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  • Writer's pictureSusie Chan

A Trio of Triathlons

A few months back before the summer came and went, I got offered a place in a sprint triathlon by my dear friend, sports journalist pal Rahlou. The all Women’s Shock Absorber Triathlon. Running? No problem. Biking can’t be that hard can it? (foolish with hindsight) The only snag was it was hosted at Dorney lake and I have a terrible fear of the open water. Perhaps it was time to step out of my comfort zone. It was time to face swim my fear!

Step in one of the most amazing and competent swimmers I know, Charlotte Hanson.

Charlotte is a GB age Group Triathlete and ex-GB water Polo Player. She can be found at the front of the triathlon pack in the open water. She offered to help me, which was a very generous thing to do. I went open water swimming once with Charlotte a few months back to check I still hated it. It ended about 35 meters into the lake with me hanging off her neck internalising a panic attack.

We hit the pool. We went to the lake. She put me through my paces and I swam more in 6 weeks than I had done in the last 20 years of my life combined. The improvement was satisfying quick and the panic reduced with each lake swim. Not forgetting there are 3 disciplines to triathlon, we did a bit of cycling up and down hills and run speed sessions too.

Human Race Shock Absorber Triathlon – Sprint 400m swim, 21K bike, 5K run. (8.20/43.31/20.31 – 1:14.46)

Meeting up with Rhalou to race is brilliant. She is so funny, calm and laid back about everything it helps the nerves. Triathlon requires an immense amount of faffing/kit/prep, Rhalou had done virtually none and was not bothered in the slightest. She just turns up and goes. Dorney is perfect for triathlon, pancake flat, nice clean lake, and all contained in one spot. Thousands of women were at the event which offered an array of distances to have a go at. Getting into the water seemed the worst bit, but a very nice compare doing the race briefing, plus female camaraderie helped competitors relax. Then the start Klaxon went off and it was every woman for herself around the course. My strategy was to stay the hell out of the way of all the kicking and not knacker myself. The swim went according to plan. Hugely relieved, the bike was next and surprisingly hard. The wind was directly in the faces of the cyclists making one half of the loop tough and the other half loop easy.

Onto the run. The plan here was to run like it was the last 5K of my life leaving nothing in the tank, here I managed to made up quite a few places. The crowd support was just fantastic, cheered on by Rhalou and boyfriend Shaun, I crossed the line 7th place absolutely elated.

A great day, making triathlon feel very accessible.

Hever Castle Triathlon – Olympic 1500m swim 40K bike, 10K run. (33.09/1:29.07/43.29 – 2:51.05)

Shortly after Dorney post race euphoria mixed with watching some friends be utterly inspiring and fabulous in Ironman events, I entered Ironman UK. I realise now this was perhaps a little rash and ambitious. My attempt at an Olympic triathlon only acted as a very sobering realisation that there is a lot of work to be done.

The swimming was improving, however the main part of any triathlon is riding a bike. Riding a bike well requires dedication. Not to mention there is a dizzying array of kit and bike stuff that can totally bamboozle a bike pleb like me.

Another superb setting at Hever Castle, the sun shone and once again the operation was very slick. It’s easy to see why triathlons are expensive with the amount of organisation involved. This one had a real quality feel to it and sense of event with 3000 triathletes partaking. We set off in waves. Once again daunted by the swim which took us into a lake and up a river, it turned out to be the most enjoyable part. The bike however was terrible for me. I nearly fell off twice, discovered a real fear of cycling fast down hills, was rubbish cycling up them, dropped a water bottle so it got wedged into my pedals and the mechanism, and got tired and wanted to get off. Thankful to be off it, the run strategy was the same, run hard, until you have nothing left.

Oh my, the run really hurt. An excruciating 10k in the sun, only made slightly better by the immense support once again. The finish was decked out with huge cheering crowds. I finished in 2hrs 51 minutes, 44th lady. It was tough.

Hunstman Triathlon – 750m Swim, 20K bike, 5K run (16.47/45.06/22.27 – 1:26.52)

Admittedly open water swimming in mid October is not very alluring, however this was the inaugural event by Welsh Company Always Aim High and I was kindly offered a place. It was hard to resist one final triathlon to close the season. 350 hardy triathletes descended into the peaceful Hawley Lake setting to do battle around the trails and roads. Feeling a bit of a dab hand at swimming now and not having any real expectations it felt very relaxed at the start. Getting into the lake was akin to an ice bath, even though it was technically warmer than the outside temperature at 13 degrees. Everyone started at once at the klaxon. After getting repeatedly kicked and hit, (a pretty standard swim experience) for the first time ever I stood my ground and stuck to my swim line. Exiting the water it must have been going OK as I’m normally greeted with rows of empty bike racks. A bun fight with removing my wetsuit and I was out on the bike determined to try hard at this bit. It all seemed to be going ok, until 1 mile from the end of the cycle my back wheel deflated with a puncture. Panicking I decided to keep cycling to the transition on a flat wheel. On the run the racer in me kicked in and every time there was a runner in front of me I tried my hardest to overtake, crossing the finish line 2nd lady!

Another superbly organised event, it was a real boost to see training friends from Military Fitness 4 U, and my boyfriend marshalling.

Triathlon has been such fun, and really enjoyable training around the run events. Here begins the long road to go to get Ironman fit!

Huge thanks to Rhalou, Military Fitness 4 U and Always Aim High for the race entry. Shaun for accompanying me to and in events, and a special thanks to Charlotte Hanson who is my coach, mentor, friend and triathlon inspiration.

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