Greetings all, and welcome to the wonderful world of….me! This week, Brian invited me to share some of my tri-related emabarassing moments and lessons learned with NewToTri readers, of which I have plenty 🙂
Following on from last week’s introduction, you’ll be forgiven for thinking i’m accident prone or just unlucky. I’m also directionally challenged.
Shortly after my first triathlon at Windsor, it was time to gear up and race in the local inaugural Lakeside Triathlon. I’d trained hard and prepared for this race and was raring to go. The swim went well, and I had a pb (not hard when it’s only your second race) and it was time to head out on the bike. Being local to the area and knowing it well, I could feel another pb on the cards. That was until I got lost. Kind of. The thing is, while I was confident in my ability and knew the area, I didn’t actually check out the course beforehand. Big mistake! About halfway through the first lap of the bike course I came to a roundabout, not sure whether to go left or straight ahead. Common sense would dictate you should go straight ahead unless there is a sign or marshall to direct you otherwise, but then I spotted a cyclist ahead up the road on the left so decided that was the way to go. After about 10 minutes of riding, I got close enough to see the that the cyclist ahead had a colourful cycling top on but no race number. And it then dawned on me that I hadn’t seen another cyclist, marshall or sign in that time. Ooops! I sheepishly retraced my route back to the roundabout and got myself back on the course. The rest of the lap went well, as did the second and I finished my second tri a bit embarassed but otherwise happy. I also learned an important lesson that day. While the swim course is clearly marked and has lots of volunteers in kayaks to guide the stragglers, and the run course is lined with spectators and volunteers, the bike course should never be left to chance as you can often find long unmarked and unmarshalled stretches that can confuse people like me. Race organisers always put maps of the course online before race day, and if you don’t want to find yourself in my situation – study them carefully!
My next race was at Dorney Lake in Eton a few weeks later and this time nothing was left to chance. But I still got lost. Not during the race, as that would have been impossible even for me, but afterwards on the way to the car. My friends took my gear and bags and headed to the cars, and I followed with my bike. I stopped to chat to another competitor then headed to find my wagon. Thing is, it wasn’t a proper car park but more of a field. With very few trees/ bushes/ reference points. I headed to where I thought we were parked and started walking around looking for my car and friends. At this point they could see me, a bit light-headed and confused and walking around in circles, and found it rather entertaining to observe. 10 minutes later, hungry, frustrated and on the verge of a Basil Fawlty-esque breakdown, I was rescued by one of my friends who stopped laughing long enough to point out that i’d been less than 20 feet away from my car the whole time. Charming! If there is a lesson to be learned from this episode, it’s to buy a brightly coloured car. A yellow one, that way you’ll still be able to find it in a big field after a tough race.
My next race was the London Triathlon a few weeks later and I was ready. I’d put the training in, checked my bike and gear, checked the course maps and made sure I was rested and good to go. I told everyone that I felt great and the big crowds would witness my best race yet. At least that was the plan, but as John Steinbeck once wrote “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. So, the swim went well and now we’re on to the bike. Everything’s going great with lots of support on the course, and i’m approaching the main spectator area. I hear my fan club cheering for me, and subconcsiously decided that this would be a great time for a spot of public embarassment. I braked gently, raised myself out of the saddle and started showboating a little. I say a little, because no sooner had I started than I clipped the kerb and flipped over the handlebars while still clipped into my pedals. Oh dear! Luckily, my only injury was a bruised ego and a torn tri suit (which is just a good excuse to buy a new one!) and the spectators got a giggle out of it too. I got a big cheer from the crowd as I passed them on the second lap (I wonder why?!) and finished the race bruised but smiling.
The thing I love about triathlon is that everyone has a story to tell; successes, obstacles overcome and lessons learned but also things that you’d only ever admit to a fellow triathlete. And there are no taboo subjects. Like peeing in public. In no other sport would you hear of an athlete urinating mid-play. You’d never hear of a footballer doing it, but if you mention to a fellow triathlete that you got caught short and had a wee on the bike or run they’d most probably nod and smile before telling you the last time it happened to them. It seems to happen a lot to endurance athletes, so much so that I was warned early on to be on the look out for fellow competitors coasting along with one leg of the tri-suit hitched up higher than the other! We are a funny old bunch, us triathletes. Things that would normally be regarded as a cringeworthy embarassment and never to be revealed in public, proudly become the latest topic of conversation after training, with the most outrageous or funniest stories gaining the most bragging rights.
So, guys and girls you’ve read about my triathlon-related “moments” now it’s your turn. Don’t be shy!