Naomi finished her first triathlon sponsored by Fund Her Tri UK on 21/05/2023 at Dorney Triathlon.
My first tri was an amazing experience overall and definitely one to remember. There were good points and unexpected bad points, but Dorney was such a beginner-friendly venue and people were super supportive at every stage.
This might come as a surprise to many people who know me as it was to myself, but my low was the swim. It was never supposed to be the leg I would struggle on, as I have always been a strong swimmer. However, open water swimming is very new to me.
We started in the water, which was very helpful as it meant the temperature wasn't a shock - luckily it wasn't that cold anyway. I started towards the middle/back, based on advice to not get caught up in all the bashing and fighting for position at the front. With those two things ticked off, I thought everything would be fine.
Then they started us off. With people swimming in my path, I kept having to redirect and it got a bit overwhelming. My breathing went out of control and my heart rate spiked. I had to stop before both were too uncontrollable that it became unsafe.
I used a number of strategies to try to calm myself. I waited until most people had passed me and then started to breaststroke with my head out of water, and even laid on my back for a short while. Then, I resorted to swimming front crawl with my head out of the water until I was ready to swim properly again, which was roughly around 600m from the finish.
The person that finished that swim was definitely not the person that started it. I kept telling myself that I just needed to make it through the swim, no matter what I had to do.
I felt so much relief when I finished the swim and got on the bike. Cycling is something I am very comfortable with and could push somewhat. I was worried about not pushing too hard that I killed my legs before the run, but I definitely gave it a good go.
The only downside was the headwind that I had to contend with 8 times throughout due to it being a looped course. Overall, I enjoyed it.
10k to the finish
Now, the run is what I was worried about, as it is my weakest and 10k is still quite a challenge for me, having only completed that distance twice before.
People always talk about jelly legs after coming off the bike, but I had completed many brick sessions during training and not experienced it. However, that didn't stop me from worrying about it. Luckily my legs were fine, just slightly heavy. I just shuffled through the run at a suitable pace for me, that would allow me to simply keep going.
People that I had passed on the bike were passing me on the run, but my goal was to complete the 10k in one piece. I just needed to ensure I stuck to my fueling strategy, which had done me well up until that point. There was so much encouragement along the way from spectators and even those running past me!
You could really see the different types of participants at this point: from Ironman finishers, illustrated by their tattoo and branded trisuits, to the less experienced ones, running in t-shirts and shorts. It was a varied field and proved how friendly this course is.
I finished the run without being too exhausted, which meant I could have pushed myself more, but I was just so happy to have completed it. It was such a great experience that I will definitely be doing more triathlons, and I really want to repeat the same triathlon next year so I can measure my improvements.
Advice for your first triathlon
For anyone thinking of doing their first triathlon, my main advice is to not put too many expectations on yourself in terms of finishing time, either for individual elements or the whole tri. Anything can happen on the day, and your strongest leg might end up being the most challenging.
If you're doing a long distance, remember to have a good fueling strategy (which must be tested during training) and focus on completing it. If you have trained adequately, this will see you through to the end. Then, just have fun and take in the experience!
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