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Try a tri!

Today we have a guest post by Kate. I asked her if she would share her story with us as she is a wonderful example of jumping in and challenging herself! I hope you enjoy reading all about her fitness journey. Thanks Kate!

Why try a tri?

I went away for the weekend with some girlfriends for my 40th birthday, nearly 18 months ago. One of my friends said how she really wanted to do a triathlon before she was 50 but didn’t want to do it on her own. Being slightly inebriated, I immediately agreed to do it with her. I’ve always been sporty, from childhood I loved all sports and would have a go at most things. I love team sports. My weekends used to revolve around hockey and football but 10 years ago I had to have back surgery. I had a spinal fusion operation where bone is taken from your hip and the vertebrae are fused together with the support of rods and screws. It didn’t go to plan and it had to be done again 10 months later. Luckily the second time worked and I was able to go back to work and even played a couple of games of hockey. I had a baby not long after and we moved to the Netherlands. I managed to find a great Pilates class and a lovely mixed hockey team (trimmers) in Nuenen, but two more babies followed quite quickly so it was very on/off. I had become unfit, it was quite an effort to play, and I would always struggle for a few days after a match with aches and pains. A triathlon would be good motivation for me to get back some fitness and have more energy.

Starting again

So after months of procrastination I decided to have a go at running as this seemed the easiest thing to start with. Many of my friends near and far were running and seeing this on Facebook and Instagram was added motivation. I had no problem running after hockey balls or footballs, but I’d never liked running just for the sake of it. I couldn’t see the appeal. But I managed 3.6km first time out – it was hard but I knew I could improve. I signed up for the Ladies Run with some friends and started working towards 5km. In the meantime I invested in a sports watch which would help me log my running and eventually cycling and swimming. I joined a running group on Facebook where I picked up a lot of tips. I found that running was becoming quite addictive and I was enjoying it (well afterwards anyway!). The Ladies Run was great, and after that I started to do longer distances but found without a goal I wasn’t running as often as I should. I signed up for the Freedom Run in October which was a 12.8km cross trail run. It was tough and my preparation wasn’t brilliant but I did it!

Getting more active

During that summer I read on Eindhoven in Motion about a new women’s only gym called Only SHE Fitness. It sounded exactly what I was looking for, small group training for strength and fitness. I tried once and was immediately hooked. I also started to do a Bootcamp in the woods on a Sunday morning, run by the fiancé of my “triathlon instigator” friend. He is in the army and a former Commando so it’s pretty hardcore!

Then in January this year I got in the swimming pool for the first time in years. I’ve never been much of a swimmer – when I did I never got my hair wet even. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I invested in a decent swimsuit and some goggles and the next time was better. I actually got my hair wet and was going under water. I can only do breaststroke and I don’t think my technique is great but I did pick up some tips while watching my daughter who is working towards her diploma. I have huge respect for the Dutch swimming diplomas, they really ensure kids can swim very well. I wish I’d have done them!**

The cycling came a bit later. I only had a mummy bike but luckily, a very generous friend gave me a hybrid bike to use. I’ve been out a couple of times on it and it’s so much faster and lighter. I do need to master the gears and taking corners at speed but this will come. Also by chance another friend was getting rid of an old exercise bike so I snapped that up. It’s a great option for training when I don’t have childcare.

Dive on in!

So after a lot of thought/research, I signed up for the Vrouwentriathlon in Utrecht in June. I decided on this one because it’s aimed at getting more women to try a tri and it gave me more time to train all 3 disciplines.  I had seen on Facebook earlier this year that Veldhoven Beweegt were holding a triathlon in May but had dismissed it because I wouldn’t be ready for it. Then a few days before the event, Lenise tagged me in their Facebook post and they said they still had places left, so I thought why not? I’d already bought a tri top, shorts and race belt so I was all set, kind of! Normally I don’t sign up for events last minute unless I have a gentle nudge by a friend who’s doing it too, so this solo outing was different for me.

I tried a tri!

I was nervous the night before and on the morning of the triathlon. I can get by well in Dutch but I’m by no means fluent, so that always adds an extra layer of uncertainty. It was a 500m pool swim, 20km on a spin bike and then a 5km run outside of the pool/gym. I was most nervous about the swim. Being with other competitors in the same lane, I didn’t want to be holding anyone up. It was quite intimidating seeing the “proper” triathletes but I made sure I was in a lane with just breaststrokers. There were 2 other women in my lane and we settled into a pace pretty well.

The transition from pool to bike was also a concern, it was the first time in my triathlon gear and I didn’t want to forget anything. I set my crate up with a towel, socks, running shoes, race belt, water and a fruit bar. That went well and I ran into the gym hall with the spin bikes. I’m not used to these so it took a while for me to settle into a rhythm. At one point I got my towel tangled in the wheel! I seemed to be much wetter than most and my running shoes were completely soaked. But the 20km cycle was easier than I thought and I was moving up through ranks. The run was the easiest for me. We had to do 10 laps of the circuit. It was hot but they provided water and sponges. Despite wet shoes, they were surprisingly comfortable and I actually overtook a few people. My time was 1 hour 18 minutes and I was very pleased with that! This could have boosted my confidence or deflated it, but happily it was a positive learning experience.

The next challenges

So the next challenge is the Vrouwentriathlon in June. This will have open water swimming and a real bike circuit to negotiate. Again I’m most nervous about the swimming, the lake will be cold! After that I would like to get a sub 60 minute 10km, do my first half Marathon in October and work toward an Olympic distance triathlon for next summer (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run). Oh, and learn how swim freestyle!

What helps me

I’m by no means an expert but these things I have found motivate me:

  • signing up to an event to have a specific goal to train for
  • try and do it with friends
  • join a Facebook group or Instagram, there’s lots of tips and tricks to pick up
  • log your training with an app or watch
  • read / listen to some books about what you’re training for, there are so many to pick from but what really got me going was This Girl Ran: Tales of a Party Girl turned Triathlete by Helen Croydon. It’s great to hear how other people start out as beginners
  • another tip, don’t wear a padded sports bra during a triathlon!

**If anyone is interested in swimming lessons for adults, including the Dutch A,B,C Diplomas, head over to Eindhoven Sport where you can find more info. 

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