In three weeks and three days I am doing a triathlon. Considering I signed up for it on 23rd November 2018, nearly three years ago, you can hardly say this has been sprung on me, yet I still feel completely incompetent. Perhaps this is because I have had so many events cancelled that I am just unprepared for the prospect of them going ahead.
I suppose I’ve made quite a lot of progress with my swimming, though it doesn’t feel that way when I am coming last in swimming races or being overtaken by portly breaststrokers. When I signed up for the triathlon I couldn’t swim front crawl (or to be precise, I could swim my own improvised version of it, which closely resembled doggy paddle with added arm gestures and splashing, which got me strange looks in the swimming pool, and was no faster than breaststroke). The only open water I’d swum in was the sea on holiday and the ladies’ pond. Now I swim in open water regularly, even when the water temperature is in single figures, own a wetsuit and a Marlin and can do front crawl which is like everyone else’s but half the speed. Swimming is probably the bit I am the least worried about. If only I wasn’t so slow I would even say I was good at it.
Cycling, as I have mentioned once or fifty-nine times, is another matter. I’d put my chances of falling off the bike during the triathlon at roughly fifty percent. I hoped I’d get better at cycling, and maybe I have, but it hasn’t made me feel any more comfortable with the bastard contraption. I honestly think I would be better off running 20k wheeling it alongside me than actually trying to ride it. I am so terrified of it that I find excuses not to do it and I know full well what I am doing and hate myself for it. The weather is either too hot, too wet or too cold. The roads are too dangerous. I don’t want to wear myself out for the “really important” race I have the next day (that I do every single month). I really must go on a three hour run to train for my half marathon which is two months away! And a swim! Oh no I am too tired to go cycling. See what I am doing here?
I did feel I made a breakthrough last week where I cycled over 20km (the length of the bike leg) on cycle paths and quiet (but fast-ish) roads around the Olympic Park. In particular I had a penny drop moment about hills that will probably sound stupid. I have always found going up hills on a bike takes a disproportional amount of effort. People made suggestions about gears and cadence but it didn’t help much. Then I realised that I was acting like I was running up them – and what do you do when you run up a hill? You slow down and that makes it easier to go up! But if you slow your bike down this actually makes it harder to go up. You need to go faster and the momentum helps you up! Once I worked this out I absolutely sailed up a few hills that had previously defeated me.
(I think the fact that my brain takes so long to get these simple concepts that other people seem to understand without being told is the reason I have so much trouble with cycling and life in general)
Last comes the running. You think I’d be ok with running, after all, I do enough of it, but running when you’ve just got off the dreaded wheeled item it is a different beast entirely. It is like trying to run with your legs under general anaesthetic with a 5kg weight attached to each trainer. I did a “brick session” (see, I may be shit at this but at least I know the lingo) in Mile End Park the other day and my “run” was a waddle that would make the local Canada Geese proud. I imagine that anyone in the park must have wondered why the strange woman was running in such an awkward manner. On a good day I am just about sub 35 for 5k at the moment but I will be pleased if I can make the run leg of the triathlon in under 40 minutes. The other things that will be painful about the run bit (and I’m being optimistic thinking that I will get that far) is that you are not allowed music under triathlon rules and everyone else will be bound to have finished hours ago so it will just be me running along in silence in bloody Seaford with all eyes on me lumbering along gracelessly. The shame! I almost wish I was worse at swimming then I would have more chance of drowning in the first half hour and not having to experience the rest of the misery!