First Tri: Blandford #Triathlon (Summary & Walkthough)

As you’ll have seen from my previous posts, I entered my first triathlon on Sunday which, after much deliberation was the Blandford Triathlon. Why did I choose this one in particular? Well it was fairly close – a 25 minute drive – which is good when registration opens at 6am! It was a sprint distance, which meant a fairly short, 400 metre swim, a 16 mile cycle and a 4 mile run. It’s also arranged by Results Tri who are well known in the area for putting on great events for newbies like myself. Not being sure when I signed up if I could even swim 400 metres or ride for 16 miles, I was apprehensive to say the least!

The Night Before

The triathlon actually began the night before as there’s a lot more preparation involved than there is for ‘just’ a run. In fact, here’s a list of everything I needed for the triathlon:

  • Road bike
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle + isotonic drink to go in bottle
  • Pump, spare inner tube, punture repair kit
  • Towel
  • Swimming trunks/shorts (Speedo Jammers)
  • Goggles
  • Swimming Hat
  • Trainers (with elastic laces)
  • Running socks
  • Running vest
  • Spare top + flipflops for poolside

This was the bare minimum of equipment needed for a Tri and I got it all packed up and ready for the, gulp, 5am start. Of course because I was nervous about the tri I couldn’t get to sleep…and because I couldn’t get to sleep, I thought about the tri… which made me not be able to sleep… etc etc until 2am. Three hours later my alarm went off – three hours sleep is NOT the recommended prep for a triathlon!

Race Day – Event Leadup (5am -7:25am)

So the alarm went of at 5am and I groggily crept down the stairs in the pitch black, feeling like it must be the depths of winter it was so dark. After forcing some Ready Break down my neck I got dressed, jumped in the car and headed off to the event. The darkness only added to my nervousness and as I drove along, my worries cycled around in my head. Where would I park? Where does the race number go while you’re swimming? I didn’t have a tri-belt – would I need to wear a race number on my front AND my back? Did they give me two numbers? Could I even ride 16 miles on a bike? Would I be able to ride a bike wearing my thin soled Newton trainers? What if everyone got annoyed with me in the swim because I was going too slow? Why did I say I could swim 400 metres in 8 minutes? Could I even ride 16 miles? Did they give me two numbers? Where does the race number go when your…..

Etc etc for the entire 25 minute journey.

I arrived at the easy to find and well sign posted car park at just gone 6am and felt immediately intimidated. Rows of vans with official looking team logos and roof-racks of apparently spare bikes were were parked up everywhere. I thought I must have taken the wrong turning and driven into an official World Triathlon Series event. I half expected the Brownlee Brothers to walk past chatting to Javier Gomez. The bikes! Wow, Bianchi, Specialized, Giant, Cannondale – all manner of expensive looking machines with space age shaped helmets to boot.

Well, I thought, I’ve paid my £45 entry fee – I’m just as entitled to be here as any of you! I parked my rusty old Clio between two vans that could have been the support vehicles for Team Sky in the Tour de France, got out my bargain bike and wheeled it towards registration. In fact, once I got out of the car, everyone was very friendly with lots of ‘good morning’ and jokes about how early it was!

I registered and was given one race number for my vest and two numbered stickers. I was told to stick one on to my helmet and one to the front of my bike. Panic set in. What about the swim?! How can I only have one number for both the bike ride and the run, when it has to be on your back for the ride and on the front for the run?!

Setting up a triathlon transition at Blandford

I stuck my numbers on and pushed my bike around the corner to a large field that housed the transition area. This consisted of a fenced off rectangle with horizontal poles running up the middle to hang your bikes from. I found a space and noted that everyone else was laying their stuff out on the right hand side of their bikes, so followed suit. Laid out my towel and placed on it my bag, a drinks bottle, trainers, socks and a running vest. On my racked bike I placed my helmet and sunglasses. Then I went inside to await my 7:35 swim and watch the first wave of triathletes beginning their swim.

Race Day – The Blandford Triathlon

Swim + T1

7:25 and I entered the poolside area for my race briefing. It turned out that the kid on one side of me had been competing for five years and turning to speak to the older chap on my right I discovered he was a multiple Ironman and triathlete veteran. Suddenly my three visits to the swimming pool and one ride to work on my new bike didn’t seem to cut it! We were told our allocated lanes and went to stand by them whilst the lane judge noted who we were and our hats so she could identify us. My name was called first and I pulled my goggles down and slipped into the pool. 3,2,1, go!

Blandford swimming pool

I pushed off and tried not to go off too fast. Thinking about my technique as I swam I noticed the man behind me was right on my tail so, as tri etiquette demands, I pulled over at the lane end and let him past. I pushed off again and noted that the next person was a long way behind so I relaxed into my swimming. after a couple more laps, I realised I was going very slowly and decided I needed to get past the guy who I’d, perhaps naively and lacking in confidence, let past me previously. I tapped his foot (again tri etiquette for ‘let me past you please!’ but either he didn’t feel it or didn’t want me past him. So I was stuck going at half pace for the rest of the swim. All this caused me to lose count of the number of lengths I’d done – I made it 12 – but then the guy in front of me jumped out of the pool!! Well he’d done the same number of lengths as me, but surely we had four more lengths (100m) to go? Apparently not.

So, feeling as though I’d barely just entered the water, I jumped out of the pool and ran out towards the transition area, ripping off my hat and goggles as I ran. Once at my bike I took what, in hindsight was a rather leisurely transition, drying myself all over, fully drying my feet, sitting down to put my shoes and socks on, putting my vest on and finally my sunglasses and helmet. Triathlon rules state that you absolutely cannot touch your bike if you’re not wearing a helmet. So all changed and ready, I unracked my bike and ran off towards the transition mount line.

Bike + T2

Jumping on to my bike at the mount line, I was with a small group of other competitors. The problem with this route was that there were several roadworks with traffic lights and we were told with absolute certainty that we MUST stop at a red light. So sure enough, two minutes into the ride, a set of temporary traffic light began to turn amber as I approached and then red as I arrived in front of them. Damn! The rest of the group had nipped in ahead of me and got through on green and amber. Double damn! So I patiently sat at the lights, waving my hands in front to try and make it change which it did, two minutes later! This would frustratingly happen twice more in the ride costing me at least five minutes.

Me coming into transition 2 at the Blandford Triathlon

It was once I’d been pedalling for 10 minutes that I regretted not doing any cycle training beforehand as my thigh muscles began to ache. It was a lovely route, from Blandford, out to Shillingstone and back round to Blandford. Lovely until I hit the hills that is! I’ve never seen hills like these ones, that seemed to go on and on and on – up and up! When eventually it seemed like I’d reached the top of the world, the roads finally levelled out before a glorious downhill stretch. It was on this downhill and the flat stretches of the course that the quality of bikes and cyclists became notable. Beings clad in Lycra, aerodynamic helmets and high saddled, tri-barred bike whizzed past me. My zero training, plastic and clippless pedals, smaller wheels and £14.99 Halfords own brand helmet could not keep up. So it was with happiness that I drew close to the second transition and the beginning of the run segment. I dismounted at the line and ran with my bike towards the transition area. It’s true, your legs do feel very strange jumping off a bike and into a run! I was already wearing my running trainers, so once in transition I racked my bike, took off my helmet and sunglasses and switched my vest round back to front, so the number was facing forward and off I ran.

Run

Ah the run. I hadn’t realised just how far out of my comfort zone I was during the swim and bike ride until I began running. Running is something I have trained a LOT for so I instantly felt comfortable at the start of the four miles. However this was just as taxing as the bike route with a long, uphill section, which found me questioning my running fitness! I soon started to overtake people though and, like the swim it seemed like the run was over in an instant! I ran back down to the finish line feeling far more full of energy than I should have done at the end of my first triathlon to finish in 1:45:56. The time was unimportant though – I’d completed my first triathlon and I loved it!

Setting off on the run segment of the Blandford Triathlon

Setting off on the run segment of the Blandford Triathlon

My loyal supporters!

Finished!

Bib FirstName LastName Club Category M/F Swim Bike Run Finish Overall In Category In Gender
41 Rob Murray PURBECK RUNNERS M30 M 10:20.9  01:08:14.15  00:27:21.70  01:45:56.75 44 4 38

 

3 thoughts on “First Tri: Blandford #Triathlon (Summary & Walkthough)

  1. Good on you!
    Reading your Night Before and Race Day – Event Leadup brought me right back to how I was feeling before my very recent first Tri. Also, totally agree about the run – that feeling of “finally, comfort!”.
    Way to go!

  2. Pingback: Try Something New – Track Competition | Training a Runner

  3. Pingback: Race Review: Bournemouth Autumn Open (Track & Field) | Training a Runner

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