A couple of weekends ago I competed in the Sprint Plus event of the Castle Series Triathlon at Hever Castle in Kent. The disciplines consisted of an 800m open water swim, a 40km bike ride and an 8km run.
This was my first triathlon.
I can’t say I was the most prepared for the event. A two week holiday in Cuba and moving house in the lead up definitely took priority over putting the miles in to make sure I was fit enough to do the race justice. However, when the alarm went off at 5:30am I’d given up worrying and it was time to put what waning fitness I had left to the test.
Overall I had great fun, and with about as much of an attention span as a dory fish, I learned that packing three different varieties of sport into one race is definitely more interesting than a marathon. Here are a few tips that I would recommend to those people who like me have never dipped their toe in the triathlon waters.
If it’s your first, choose a well organised race
I had the opportunity to experience my first triathlon in the stunning surrounds of a Tudor Castle which certainly took the edge off. Plunging off a platform into a 38 acre lake that was adorned with Italianate sculptures and a low mist over the water was very cool – even if you are freezing and contemplating your survival. There are other touches too like excellent marshalling and a comforting support crew. It makes a difference if, like me, you don’t know what you’re doing most of the time.
Lube your neck
I would recommend lubing where you wetsuit meets your neck. The natural movement that comes during the swim means that it is quite common to get some chaffing and it definitely stings.
Beware the mud beard
This is a slightly more aesthetic concern but I am pretty sure I am the only one in the entire Castle Triathlon Series that managed to emerge from the lake with a face-full of mud. How this mud managed to find it’s way to my face and no one else’s is a mystery I will have to live with but, for the sake of the posterity photos, give your swamp monster beard a bit of a splash as you exit the water.
You’d think, if you’re about to compete in a triathlon, that your hydration would be quite a priority within the race plan. Unless, you’re called Lorna North and this totally slips your mind. Fill your bottles with water before you leave the house as there may not be time or even access to a tap before you get suited up in transition and so you’ll do the entire bike leg with nothing to drink and will make a poor lady run along side you with a small plastic cup at random miles. I was thirsty the whole time. It didn’t help.
Save time on your transition
Looking at the amount of time I spent in transition you wouldn’t be surprised if I’d managed to write a thesis on Medieval English Architecture and hosted a tea party for my friends. I. Took. Ages. There was really no need. I could have cut the time down dramatically if I had just been a bit more organised. People often take a box to dump all their stuff into rather than retrieving various items from the grass. In terms of wetsuit extraction, rub a bit of baby oil around the ankles and the wrists before you race which should help you slip out of it quicker.
Don’t tie your ankle strap on too tightly
You get a little ankle strap with your race chip to tie around your ankle at the start. It’s easy to tie it on when you are just in normal standing position. This will be fine during the swim and the cycle as you ankles won’t extend too much but on the run it will chaff horribly and won’t help your speed. At all.
Don’t hold back
Despite all my bad first-timer choices, I still finished the race feeling like I could have given more. My advice to first tri-mers would be to not worry about each discipline, if you are taking part in an organised race then you will get from A to C anyway so focus on giving your all. You can recover afterwards.
If you are interested in taking part in the Castle Series then click the blue words to find out more.