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My first triathlon

Earlier this year, Havering Tri member, Paul Smailes completed his first ever triathlon - no mean achievement given his fear of water - here is his story:

St Luke’s Hospice Tri 16th October. Sprint Tri 400m pool /20k Bike/ 5k run

My journey to being a triathlete kind of started 2 years ago when I met the guys and girls from Havering Tri. Prior to this I used to ride a big old bike quite a lot and do far too many running miles. Eventually I was persuaded to join the club and after winning swimming lessons at the awards night thought I’d have a go and see what all the excitement was about. This however, was an issue as the last time I tried to swim was 25 years ago!

Late January soon came along and I found myself doing widths with floats at Abbs Cross at the fantastic KAS (Kay's Adult Swim).

This was really hard and I still feared deep water and laying on my back. However I told everyone I'd planned to do the Barking and Dagenham Tri so I stared to really focus and listen to what I had to do.

Unfortunately the Dagenham Tri was cancelled!! (phew I thought). But then Tony Brooks told me about the St Luke’s one in Grays so there was no escape.

I’d got to a point where I managed to deal with deep water due to confidence and coaching from the swim club. I still could just mange a length front crawl but soon nailed 400m breaststroke. I worked out that the tri was now possible and was ready to give it a go.

So rain was forecast and it was cold. People were signing up, everyone looked like they knew what they were doing. With help from Tony I worked out where to put my bike and flapped around with all the gear I needed. My wife was also joining me, she is a good swimmer but only rode her bike a few times in the summer. Talking to fellow Havering Tri member, Antonio Baldoni, at the start helped too and he introduced me to Kerry Twinn, also from Havering Tri, who was also taking part.....not that I took anything in anyone said because I was so nervous, so much more so than any run or ride I’ve done. But how hard could it be? I’ve swam 400m before and I’d got the bike and run covered. Its’ just a case of joining them up right?

Standing waiting to go in,and every 30 seconds, someone speeds off. The event was very well organised with plenty of marshals telling people what to do. My turn came, in the pool, 30 secs, GO!

My heart was racing. I just tried to stay calm. 3 lengths in I wasn’t calm and couldn’t breath. 9 months of practice and I started to doubt my swimming!!! RELAX RELAX RELAX but it wasn’t happening.

So I stopped took a breath re-assessed only for maybe 10 seconds but then it came together, I just kept going till the end.

Swim done hurray!! I’ve got this… ran to my bike, took ages fiddling around then 20k in the rain. The course had no one on it and I overtook most cyclists, some of whom were on mountain bikes.

That was an amazing feeling! The timing chip mats and the transition area were about ¼ mile from the point you could mount/dismount which was a little annoying but the second transition went well. 2 laps of the field was 5k and under 23 mins I was surprised with. I finished strong and waited to see all the others!

Everyone else in the club saw this event as the end of the season but I saw this as a start of a new journey.

It was hard joining all 3 disciplines together but an amazing day and a well organised event. Next year I plan to tackle a longer 750m swim and maybe try open water. This was just the first step!

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