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A beginner’s guide

by on May.13, 2010, under rambling, Triathlon

avatarSo you’re thinking about doing triathlon.

Maybe you’re a runner, bored of marathons, or a swimmer who fancies doing it in a wetsuit —legally— for a change. Maybe you’re a cyclist and the challenge of PBP or L’Etape isn’t doing it for you any more.

Maybe you’re having a midlife crisis, or looked in the mirror one day and realised that the sleek, youthful figure maintained by partying and late nights is starting to sag around the edges.

Maybe it’s a dare. Maybe it just seemed like a good idea at the time.

Whatever your reasons for taking up multisport, there are a few things you should know before it’s too late. By ‘too late’ I mean preferably before you have pointed your browser at EntryCentral and estimated your 400m swim time for your first novice race, but definitely before you have applied for your race licence from your applicable home nation association.

I’ve been at this for four years now. That’s long enough to have become resigned to it without being so long that I can’t remember there was ever any other way: trust me. I know these things.

  1. Say goodbye to your disposable income

    If you take up this sport seriously, even if you confine yourself to pool-based sprints (and Huntly), you will need a suit, shoes for running, shoes for cycling, a helmet, a bike and various ancillary gubbins including goggles, training devices (kickboard, pull-buoy), number belt, elastic laces… It all adds up. Races cost between £25 and £40, depending on what goodies and facilities the organisers have laid on. Then there’s travelling to races, particularly if you choose to race abroad.

    ObsessionIf you decide to extend yourself to open water and longer distances —and you will— then you will need a wetsuit, anti-chafing creams, specialist sunblock etc etc. Oh, and the race prices go up as well. Entry into the branded races can set you back more than a hundred quid.

    This expenditure assumes that you are not, as in fact most triathletes are, a gadget whore. If you happen to like toys, and any excuse for buying new kit is to be pounced upon like a kitty with a catnip mouse, then the list is almost endless. I have objects in my training kit that wouldn’t look out of place in a BDSM fetish club.

    Fist gloves, anyone?

  2. Say goodbye to your social life

    If you are the sort of person who likes to go out with his or her workmates for a pint on a Friday night, and maybe on a Wednesday; and there’s always curry nights, don’t forget Orange Wednesdays at the movies… forget triathlon. Triathlon means not training for one sport but training for three, so if you currently run for an hour three times a week, or go to four hour-long classes at the gym, assume you’ll end up trebling it.

    Twelve hours of training a week doesn’t leave much room for drinkies and dinner parties.

    Four hours a week

    Yeah. It's the thought that counts.

    There are training programmes out there that claim to get you race fit in four hours a week and if the only race you ever plan on doing is the New Year’s Day, just the once, just for a bet, and all you want to do is finish, then the title probably isn’t too misleading.

    In fact, the New Year’s Day is probably the best race to go for if you only want to do the one. It’s a miserable bloody experience, and should put you off. If it doesn’t put you off, and you get to the end thinking that March sounds like a good time to start your racing season, then you’re exactly the sort of person who needs to pay close attention to every point on this list.

  3. It will hurt

    At my last race I was standing at poolside waiting for the previous heat to finish. It was my second race of the year. Standing next to me was a chap who had been in my lane at the previous race as well. We’d been chatting at that one, and I’d told him that I wasn’t looking for a great performance because I’d been injured and had only been on the bike twice and running three times in the last couple of months or so, all in the last ten days. This time he asked me how I got on. “It was pretty rubbish,” I told him, “But I was expecting that. Looks like I’ve got a stress fracture or something this time.”

    Bike crash

    The face as the 5th ablative braking surface

    He grinned at me. “But you’re racing anyway?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Sounds like a typical triathlete to me. Shouldn’t be racing, doing it anyway.”

    That’s triathlon. Triathlon is topped only by serious adventure racing and ultra-endurance in the “doing it anyway” stakes. A friend of mine wrote something that sums it up eloquently, after successfully completing IronMan Switzerland:

    When it’s cold, and wet, and dark, and windy out, and you still go and train. When work is unbearable and after it’s finished you just want to go to bed, you still go out and train. When someone is having a drink, you say great, I’ll come along later after I’ve trained. When it’s early and the alarm goes at the weekend, and other people are staying in bed, and you’re flying later that day, you get up and train. When you’re exhausted because you’ve been away all weekend, or haven’t slept enough, or ate enough, or have a cold, you go out and train. And no, you don’t “just this once” skip it. You deal with the conflicts with work, and home, and socialising, and family, and everything else that goes with daily life. And you make room to train. How much you give in that year running up to the event is what determines what you get back at the end.

    This is more true for long-distances than short ones, but the last sentence holds true for all events: how much you give in the time running up to the event is what determines what you get back at the end. Triathlon isn’t a fun run. Triathlon isn’t enjoyable if you haven’t put in the work. So if you’re not going to put in the work there’s no point in doing it.

    Add the following to your list of expenses: physiotherapy and sports massage.

  4. People will assume you are some sort of superbeing

    Now don’t get me wrong: for plenty of people this might seem to be a plus point. Some athletes, I’m sure, get a kick out of folk in the staff canteen giving them kudos and respect for running, swimming and biking 3 – 4 times a week (each) and getting out of bed at 5am every few Sundays to spend between 1 and 3 hours beasting themselves under the critical gaze of the race marshals. Personally I get a little tired of the “You must be so fit!” comments. This is mostly because it is, almost without fail, phrased exactly like that. “You must be so fit!”

    No. Rich Roll is fit. Catriona Morrison is fit. I’m a woman in her mid-thirties with early-onset arthritis and a massive case of Lara Croft envy who likes the excuse for buying natty bike gear.

    On the other hand, short of an unlikely encounter with a radioactive spider, a black ops super-soldier project, a childhood spent under the tutelage of a parkour guru or all of the above, it’s pretty much the closest you’re likely to get to being a superhero, funny-coloured lycra suits and everything.

  5. We had fun at the time

And that last point is pretty much the one that makes the rest worthwhile.

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Proper scary

by on May.09, 2010, under Miscellany, rambling

avatarI watch horror movies when I get a chance — which isn’t often, as Frood isn’t a big horror film fan.

I have yet to see one that is really all that scary, although, to be fair, there is a difference between horror and fear. The gore-fests of the Saw and Hostel franchises aren’t scary. They serve as a form of titillation; provoking, if anything, disgusted fascination rather than fear.

I haven’t seen many things that have frightened me, probably because enough weird, scary stuff goes on in my head and it would be hard for a film or TV show to compete. Dead Calm bothered me so much I couldn’t watch it, because I practically grew up on a boat and it hit some buttons. For similar reasons I found Jaws pretty scary when I first saw it as a kid. (I watched Evil Dead not long after that and thought it was hilarious, for the sake of comparison.)

Estara posted about Glove and reminded me that one of the few films that has scared me is Yellow Submarine, in which the blue-painted forces of Greyface take on the chaotically-psychedelic army of creativity.

I instinctively recognised a depiction of the Introduction of Negativism when I saw one, and those things scared the crap out of me.

Of course, the Charley Says public information films they used to show when I was young scared the bejeezus out of me as well. It was the cat, with his alien gibberish that the boy could nevertheless understand, and the way the boy himself spoke like a drone who had already fallen prey to his alien kitteh overlords and was no more than a mindless mouthpiece for their propaganda and fear-mongering.

Yeah. I was a strange child.

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