Trials and Tribulations of Triathlon Training

Nothing beats a summer swim in the Thames! It’s clean, right?

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll remember that I am due to run my first Olympic distance triathlon in a few weeks’ time. You wouldn’t necessarily know that by the recent posts though. You may think all I have been doing is travelling and relaxing and really just chilling out. And you would be right.

As we returned to London after our most recent trip (to Slovakia for a wedding! So fun!), I had a bit of a meltdown. I suddenly realised The London Triathlon is three weeks away and I am not ready. I hadn’t done one open water swim yet, or actually even cycled the full 40km distance this season. Eeeeek.

I’ve been riding on my marathon coat tails a bit. I convinced myself that I have a great cardio base and that I can do anything. And, as I nursed my sore knee back to health, I let these delusions of grandeur carry me through the last month or so. But the reality of the situation suddenly hit me. I am really not ready.

I entertained dropping to the sprint distance or possibly even deferring my race altogether.

But that nonsense is all over. It’s go-time now. I’m putting the proverbial peddle to the metal and I’m going all-in on training.

That kicked off on Monday with a brick workout. 30km cycle, 5k run. That went down alright. Cycling 30km on a watt bike in the gym is just a snore. The best source of entertainment is watching people in their personal training sessions. Sometimes there’s super muscular guys lifting really heavy weights. That is slightly better entertainment.

Next up, I decided I’d stretch out some muscles in a yoga class, and then hit up the VeloPark at Olympic Park for a spin around their one-mile track. This would be a good chance to continue becoming friends with my cycling shoes and work on smooth gear changing on hills. Also, there was one other skill I needed to master before the race: drinking water while cycling. I know this sounds extremely dumb, but honestly, I was too scared to try. With the uncertainty of my new shoes and my general insecurity on my bike, I was afraid to take one hand off the handle bars for fear of losing balance and falling off. I have managed without drinking on all rides to date, but for the triathlon, this is a necessary skill. I needed to have this nailed.

I am pleased to report that I did it and am now comfortable with the art of drinking and cycling.

40K complete!

I treated my ride like a bit of a time-trial and managed 40km, the total distance of the cycling section of the triathlon, in 1 hour, 40 minutes. This is substantially slower than I thought I could do it, but the track is quite bendy and hilly, so with a flatter, straighter course, I should be able to shave off some time in the real thing.

Next up, I did my first open water swim at the Royal Victoria Docks. I have been swimming quite a bit over the last six months using it as a form of cross training during my marathon training so I was feeling reasonably confident.

However, I neglected to remember how different swimming in open water is compared to the pool. Also, I forgot how much I hate putting on a wetsuit. It is the actual worst.

Can I jump in this thing?

It took me a good 400 meters to get into it, but I managed the full 1.5K distance. It took me FOREVER. Close to an hour, but I was happy to do it…even if it did include a few full mouthfuls of the Thames. Bleh.

Graham and Kyle also joined me on my first open water swim of the season.

And finally, to cap if all off, I have been doing some strength training and spinning. On most days, I am doing at least two workouts, trying to get my body used to the longer efforts. I anticipate this triathlon will take me 3-4 hours, so I need to remind myself what that feels like.

In a few days’ time, I have gone from utter panic to feeling OK. Not ready, but better.

Of course, there’s a silver lining in all this. One of the excellent benefits of doing a new race is that regardless of how long it takes me to finish, it will be a personal best!


  1. Julia Mitchelmore July 6, 2017 / 5:15 pm

    Best of luck for the triathlon – I’ll be there doing it too! I did it last year and it’s lots of fun: just be prepared for a lot of people. The best thing about triathlon is that although it’s 3-4 hours of racing, it doesn’t feel that way because of switching between disciplines. Enjoy the event!

    • thoughtsandpavement July 6, 2017 / 5:41 pm

      Thank you! That’s a good point. Much different than a marathon. I look forward to a massive feast after and a well deserved glass of wine

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