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I wanted to lead a more active life when I left my finance career, with its long hours in front of a computer. Setting out to achieve something I never would have dreamed of before would keep me motivated and mark a new period of my life.
My first thought was to do a marathon, a phenomenal achievement that would require great dedication and sacrifice. However, my second thought was that I found long distance running to be crushingly boring and so quickly scrapped that idea. After some research into what the cool kids were doing I found the triathlon and fell for it instantly. The idea of having to seamlessly join three very different sports into one seemed both challenging and appealing in equal measure. Coupling that with the excuse to buy lots of shiny kit to play with, although not necessary to take part, meant that I signed up immediately.
The next step was to choose the appropriate event, one that was fairly local to London and yet still a widely known and respected part of the triathlon calendar. The Windsor Triathalon was perfect. Just a quick drive down the M4 and a multiple winner of the BTF (British Triathlon Federation) ‘Event of the Year award, so plenty of kudos to be had.
For me, it was the swim. Since learning to swim as a child, I had only paddled around in pools on holidays. The journey from this to jumping into a cold brown river at 7am with over 100 other people scrambling around one another to swim 1500m against the current of the River Thames was a long one.
I started by making regular trips to the local pool to build up some stamina and after a number of weeks, I felt it was time to take the plunge into the world of open water swimming. After buying a wetsuit, I headed for my local swimming lake and spent the first 45 minutes trying to get my wetsuit on. Exhausted, I headed down to the water to wade in and promptly waded back out again because it was so cold. Summoning my courage I managed a few laps. I was struck by the almost zero visibility in the water which was very disorientating and took a while to overcome. However, perseverance was the key and come event day I was confident in my ability to get through the swim, if perhaps not in style.
The camaraderie of all the athletes on the day blew me away. From the nervous chatter when lining up for the swim (a seasoned athlete told me to just relax and enjoy it) to exchanging a few words with someone on the cycle leg who happened to have the same bike as me. At all times I felt like we were one big team, all competing against the course and our own lactic acid build up rather than each other. It made me appreciate that regardless of finish time, everyone was there for the same reason: to have a great day.
I wanted everything to be perfect for my first triathlon: the right event, the right kit, the right technique, the right training. In hindsight this was unnecessary. You are not going to set a world record on your first try so don’t put pressure on yourself to get everything right immediately. Every triathlon you do (it will be more than one, I guarantee it) you learn something new about the sport and about yourself that will make the next one better. So, as a wise man once told me, “Just relax and enjoy it!”
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