Swimming – cycling – running.
More than a year of hard training for a few hours of intense physical and mental stress. Last Sunday, I faced one of the biggest athletic challenges of my life so far. I completed my first triathlon. What experiences I have made and which lessons I have learned for the next time? You will read about that now!
If you want to know more about my preparation for the triathlon, then you should read the following blogpost: #RoadTo: Triathlon – The Beginning.
Swimming: 750m (instead of 1500m as the water was too cold).
These distances had to be completed for the triathlon last Sunday in Klosterneuburg!
Before the triathlon
Usually, I’m not really nervous before any event. This time, however, it was different. On Thursday before the event, the water temperature was at 11.3°, so swimming was out of the question. Some swimming competitions were canceled on Friday because the water was too cold. For my competition, it was not known until Sunday if we would even swim at all.
Since I have no wetsuit, I borrowed a short wetsuit from a friend. A test swim 2 days before the event at about 16° water temperature showed, that it would not be pleasant, but I would be able to complete 1.5 km of swimming with the short wetsuit.
However, since the water temperature on the day of the triathlon was 13.7°, I decided to borrow a long wetsuit on site. That was definitely the right decision, as swimming was much more enjoyable that way.
Due to the low water temperature, the swimming distance was also reduced from 1.5km to only 750m.
It was also the first time that I tackled an athletic challenge and did not feel sufficiently prepared for. But I think that even more than a year of training cannot prepare one for the actual competition. You have to experience a triathlon once as an athlete and next time I can certainly go to the starting line with more confidence.
After a short competition meeting where the latest changes were announced, we started at 14:00 directly in the water. We had to swim one round of 750m. At the start line, I was not nervous at all and we started very fast.
Pushed by the athletes around me, I kept a faster pace than I had planned. Due to the shorter distance, this was not a problem for me however. Because of the high-quality wetsuit, the cold water did not bother me at all. On the contrary, I was even pretty warm.
Nevertheless, swimming was not necessarily the best experience of the triathlon. The field was, as expected, very close and collisions with other athletes were inevitable. Arms on the back of the head and feet in the side and near the face were always present. Because of that, it was difficult for me to maintain my rhythm.
Nevertheless, I was surprisingly good at swimming and felt like I left the water approximately in the middle of the field. Looking back, swimming was probably my strongest discipline.
The way to the transition zone and the getting out of the wetsuit went pretty smooth. However, I had some problems putting my shirt on for cycling. I already wore my pants beneath the wetsuit and next time, I’ll probably already wear the shirt as well.
In the transition zone, I took some time because I did not want to overlook anything. I did not opt for a flying start because I hardly had time to practice it. After many other athletes failed this start, this was definitely the right decision.
I found my rhythm pretty fast and felt good right from the start. We had to complete 4 laps of 10 km, in the middle of each lap, just before the turning point, there was a short but intense climb.
However, while cycling, I realized that this was my weakest discipline. It was noticeable that I spent the least amount of time during my training on my bike, something I would definitely like to catch up with in the future!
The entry into the transition zone and changing to my running shoes went smoothly. After less than a kilometer, however, I felt both thighs cramp and my muscles hardened.
However, since I wanted to finish the triathlon no matter what, it was clear to me that the upcoming 9 km would be a tough fight. Often I had to slow my pace to recover my legs from the cramps, but I fought on kilometer after kilometer.
Basically, I was able to keep a pretty good pace, which unfortunately was slowed by the parts I had to walk and massage my legs. Again, there were 4 laps, this time to 2.5 km each, to complete.
What felt like an eternity later, I was able to see the finish line and, squeezing everything out of my legs, fought my way past 2 athletes during the last 500m.
I finished my first triathlon with a time of 02:44. My goal was to finish the triathlon in less than 3 hours, so that’s a result I’m very happy with!
Completely exhausted but still very happy with the result, I finished this event with an excellent massage and a hot tub.
Overall, I was well prepared for this athletic challenge. In retrospect, I should have spent more time on my bike and also on the brick training for cycling/running.
Also, in the future I will integrate more open water swimming into my training as this is a completely different experience compared to swimming in the pool.
What I’ve noticed, compared to other sports events I have participated in, is the high level of the other athletes.
I could hardly see untrained or ill-prepared participants. Most of them knew what they were doing and you could see their long and intense preparation for the triathlon. Presumably, this is also related to the fact that you don’t do a triathlon on a whim. This requires a lot of preparation and time-consuming training.
Is it over? Was that my last triathlon? I do not think so. I really enjoyed the training for the triathlon and I plan to continue to integrate it into my training schedule.
My goal was actually to finish a half-distance triathlon. A goal that I still want to pursue, but on a longer time horizon than originally planned. My weight training still has a high priority for me, which is why I only have limited time resources for my triathlon training. For this reason, I will need a lot of time until I’m ready to tackle the next distance in triathlon.
In the meantime, however, I have planned to continue training and to finish more triathlons of the Olympic distance. In any case, I still have a lot of potential for this distance. And I want to use this potential!
Have you ever participated in a triathlon? What experiences have you made?
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