After receiving confirmation in the mail (totally unexpectedly, mind you) that I had “DEFINITELY WON” lots of money, I took the plunge and quit my job.
I told my boss where to stick it and decided to dedicate a small portion of my first day of freedom to a trial triathlon.
What is a trial triathlon? Well of course, it’s the swim-bike-run mash-up malarkey I’d been planning on doing prior to my next tri, to make sure I have my transitions figured out and that I can actually survive something close to the distances I need to be able to do.
The point is not to recreate a triathlon: it’s not easy to recreate a race. There are little obstacles, such as having to swim in the pool rather than the ocean because I have no way of measuring a course in the open sea. And I have to bike around with a backpack full of my swimming gear and running stuff, because I can’t just make a transition area somewhere and abandon all my precious tri tools.
There are also big obstacles, like not being able to find a thousand other people to join in and ‘trial tri’ alongside me.
But the point is to get a bit of confidence up, see how much it hurts to run after a swim and a bike. Make sure I am not surprised when my hips try to seize up on race day. Figure out how much water I’ll need to take with me.
My aim with my trial tri was simply to create a challenge that came close to what I’ll face at Straddie.
The upcoming Straddie Salute is more than double the distance of the Bribie Tri I completed back in February, so the fact that I survived at Bribie doesn’t automatically mean I’ll survive at Straddie. I knew a mock session would be crucial to getting the confidence to go into the race without being paralysed by fear of the unknown.
But I didn’t really want to do the mock run at all. I’d been waiting patiently to feel ready to tackle the distances, but I am not sure that day is ever going to happen. I felt nervous even planning it, and considered the possibility that perhaps it would be better not to know how hard these distances are going to feel.
To make it worse, I decided that a trial tri should be done in the middle of the day, as the Straddie race kicks off at 10.15am so it will be hot. I’ve come to realise that the day’s temperature makes a big difference to my performance (cold=better, hot=worse) so I wanted to practice in the heat of the day to see how that affected me. But again, I didn’t really want to practice it at all.
HOWEVER. When I received the anonymous notification hand-delivered by the postman (pictured above) that I was a confirmed winner of lots of money, I knew it was a sign from the Triathlon Gods to quit working and start pursuing triathlon greatness.
It was like all my excuses for being slack had been taken away from me. So I had to harden up and go for it.
There’s a bit more biking in my trial triathlon than a real tri. That’s because in order to have a bike available to me straight after a swim, I need to have my bike at the pool waiting for me. So I start by biking down to the pool.
This means my trial tri would consist of a bike-swim-bike-run-bike. Phew.
I dressed myself in my beautiful new triathlon suit and cycling gear, packing my swimming gear and running shoes and hat into a backpack. I also packed an energy gel, as a mock tri seemed the ideal time to try another one of those out to see if they make me sick.
I cycled steadily to the gym, trying to take it easy and warm up slowly without overdoing it. I knew that the moment I felt tired on my run I’d blame it on the fact that I’d had to do two bike rides, so I needed to try and avoid having that as an excuse if possible. If I was going to be crap, I needed to know it was simply because I am actually a crap triathlete, no excuses.
Upon arrival at the gym, I took some time to set up my transition area as carefully as possible, taking a picture and even locking up my bike just to be on the safe side. Again, the aim was not to be as quick as possible, so it wasn’t worth having my bike stolen over.
I was quite nervous walking over to the pool. It didn’t help that there was literally nobody else swimming, anywhere. All three of the pools were empty and even though a pool is never totally quiet (the noise of the water seems to echo against all the walls) it was the quietest conditions I’d ever swum in.
I felt a bit sick… and a bit like I should just pull out.
Fine, I told myself. Just do a swim and then bike home, you great big wimp.
Feeling immediately better, I adjusted my goggles and ear plugs and jumped into my favourite lane to start swimming. And at about the 400 metre mark I decided I could do the trial tri after all.
The swim went well, being fairly easy and uneventful in an empty pool with no waves or sharks or jellyfish or people kicking me in the face. I am still a very slow swimmer (even though I knocked about a minute off my 1km time when I learned how to swim better recently) but the swimming portion of any triathlon is the smallest portion, so even taking twice as long as the fastest swimmer only sets me back about 10 minutes. Hopefully I can make up those 10 minutes with a strong bike ride and run.
I climbed out of the pool but didn’t run to my transition spot; I just walked briskly shaking off the water and readying myself for the next step. I hoped this meant I looked less crazy as I scrambled around getting changed near the front gate. I stuffed my goggles, swimming cap and ear plugs into my backpack and put on my cycling helmet, glasses and shoes. I unlocked the bike and set off for a quick ride.
My cycling route was to be the route of my 14km run, because I wanted to try to avoid having to stop at lots of traffic lights and the best non-stop route I knew of from the gym was my running route. Plus, it gave me the opportunity to triple-check the distance of my 14km run. I feel like the cycling leg of my triathlon is my strongest, so probably the least worrisome part. At Straddie the bike leg is 20km, but my massive ego assured me that a 14km trial would do just fine.
I set off hard and fast, wanting to make the most of the shorter route to ensure the running test would be as accurate as if I’d ridden the whole 20km. I was surprised there was so much traffic on the road, although it wouldn’t have been an issue except I wanted to try to have a drink on the bike. I’d never attempted to drink whilst moving before.
There was a strong headwind up to the turnaround point, making me more nervous about attempting a drink. I was able to take on the energy gel I’d stashed in the bento box of my bike, but decided to wait until after the turnaround for water.
I got to the turnaround and was pleased to find it was 7.1km from where I’d started (so I didn’t need to retract my claims at having run 14km)
It was time to drink. I tried to reach down to grab my water bottle. My legs were clearly in the way. I tried to reach inside my knees but the best option was to stop pedaling and concentrate on reaching down, so that’s what I did. I was able to get the bottle out of the cage, but then I had to pedal a bit to maintain speed and momentum, which was tricky to do one-handed. So I rested my palm on the handlebar while I held the bottle.
Eventually I was able to squirt some water in my mouth, but not much. I still had to look where I was going and maintain a straight line, so as not to scare any drivers coming up behind me who might be worried about a swerving bike rider, which meant that I couldn’t tip my head up.
So drinking on the bike is surprising complicated. I stupidly tried to push the mouthpiece closed with my teeth after I’d finished squirting, at which point I nearly fell of the bike entirely. Why did I need to close it? I didn’t. So much to learn.
I arrived back at the gym feeling marginally hydrated and energised, ready to do the run. I racked my bike, locking it back up and re-packing my backpack with cycling gear. After slipping my running shoes on (I’ve left the elastic laces in them since the last tri) I jumped onto the treadmill to commence my short run.
Almost immediately I got a phone call that I simply had to take. Obviously in my triathlon I wont have my phone with me, but in the trial tri I couldn’t just turn off my obligations and tell people I was doing some training. Plus, it could have been the mysterious person who wished to bestow me with my trillions of dollars.
I had to walk a few hundred metres. So I guess that made the run easier – it probably loosened my legs up after the ride.
So I probably cheated.
Nevertheless, eventually I was able to do a bit of a run and I counted it as a success. I didn’t run fast because I needed to make sure I could still pedal home afterwards, so it was probably my first ever jog. Basically, I cheated and I was slow. But I was also exhausted and pleased with myself.
So the trial tri was something of a success. I thought I’d feel more confident afterwards than I do – I can’t help but focus on all the stuff I did badly and slowly. Plus I am convinced that the sea is going to be choppy and horrible, the roads will be lumpy, bumpy and hilly, and the run will be uphill, up steps and up soft sand. So basically none of the easy stuff I have done is preparation for that.
But as with any training, I can only do the best I can do. As far as mash-ups go, I have done worse. I need to do a few more sessions of hilly bike rides and swimming in the sea if I want to feel more confident. Or maybe I just need to accept that I wont feel confident before the race, and I’ll just have to do it anyway.
Before I sign off – I hate to end a positive experience on a sad note, but I felt that I should update you on my massive winnings. It seems that, although I’ve won at least 726 million dollars, the organiser of the cash has just had a death in his family. You can send your messages of condolences to Prince of Nigeria, PO Box 1, Nigeria. So anyway, I need to send him a few dollars to help him unlock the funds I’ve won. I will keep you updated when I get my winnings.
In the meantime, for those who are interested I’ve genuinely got a new job which I’ll be starting on 9th May. I’d like to say it involves being a professional crap triathlete, but unfortunately that doesn’t pay very well and I have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle – a lifestyle of $350 race entry fees, endless energy gels and expensive lycra suits.