Charis finished her first triathlon sponsored by Fund Her Tri UK on 03/09/2023 at Belvoir Castle.
A year ago, I didn’t move my body. I didn’t enjoy feeling my body move, I was in a highly stressful job which left me without capacity for much outside of work, and I was scared to feel out of breath as my asthma was so poorly managed.
It was after making the decision to leave my job, move onto something new, and start managing my asthma, that I slowly felt myself coming back. I’ve found such joy in learning to run - it’s where my mind is most at peace. After hearing about triathlons and Fund Her Tri UK, I realised that a sprint distance might just be in my reach. So I signed up for my first triathlon!
To put it simple, I absolutely loved it. My biggest worries for the day were for practical issues, like punctures or goggles that didn’t fit right, but thankfully nothing went wrong. And, being my first triathlon, my goal was to just finish, which I did!
It started on a high note: the swim was definitely my favourite discipline. I couldn’t help but grin each time I came up to breath, but I felt strong, smooth and almost sad when it was finished!
I grew up swimming, so physically I wasn’t worried about my ability to do it. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the mental challenge. On my first open water swim, during training, I cried after putting my head underwater and as a weed tickled my foot. I was filled with panic and wondered why on Earth I’d signed up for this!
Slowly, through weeks of exposure, I managed to wrap my head around the green obis and found joy in not having to turn around every 25 meters in a pool.
However, after the lovely swim, I definitely had more than one low.
What goes up, goes down
The first hill on the cycle was tough. My legs hadn't warmed up yet, and I thought to myself "if I’m struggling to do this, how am I going to last the next 20k?" Sure enough, that thought quickly passed as I went downhill and onto a flat where I got into a rhythm.
I also found comfort with other athletes expressing their own misery on the hills, and enjoyed a quiet "weeee!" to myself going down a steep hill.
Speaking of other athletes, another high during the race was each time another athlete or spectator gave a cheer, like "keep going" or "well done". The encouragement of others really kept me going. Sport events can often feel intimating, especially as a first timer, and I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by the camaraderie and community. From waiting in the swim holding pen to my bike rack neighbours, to the person running down the hill I was running up who broke the news that there’s chocolate at the top, it felt like everyone was encouraging each other.
The absolute worst part was the run. Going in, the run was my strongest discipline. Throughout training, I’ve been trying to figure out nutrition and fuelling well, but no matter what I do, I’m hit with stitch. I can usually run through it, and with some steady breathing it passes, but on race day was really painful and only solved by walking it off!
Nevertheless, I finished my first triathlon with a big smile on my face. :)
Advice for new athletes
I had such a good time doing my first tri that I’m excited to go again and do even better - I will definitely sign up for a second one! And, if you're looking to do your first triathlon, I can share some advice based on what I learned during mine:
First and foremost, trust your body, and trust your training. Believe you are capable of doing it - and more.
Secondly, don’t worry about rushing through transitions! Take a moment in each discipline to be present and have fun. Absolutely do not forget that this is supposed to be fun!
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