"It's addictive this triathlon stuff!"

"It's addictive this triathlon stuff!"
February 2017

I've often wondered who reads the magazines featured at the end of Have I Got News For You. Those things like 'Crochet World' and 'Carp Fishing Weekly'. To be honest, I assumed some of them were just made up. Thanks to recent activities, however, I am starting to understand.

I joined OUTriC in October 2016, for a fun new challenge. I enjoy running, swimming and cycling (separately, and in a very casual way), and since I'm in the final year of my PhD I will take any distraction I can get these days. I'd done the Novice Aquathlon at the beginning of Michaelmas and didn't drown (although I did give myself a mild concussion from shaking my head to get water out of my ear, whacking my forehead on the corner of a desk... anyway, that's another story), and I'd attended some training sessions last term and wasn't laughed out of the group, so I figured that this term it was time to try my first race. I merrily signed up for the Varsity Duathlon, held at Eton Dorney. This would be my first multi-sport race, and also my first competitive sporting event ever. I was pretty nervous.

The day began (at 5.45am!) with Jess, one of the other novices, having gone over her handlebars on her way to meet the coach. She arrived looking (to quote her) 'like a Botox victim'. Meanwhile, Laura, another novice, had slept through her alarm. This did not help my nerves. The novice women were clearly cursed. Another triathlete sat next to me on the coach started eating her pre-race rice at 6.30am. Rice? No-one told me rice was good. Crap, I didn't have any rice.

We arrived at Eton and the brilliant support group of OUTriC committee members swung in to action - we were taken to register, pointed in the direction of the Portaloos, Fergus and Lucy pumped up my tyres, Laura had racebelts, Sam and Holly were patching up Jess' face (literally with tape I think at one point...). Things were looking up.

Then people started warming up and discussing how it 'definitely wouldn't take an hour and a half'. It would definitely take me more than an hour and a half. Caroline - a third novice woman - and I began radically downgrading expectations. We decided the core aim of the day should be not to die, and ideally not to collapse. I could work with that. Before we knew it, the countdown was being counted down, I was regretting not making a second Portaloo trip, but we were off! Slowly. I had no idea what my 5k pace might be, so just tried to keep going. When it came to the transition, I tried to remember Laura's tips about flying mounts... I think I maybe got 5% of it right. I didn't end up on the ground under the bike, so I reckon that can be chalked up as a success. At first, the cycle was great - I was definitely going almost as fast as Laura Trott. Then we turned the corner into the wind, and six super-fast alien beings on bikes that looked like a modern art installation I once saw swished past. I consoled myself with the thought that at least I still had a plait like Laura Trott's. Through the next transition and back to the run, I was feeling pretty good. The first lap was ok - slightly achy legs, but I could definitely do this. Then, suddenly, as I went in to the second lap, I was not so sure. I think I'd poorly paced myself and had to slow down. But it was ok - I could see the finish now - perhaps I wouldn't die! With the rest of the club cheering as I pushed for the line, I made it.

I finished in 1 hour 35 minutes and one second. I've decided I'll wait to try for the Olympics until next year (I wouldn't want to show up Laura Trott, after all). But, Olympics or not, the sandwiches we had at the pub had never tasted so good. Everyone was so supportive, cheering on the novices, and celebrating individual and team victories. I never imagined that an individual sport like triathlon could have such a fantastic team spirit, but the OUTriC team has proved me wrong.

Over the last week, though, I've been thinking. My legs weren't actually that tired. I probably could have pushed a bit harder actually. Maybe even a lot harder? I can definitely do better than 1 hour 35. I've started dreaming about the phrase 'marginal gains'. I've been looking up the nutritional benefits of rice, and whether I should be eating whey protein. It's addictive this triathlon stuff. And, to cap it all off, I am now a subscriber of 'Triathlon 220' magazine. What have I become? I'm just a step away from 'Carp Fishing Weekly'... 

Gemma Tidman

Oxford University Triathlon Club

Networks: Oxford University, Oxford University Sports Federation

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