Tri Fun

June 1, 2012

Me completing my first triathlon in 2009

On Monday I completed the second triathlon of my life. In both cases they have been “mini” women-only triathlons. This one, Rudersdal Kvindetri, was organised by my local Triathlon Club SigmaTri so I was on home ground for the 225 m swimming (in a pool), 18 km cycling and 3 km running. If you’d like an idea of what such an event looks like, the club made this great video to promote this year’s event.

A few weeks ago I was at a lecture by Torbjørn Sinballe (former World Champion in long distance triathlon, the only Dane to have reached the podium in the Hawaii Ironman, and even more significantly, Coach for my recent Friday morning swimming classes – arguably the most challenging of all his achievements!). Torbjørn said that one of the things he loved most about triathlon is its inclusiveness – and that the last ones over the finish line are celebrated just as much as the ones who come first. Presumably he has never participated in a women’s only event, and since I have only ever participated in women’s only events I’m making an assumption here, but I’d bet you that these kind of “mini” women-only triathlons exemplify this in the extreme! The participants come in all shapes, sizes and fitness levels, but the one thing they have in common is that they are really having great time.

One of the fun things about triathlons is that not only do you have to do the sporty bit of it, but you have to manage the logistics of having to switch from one to the other. At this triathlon a section of the local sports field was marked off as the “transition zone” (as I believe it is called!). There were lines of bike racks set up and the idea was that you put your bike in the rack and place all your stuff next to it, ideally in some kind of order so that it is easy to do the transition as quickly as possible. Participants were set off in heats starting every 10 minutes from 10 am until 11:40 am or so, so there were people running in and out of the zone all the time at different stages in the race. I started at 10:30 so had a good chance to hang out in the “zone” both before and after and observe how people managed the logistics.

A surprising number of women had proper tri-suits on. Tri-suits are either one-piece or top/shorts combinations that you can wear for the whole thing. I don’t have one, though I do have some tri-shorts, so I wore those with my sports bra for the swimming, as I didn’t fancy having to struggle into my bra when I dripping wet! I then had a shirt ready that I could just shove on top before the cycling. Others resolved that issue by swimming with their bra on under their swimsuit and either then changed or just shoved on shorts and top over the swimsuit. Not everyone was so well prepared though and I did actually witness a rather well endowed woman strip the whole lot off, thoroughly dry herself and then get dressed! This is in the middle of the sports field with people milling all around – welcome to Denmark! At the other end of the spectrum I saw one woman wearing a wetsuit for the swimming. Just to get this clear – we swam 225 m (9 lengths) in an indoor swimming pool. A wetsuit does seem more than a little extreme. We concluded that she must be using it to practice her transitions for a more serious triathlon. I seriously hope so!

As we were swimming in a pool we had to share lanes – 4 to a lane. This meant that we had to negotiate with each other over the order we would swim in. I suspect that if it was a male-triathlon there would be quite a competitive edge to the negotiation process, but when we are talking women the conversation goes “oh, I’m not very good”, “oh I’m not very good either” and thereafter a discussion about how bad each of our not very goods actually is! In the case of my lane we apparently managed this process quite well because we ended up in the appropriate order of our actual speed. Though the fastest one who claimed she wasn’t very good actually lapped two of us, so I think she was actually a bit over-modest! Unlike the last time I did such a triathlon (in 2009 I believe) I wasn’t last out the pool for my heat this time! Only something like 5th last! I decided just to go for breast-stroke as I knew my crawl would collapse in the heat of the moment and I was happy with that. At least I had no panic attacks which was the primary goal.

The range of bikes was just as varied as the swimming gear! Everything from top-end racers to everyday bikes with bag racks, baskets, child seats etc. We spotted one woman on her way out of the zone with a huge carpet bag on her bike bag rack. I’m not sure if she had her energy supplies with her (and was expecting to be out on the route for a while) or whether she suspected the rest of us were going to nick her gear if she left it behind.

I definitely reaped the benefits of my new racer and despite being one of the last out of the pool I was overtaking people throughout the cycling (and wasn’t overtaken at all). Wow, I love my bike! I actually finished the cycling faster than I was expecting. I was obviously also faster than my family were expecting because when I got back to the zone I could see them over at the snack stall not paying any attention to me at all.

Running is of course a lot less “technical” so the differences were less obvious there. Though by that stage there were quite a lot of people walking, though most managed to pull a sprint out of the bag as they approached the finishing line. I managed a bit of overtaking here too. When I crossed the finish line I could see my family standing at the bike finish waiting for me to come in there – so much for moral support!

Honestly it was so much fun! If you’ve never tried it I would definitely recommend it. It certainly won’t be my last time!

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