Hello and welcome to LIFE OF TRI and blog one. I’m Andrew and have had a keen interest in Triathlon since 2011 and started training for my first event in 2013. Like many, I came late to Triathlon (my 30s) because I grew up playing football and rugby. For years, I thought I couldn’t run unless I had a ball at my feet or in my hands. Then my body (specifically my knee) starting saying ‘No More’ to the sudden change of direction that many sports required, and I started looking for something else.
During that time my partner, Rachel, was an active member of a very social running club in Cardiff, and we would often go to support club members taking part in a variety of activities/races. One of these trips was the first ever Ironman Wales event in 2011 where we had four club members participating. Now, anyone who has been to watch or compete at Ironman Wales will know that the atmosphere in Tenby that weekend is something special. Even writing this blog, I still get butterflies in my stomach thinking about the support and seeing the start of the race. Ironman Wales in 2011 was my first experience of watching triathlon and I must admit I understood very little of what was involved in order to compete.
That day was a rollercoaster of emotion; from the excitement of watching the start of the swim, utter sadness when one of our club members got timed out of the swim (he had only learnt to swim 10 months prior), desperation & relief as another club member just made the bike cut off time, to the pure joy watching participants cross the line as their Ironman journey was complete and their family members burst into tears.
I remember talking to Rachel about the desire to compete in an Ironman and I will never forget her saying “Don’t you want to try a shorter distance first?”. I just smiled and said “No, I want to know what it’s like to cross that line and hear the words “You are an Ironman”.
It took me 2 years to finally bite the bullet and sign up after talking to those who had competed in Ironman and getting family permission (this is important, as their support is a major part of your training). I have a Sport & Business degree so I have a solid foundation of exercise knowledge, but I knew nothing about how to train for triathlon other than the running. Cycling and swimming were alien to me and I knew even less about putting the activities together. I had 12 months to train for Ironman Wales 2014 and set about gathering as much information from friends, internet research and established coaches (Don Fink and the like). The next barrier was that I didn’t own a road bike! And didn’t have a clue what a ‘groupset’ was, let alone having experienced cleats before.
I will admit I am a bit of a fair weather rider and didn’t get on the bike until 6 months before the event in September but I spent the winter of 2013/14 running, swimming and doing spin classes so I had a good foundation. I also set up a turbo trainer in the shed where I spent many winter hours watching various training videos. When the weather improved I got out on the bike, cycling around South Wales and learning how to get the most out of the surroundings. It’s not until you have climbed a mountain that a car struggles to climb, that you realise the beauty of being out on a bike.
Admittedly I didn’t go straight into Ironman Wales as my first triathlon. I did do a couple of warm up events, including the Cotswolds 113 which led me into a false sense of security because it is pancake flat……. Ironman Wales’ elevation profile is like an ECG chart – Be Warned!
Then September 2014 came very quickly, months of long runs, long bikes and countless hours in the pool needed to come together to get me around one of the hardest Ironman courses in the world. Ironman Wales 2014 is regarded as one of the worst swimming conditions the event has encountered since its start in 2011. After the swim I saw people lying on the floor in the transition tent like there had been some form of natural disaster. I am glad to say I survived the swim, conquered a windy bike and hung on to complete a hilly marathon in 14hrs 44mins.
It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, especially since I was so naive to it all. However, I absolutely loved every minute of it, going back again in 2016 to achieve 13 hours 4mins. My triathlon journey is not complete, I plan to do many more Ironman events with plenty of shorter distance races in between.
If you are thinking about triathlon, I dare you to go and watch one of the larger events and not be tempted to sign up 24 hours later.
Please enjoy the website, I am by no means an author but plan to give an honest view of triathlon and everything associated with it.