My first triathlon - Bérangère

Triath’elles de Gravelines /  September 2, 2017

I can't really remember why or how, but one day in the summer of 2017, I decided to sign up for my first triathlon. Probably because, like many runners, I was looking to vary my training, particularly with road cycling and a bit of swimming. So a triathlon seemed like the obvious choice… To ease myself in gently, I chose the "Triath’elles de Gravelines" event: a 100% women's race reserved for beginners. I cautiously opted for the XS option (250 metres swimming, 10 km of cycling and 2.5 km of running).

A introductory race with minimum preparation

When I looked at each distance by itself, I wasn't worried. I knew I could do all of them easily. But what was the best way to do the different disciplines one after the other? I did a few sessions in the gym to get a rough idea: 10 minutes on the rowing machine, 30 minutes on the exercise bike and 15 minutes on the treadmill. My aim was to find out which muscles I'd be using the most. I also added a few pool sessions into the mix, and I thought that this light preparation, although a bit sketchy, would suffice.

premier triathlon

My equipment: now that's no joke!

The next step: choosing my outfit. I had a running outfit, a swimming outfit and a cycling outfit… but what should I wear for doing all three? I quickly decided I needed a multifunction suit: I'd just pop on a cycling jacket during the first transition and that would do the trick. Because, you know, it's not enough to be prepared physically, you have to think about logistics too! Now, what did I need in my transition bag? What would I need to dry my feet? And should I put in a pair of socks or not? Which way round should I put my bike? Where should I put my bicycle helmet so I don't waste time? To answer all these questions, I made a little "triathlon checklist", and broke it down step by step.

Crossing my fingers and hoping I hadn't forgotten anything

That's basically what I did in the end. But of course, there was something I hadn't factored in: the start of the swimming. A standing start in the middle of other swimmers. For me, someone who's not very confident in the water, this part was complicated. So when I started, I got caught in the swell created by the other participants' movements, so I panicked... and turned around and went back. All that for nothing! Once I was on the pontoon, and the moment of panic had passed, I was more angry with myself than anything else. Luckily, as it was a triathlon designed for beginners, I was able to "get back on the horse", which would obviously be unthinkable in a "real" competition. This meant I could take part in the cycling trial (after the swimmer who had come last). As for the rest of the race: well, the cycling wasn't bad (apart from getting slightly lost, but you can't have everything), and I ran quite well too.

So, would I do it again?

Yes, probably! Firstly, because now I've got a previous performance to beat. I'll probably sign up for the same event (reasonable sign-up fee, well organised, a pleasant venue and especially, perfect for beginners to feel at ease), and now I understand how swimming peacefully in the pool in my own lane, and swimming with dozens of other participants around me, are two very different things. Should I have thought about this earlier? Yes, probably. But one thing's for sure, the day I manage to complete an incident-free triathlon will be a very proud day indeed!