Zahra finished her first triathlon sponsored by Fund Her Tri UK on 03/09/2023 at New Forest Triathlon.
The main reason why I decided to do a triathlon was to challenge myself. I can swim, bike and run but I'd never tried to do them all together and was really curious about what it would be like to push myself in that way. I wanted to see how far I'd come in the last few years since starting to run during lockdown, buying my first road bike and building the confidence to ride, then moving to Brighton and getting in the water more frequently - although I hadn't really explored open water swimming too much.
Another big reason why I took on this challenge was about representation. I know there's a real lack of women in triathlon like me - a woman of colour, Muslim, bisexual. There's just so many barriers to the sport for us, and I really want to play my part in that change.
Triathlon is more fun with friends
My overall feeling when people asked me about it after was that it was fun! I had a lot of fun doing it with two of my friends, which was really great because we were able to share the highs and lows, including the nerves the day before and the 4am wake-up call!
In fact, my main advice for anyone doing their first one is to try to find a friend to do it with. It really made it less scary! We sent each other YouTube videos, discussed the necessary kit, borrowed some stuff and even helped with logistics - my friend gave me a ride and let me stay at her parents' house, which was ideal since it was an early morning race on a rail strike day. Finding a community that makes you feel supported, even if it's following some people on Instagram, can make a lot of difference.
The highs and lows in the race
I think that being with friends definitely made most of the highs in my race. Cycling close to them, enjoying the early morning views with the sun coming up through the trees, and finishing the run together made it so much more enjoyable - and we got to have a nice breakfast after! Sharing those moments was definitely a high.
As for the lows, treading water in the lake for quite a while, not really knowing what was going to happen next or how long it would take made me feel a bit unsure. I tried to touch the bottom, which was scary, and I was so nervous I didn't exactly know which buoy I was supposed to swim around. To make things worse, it was a mass start, which I had never done before.
Another low was when I spilled my gel cycling! My hands, water bottle and my bike were so sticky for the rest of the race!
Despite the fear in the swim and how uncomfortable it was to have sticky hands in the run, I will definitely be doing more triathlons! I learned a lot during my first one and I want to do a longer, harder one and push myself even more.
Moving forward in the sport, I would like to see some changes to make it more accessible for first-timers. It is definitely not an accessible sport - being sponsored by Fund Her Tri UK definitely helps to keep the costs down, but they can add up quickly the kit is so expensive that mine was borrowed. I was also lucky to stay at my friend's parents' house so I didn't spend on accommodation.
Also, some basic things are hard when you do them for the first time; even poking a hole through our race numbers to put on the triathlon belt or trying to figure out what kit was necessary wasn't that simple. It's just little things that can help beginners, and I think communities like FHTUK are doing really great job with that.
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