So now that we’ve pretty much established what the hell I got myself into, let’s have a look a how steep the learning curve is. Triathlon ain’t easy. While you don’t have to master all three disciplines, you need to at least be adequately competent in all three of them to make it to the finish. And while trying to be adequately competent, you’ll learn some lessons, sometimes painful, but mostly embarrassing!
All of us go through some embarrassing moments in our triathlon careers. The most common is, of course, the clipless fall. This happens when you decide to switch from your platform pedals and trainers to full-on clipless pedals and dedicated bike shoes. What normally happens is on their first ride with said pedals, the triathlete will forget they are using said pedals and thus forget to unclip when approaching a stop-light. What happens next is the bike comes to a complete stop, triathlete realizes his foot is still stuck to the pedals and panics, then in seemingly slow motion, triathlete and bike will keel over and fall. Not so embarrassing when out solo, very embarrassing when in a group ride.
I’ve had my share of those, the most embarrassing one being the time I first joined the cycling club on a group ride. Had I been a newbie, it wouldn’t have been as embarrassing, but having ridden clipless for a while, it was a huge blow to my ego, especially since I was trying to make an impression on these club cyclists!
My most embarassing triathlon moment also had something to do with clipless pedals, though I didn’t have a fall. It was during my first ever sprint triathlon. Having never swum competitively before, I was almost dead last out of the water and making up good time on the bike. Towards the end of the 20k bike leg, as I was approaching transition, I had this brilliant idea: let’s save some time and take the shoes off on the bike and do a flying dismount, just like the pros! What seemed like a good idea at the time was thwarted by bad execution. Really bad execution.
I was about 200m from the dismount line and started taking off my left shoe. It wasn’t a tri specific cycling shoe, so I had to undo three velcro straps. No problem, I can do this, I thought. What I didn’t know was that once I had taken off the shoe, I was supposed to then step on it so it doesn’t dangle off the bottom of the pedal. Instead I put my foot on the underside of the pedal and continued to pedal, with the dangling shoe hitting the ground on every downstroke!
Now this almost threw me off the bike! With about 100m left to go to the dismount line, I was desperately trying to get the shoe back oder my foot but failed miserably. Forget about the right shoe for now, I was losing control of the bike and was running out of space! Next thing I know, I hit the dismount line and had to get off.
Now here is where it gets really embarrassing: as I stop to dismount, the left shoe hits the ground so hard it pops off the pedal and flies backwards. So here I was, one shoe on, one shoe off back behind the dismount line, trying to get off the bike. I then had to backtrack to retrieve the wayward shoe and then hobble into transition, with one shoe on, one shoe in my left hand and pushing the bike with my right hand. It’s not easy trying to walk with one foot bare and the other in cleats. It was quite a sight and I tried my hardest to drown out the sound of laughter all around me. I’m just glad no one took a picture!
Lesson learned. Don’t try to be too clever, especially in your first triathlon. Instead of looking like a pro, I looked like a fool! After that incident, I bought a single strap tri cycling shoe and practiced, practiced, practiced. I have to say that after all this time, I’ve mastered the art of the flying dismount
I’ve got plenty more embarrassing stories that would make this post endless but this one takes the cake. What’s yours? Post it in the comments below and let’s all have a good laugh.