won’t be comfortable wearing them in a race. When I first tried the shoes, I fell off multiple times as I forgot to unclip them before I stopped. It is not something you want to be worrying about in your first triathlon.
By all means, if you are happy to wear them then go ahead, as it will benefit you! But don’t feel pressured to use them because everyone else is.
Tip #5: Use a safety pin to stop your timing chip falling off
Most races now use the timing chips that go around your ankle. Although they are very helpful in showing you your splits and positioning, it is also something else to think about when you’re racing. If you lose it when on the course, you could be charged to replace it, and it will also be difficult to see how you performed in the race. From experience, it is very annoying!
Since the disastrous race that this happened to me (it was doomed from the beginning after I forgot my goggles!), I have used a safety pin to stop it from undoing. Make sure it is fairly tight around your ankle, then secure the section that can undo to the fabric underneath it (but don’t prick your skin, it hurts!) – if you try to pull the Velcro off, it shouldn’t move.
This will stop the timing chip from falling off in the water or when you’re taking your wetsuit off, and also stop people from trying to pull it off at the swim start (also happened to me).
Tip #6: Don’t panic at the swim start – position yourself where you feel comfortable
The swim start can be like a boxing match if you don’t prepare yourself properly. With arms and legs flailing all over the place, trying desperately to find the speed they need to get to the front, it can quickly become dangerous for the unprepared.
If you don’t like the thought of being hit multiple times, or sometimes swam over, then I would suggest starting on the outside edge of the pack, or at the back. This way you’ll have enough room around you if you wanted to move away from someone, and less likely to be battered than you would in the middle.
Tip #7: Don’t use or try anything new on race day
Many people think it is best to get new running shoes before their first race, but you couldn’t be more wrong! You never know how the new equipment is going to perform on the day, and if the shoes aren't broken in/worn properly they could give you painful blisters that could prevent you from finishing the race.
The same goes for food habits. If you don’t normally have porridge before training, don’t try it on the morning of the race! You don’t know how your body is going to digest it whilst exercising, and you do not want to end up with ‘runner’s stomach’!
Stick to what you know works for you, and trust that the equipment you have used in training will get you around the race – leave all of the testing new things to your training periods!
Tip #8: Give yourself plenty of time before your race
It is easy to underestimate the amount of time you need before a race, especially when they are at a stupid time in the morning. It is also easy to forget everything you will need to do within that time: park your car and get your stuff out, walk to the competition site, register, place your numbers on your equipment, check into transition and set it up, run through it to make sure everything is there, warm up, get changed into your trisuit (if you aren’t already) and into your wetsuit and get to the start at least 10 minutes before. All of this could take at least an hour, and even then, you aren’t giving yourself time to relax and enjoy yourself. You don’t want to be stressed before the start, and like I said in tip #1, you want to enjoy yourself!
Tip #9: Don’t miss your start time!
Most races have multiple start times (aka. ‘waves’) to accommodate for the amount of people there. They usually each have their own colour hat, so the marshals, athletes and spectators know what wave is what, and they normally go off every 5 minutes (but check before you start – you should receive an email a few days before telling you when your start time is).
MAKE SURE YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT WAVE! If you go in a wave too early, you can be disqualified, and if you go in a wave too late from your own, then your time will start from when you should have started (ie. 5 minutes before you actually went off). Neither of these are an ideal situation, so make sure you know your exact start time and be there 10 minutes before anyway.
Tip #10: Know where you are in transition
At some races, the transition is so big that it just becomes a blur of wheels and shoes. It is not a nice feeling running around like a headless chicken trying to find your own stuff! Make sure you know where your transition is in comparison to the swim entry, bike exit, bike entry and run exit, before you start. Practice running from each entry/exit to your position to get the feel of where you are going, and also count which row you are in (sometimes they are numbered for you).
I also, if it is possible, try to find something that I can use as a reference. This could be a tree that your bike is near, a sign, a bike that is at the end of a rack, anything that you can easily spot to remind yourself where you are.
And make sure you put your swim equipment and bike back in the same position you were in before – you can disqualified if you leave it in a different position!
I hope this helps you in your endeavour to your first triathlon, and good luck – I hope you enjoy it!
If this helped you for your first triathlon, I would love to hear about it!
Either get in touch via the contact page on this website, or on my social channels:
I’m sure many of you have heard the varying “new year, new me” quote too many times in the last few days, and I’m also sure most of you are already fed up of it!
Don’t worry, I’m not going to be one of those people – I’m actually here to say, “new year, same me”.
Yes, you heard that right! I don’t want to change from the person who I was last year, as that girl absolutely smashed it! I probably sound rather arrogant, but I’m just really proud of myself – there’s no harm in that, is there?!
So maybe I have changed from last year, as I aim to be prouder of myself and I what I have achieved. This year is going to be a tough one going into a new age group, but whatever the outcome, I will know that I have tried my hardest to get there.
2018, you have been great, but 2019 – you are my year!
If someone had said to me be back in January that this year was going to be my best season ever, I would have thought they were mad! After being told that I was scheduled to undergo a major shoulder operation at the beginning of February, I honestly thought that my 2018 season was over before it had even started. I had prepared myself for a long and frustrating recovery year and then get back to the Triathlon-scene in 2019.
But I guess miracles do happen!
Rewind to the 9th February 2018. I had just come out of the shoulder operation I had been putting off for almost 2 years. My arm was numb, I was still wobbly from the anaesthetic and I had the surgeon telling me not to push myself too soon otherwise I could make everything worse. I think its fair to say that I wasn't feeling good about 2018!
Fast forward to 2 weeks later and I had decided to start walking on the treadmill to get a bit of my fitness back. Obviously it was nowhere near the level of exercise I was used to, but it felt good to be doing something!
Another 4 weeks go by and I am finally running again, with the help of a sling to keep my arm from moving too much. I was definitely the slowest I had ever been, and running with only one useful arm was hard! But having that time off from training and racing made me realise just how much I loved this sport, and ultimately gave me the confidence I needed for the rest of the year.
Now we skip to about June time, when I had my first race. At this point, I was still unsure if I was going to be competing in the Europeans in July, but I decided to concentrate on the present rather than the future. I had only been able to get back on my bike about 2 weeks before this race so I had no idea what to expect! It also didn't help that the first race back was the British Triathlon Championships! It obviously wasn't my best race, but it was a start!
After that, my coach, Kris, decided it was time to start prepping for the Europeans, just in case I was able to do it. I have no idea how he put up with my moaning and impatient urge to cycle faster or run further, but somehow he managed to stay calm and get me ready for the race.
I had decided that the Europeans would be a good practice run for the World Champs in September, even if I didn't perform too well in this race. With the lack of swimming, I was able to train more on the bike and run than I ever had, so I felt confident that if I could get through the swim I would be able to complete the rest!
The 21st July had finally arrived, and it was race day. Weirdly enough, I didn't feel nervous on the day. I didn't know if that was a good or bad thing, but I didn't have time to concentrate on that.
The swim was as hard as I was expecting it to be, both with my fitness and my shoulder. I managed to get to the end and that is when the real race started for me. If you have read my blog for the Europeans, you could probably tell how much I loved this bike course! I won't go into loads of detail, but let's just say that Estonia is the best bike course I have ever cycled on! Coming away with a PB on the course after the start of the year I had was a real shock.
But not as much of a shock as becoming the European Triathlon Champion! From seeing the race as a 'practice' for the Worlds to then becoming the Champion was crazy to me, and it is still crazy to think about now!
Realising how well I had done in that race spurred me on to train harder for the World Champs. I had 2 month before leaving for Australia, so it was 2 months of intense training. I could feel myself getting fitter and faster, faster than I had been for a couple of years, and that alone gave me to urge to get better. I stopped moaning about everything (well, I think I did at least!) and just got on with it. It quickly became apparent that the cycling was going to be my strongest discipline that year, so we decided to push that as much as we could in order to give myself the best chance at the Worlds.
Flying to Australia was a weird experience for me. I had never been to the country before so I had no idea what to expect from the journey - I admire anyone who does that horribly long 23 hour flight multiple times a year!
It didn't really become real for me until I saw the competition site that I was actually about to compete in the World Championships in the beautiful country of Australia. Every athlete can relate to the overwhelming feeling of seeing the area you are about to race in and realising just how crazy your life is!
I never go into a race expecting anything, so even though only a couple of months before I had become the European Champion, I didn't take that as a likelihood of doing well in this race. As any triathlete will know, every race is different and you cannot predict what is going to happen during your race, you can only prepare yourself to the best of your ability.
Therefore, I made sure I enjoyed the whole race as what an experience it was! The course, the spectators, the weather, everything was absolutely perfect! I'm sure most of you already know that Australia has stolen my heart!
Coming away as 6th in the World was a complete shock to me! I have always doubted my own ability, probably to my detriment sometimes, but after finishing that race I felt for the first time that I could do anything I set my mind to! My mum has always told me that nothing is impossible if we set our mind to it, and I finally see what she means!
Going from a pretty crappy beginning of the year to finishing the season as the European Champion and 6th in the World is beyond my comprehension and something I never want to forget.
And just to round off the whole year, we have just found out that our team, Whitty's Sport Therapy, has joined the Team Zoot 2019! Next year is going to be amazing!
I wouldn't be writing this blog if it wasn't for my coach, Kris Whitmarsh. Like I said above, I have never really believed in my own ability but to have a coach that can see exactly what I could be and pushes me to that level is beyond anything I could have asked for. I definitely wouldn't have achieved everything I have without him, so thank you so much Kris for believing in me, even when I didn't! And I can't believe I am saying this, but thank you for giving me all of those horrible sessions, as I think we can easily say that they worked! Bring on the next season!
I also wouldn't have gotten where I am today without Richardsons Cycles. At the end of last year, they gave me a bike that I never believed that I could have! I kept on having to ask myself why they trusted my ability so much that they would give me the beauty that is the Rocket (that's what I call it, as it has a rocket-logo underneath the frame!) but vowed that I would try as hard as I could to make them proud. I definitely wouldn't have gone as fast I have this year without it! And don't worry, it is now safely on the turbo and out of this horrible English weather for the winter!
And of course, the continued support of Glynn and his company, Rippleside Metalworks. I met Glynn a few years ago at our local open water swimming club, Chalkwell Redcaps. I don't even remember telling him about what I do and what I had achieved (and at that point, it wasn't much as I was only just going into the adult triathlon series). But for some reason that I still do not know today, he believed that I was going to go far in the Triathlon world and decided to help me in that pursuit. Glynn, I cannot put into words how grateful I am of your continued support, and I can only hope that I am reaching the level that you believed that I could be!
And last, but most certainly not least, my parents. This is the first time I have stopped typing on this blog as I want to make sure this message is the best that I can make it.
Nearly 20 years ago now, you brought me into this world without a clue as to how much I was going to control your lives (sorry!). Since I started this journey of Triathlon at the age of 8, you have been there every step of the way, through the hard times and the good. From standing on the side of the course in the pouring rain cheering me on, to picking me up and believing in me when I felt that I couldn't do it anymore. You have been the quiet confidence I have needed all my life, and I know I don't say it enough but I am eternally grateful for your love and support on this crazy journey of life I have chosen. I can only wish to be half the person that you both are when I am older!
Thank you to everyone who has followed my journey so far, and I hope you follow me into the next year as I go into the next age category.
Merry Christmas everyone, and have a fantastic New Year! See you in 2019!