“Hello, my name’s Chris and i’m a triathlete. I’ve been clean/ injury-free for 7 months now”
My friends and family think i’m a bit mad, but I think i’m a triathlete. Sure, waking up at 5 am for a run before work, then hitting the pool or gym in the evening might seem a bit excessive to some but i’m sure NewTo Tri readers will agree it’s just something we do. Why do we do it? More importantly, who am I and why do I do it?
As you may have guessed by now, my name’s Chris. I’m a 30 year old teacher and triathlete from Essex, and still relatively new to the sport, having completed my first sprint tri at Windsor in June 2010. Thing is, I only planned to finish the one race and then re-assess my goals and choose my next challenge. But crossing the finish line at the end of my first race, I was hooked. Big time! There was a huge sense of achievement which I got from finishing what i’d started, overcoming negative thoughts and tired muscles in the process and proving my doubters wrong. This was a beautiful feeling and, despite my aching body, I wanted it again. That’s the thing with tri. Very rarely do you meet someone who’s raced once and moved on. It’s more than addictive. It’s a lifestyle.
I was always overweight and unfit growing up. I was the lazy fat kid who sometimes rode a mountain bike. I hit 18, joined a gym and it all changed from there. Before long I was in the shape of my life and looking for a sport to get involved in. Played a bit of rugby at uni. Until I got bored. Then I took up mountain biking. I’d found my calling. But I still needed another activity to help me stay fit and healthy. And I hated the gym. So I took up Muay Thai Kickboxing. As you do. Then I got an office job, and found myself with less time to ride or train and became lazy. And fat. Now what to do?
I was in a job I hated, and fat again. Something had to be done. So I gave it all up to become a teacher. That’s the job sorted. How about the jelly belly? Well, the bike was calling my name but I needed a challenge. Something to motivate me. I searched the internet relentlessly but couldn’t find anything that tickled my fancy. Then one night, while out drinking with friends, conversation turned to duathlon. And my mouth opened, with words coming out. Before I knew it, i’d announced my intention to do a triathlon. There it was, my new challenge. Too late to back out now, it was out there.
So, triathlon it is then. All I knew was that it was like a duathlon, but with swimming added in. Time to hit the internet and triathlon magazines to start my research. I started training with a vengeance and went to as many races I could to watch the action and check out the expos and chat to people to get some knowledge. The best bit of advice I got? Join a club.
A few months later (i’m an expert procrastinator) I finally joined my local club, East London Triathletes. The training sessions, camaraderie, guidance and support were fantastic, and I was kicking myself for not joining sooner. Soon, training’s going really well, i’ve learned to swim, bought my first road bike and i’m thinking it’s time to pick my race. With the castle as a backdrop, the chance to swim in the Thames and a longer bike leg for the sprint tri (30k instead of 20), Windsor was a clear winner. That was that sorted. Now for the race…
With the first waves starting at 6am on race day, racking and registration takes place on the day before so a weekend in Windsor was on the cards. The Saturday went great. Registered and racked my bike, checked out the expo village, checked into the hotel and then went for dinner with my teammates.
And now the big day. Transition area set-up? check!, wetsuit on? check!, nerves and butterflies? check!
I survived the swim and didn’t drown, and headed out on the bike. And punctured about half way through. 15 minutes later, my cold hands have repaired the puncture and i’m back on my way. And no sooner have I headed out on the run that my calf started cramping. Big time! My body’s just one big ache by now and my mind is telling me to call it a day but I kept going. And spotting my cheerleader in the crowd gave me a second wind. The crowd were fantastic, people who have never met me before were cheering me on and encouraging me and this was a very welcome boost.
I finished, eventually, in a time that was unlikely to cause the Brownlees any concern, but was over the moon. I’d completed my first race and could now call myself a triathlete! Happy days indeed! I headed over to the transition area to grab my bits and then watch the pro race. But then another guy caught me on the leg with his bike and opened a rather pretty gash, so instead of the pros, i ended up watching the inside of the ambulance while I was patched up.
You’d think i’d make my excuses and bow out from tri after this race but far from it. As soon as I got home, I fired up the trusty laptop and entered a few more races, the next one being two weeks away.
It’s now 2012 and I have 9 completed races and 1 DNF (did not finish) under my belt and my journey is far from over. A fractured ankle and a ruptured achilles have slowed me down over the past 2 years but have done nothing to curb my enthusiasm or dampen my spirits. I’m still training hard, not only getting fitter and stronger but learning more about myself and growing as a person, always looking at ways to improve both physically and mentally.
I started off aiming to do a triathlon. 2 years later, I find myself on a journey of tri and self-discovery. Keener than ever and with Xterra/ Off Road, 70.3 and Ironman races on the to-do list, this is a journey that’s far from over. In fact, it’s only just begun.