Steph says she was probably the least likely person to join a triathlon club… EVER, but she did and wants to encourage you to, or at least think about it. Here are her top tips!
- You don’t have to want to do a triathlon (ever) to join a triathlon club
In fact, I swore I never would, read more about that here. My club is full of people with different strengths and weaknesses. Some just cycle, some do aqua-bike races. The great thing about a tri club is that there is training and camaraderie to suit most people. There are relays events, so you get get involved in competing with the team, without the multi-sport logistics.
- They aren’t all “IronMen”
I thought they were all going to be ripped, high performing, intense banker types, with expensive cars and that odd red ‘M’ tattoo. There are triathletes of all shapes, sizes and ages. I’m so grateful to some of the wiser members of club who have taken me under their wing with help and advice. There is a distance triathlon for everyone, starting with novice events, pool swims, as well as shorter multi-sports events involving just two of the three events. So everyone from busy mums to retirees can find a race to get in their diary and join in the ‘next event’ chat.
- Always take extra pants/knickers (probably two pairs)
Switching from one low maintenance sport like running, to three sports involves logistics, swimming involves showering, unless you like the smell of chlorine. I luckily got a gym bag for Christmas and quickly learnt the hard way that you need to leave a spare pair of knickers in there. Or risk a day commando. As well as pants, I highly recommend a cheap bra (if appropriate) and a separate set of shampoo, shower gel and makeup. It’s so much easier to get motivated for a session when everything is in your bag ready to go. And you want to get the most out of the money you’ve invested in membership.
- You’ll start shopping in the baby aisle
There are two other things to add to your list and you’ll find them in the baby aisle. The must-have item for my first triathlon was talcum powder, indispensable for getting your shoes and socks on with wet feet in transition. After your first swim race, you’ll find yourself with numbers in permanent marker on your arms, legs and hands. To prevent looking like the protagonist from the song Pretty Fly For A White Guy (he asked for a 13, but he got a 31….) in the office, pick up some baby oil and use this to get the ink off your skin.
- The washing never ends
I thought I had a lot of washing when I just ran, but it’s nothing compared to three sports! There are towels to wash, a ton of lycra and never leave your cossie festering in a cold (or hot) car. We all understand and no matter how many race t-shirts we get, our favourite kit is always in the wash bin. So it’s okay to double wear kit, I promise. But maybe save the second wear of tops for a solo run!
- Buy some new shelves
With all the washing you’ll be doing, you’ll also have a bunch of kit to store. Currently mine is lovingly stashed in different tote bags littered across the bottom of my wardrobe, but it might be time to invest in some shelves. Aside from clothes, there are bike accessories, bike cleaning products, swimming caps, goggles and then there’s the swim ‘toys’. A toy box wouldn’t be a bad idea actually. It doesn’t have to be expensive, I’ve started with lots of hand me downs from my new club mates and we have a kit swap once a year. Wiggle is a great one-stop shop for quick delivery when you need one less excuse to chicken out of something than ‘I haven’t got the kit’. When you have more time, check out the sales at your local independent and simply ask your club mates for recommendations.
- Jargon is bamboozling!
There is a lot of jargon and brands you’ve never heard of. I might write you a dictionary, but then there are still so many I haven’t worked out yet. I mentioned above the M tattoo. The M is the logo of the IronMan corp who organise iron distance events, but do not be fooled, there are many other companies that also organise iron-distance events like Challenge and The Castle Triathlon Series. Check out 220 Triathlon’s website or ask your new club mates for alternatives, CSS, T1, T2, FTP, are just a few of the acronyms you’ll be faced with. As always Google is your friend, but you’ll make friends IRL if you ask. Apart from those lucky bods with sporty parents, we were all their once. Imagine if it were your specialist subject, you’d be happy to help.
- They want you to succeed
This was my biggest surprise. I thought I was going to have to ‘prove myself’ or sit quietly on the peripheries until I was ready to do an event. Everyone I met was encouraging, some more so than others, but that’s humans for you. Step outside your comfort zone and you’ll find lots of people willing to walk with you.
- It’s the best thing I ever did for my running
I had grand plans to train hard for Seville marathon, but life kind of got in the way, I’d been trying to improve my swimming and trying to keep having a go at cycling and trying to find my feet with all the ‘new’ in my life in general. I ended up managing most of my long runs, but didn’t do any other targeted training. I turned up at Seville with hopes of a 3:30 but I knew I’d be happy with anything sub 3:40. When I came back home to the UK after running a time I’d only dared dream about, I realised that by trying to get the most out of my tri club membership and cross training my little butt off, I’d unintentionally done the best thing I could for my running… run less!