Our next member blog is from Paul Wyatt, an experienced cyclist, who took part in his first open water triathlon recently at the Cotswolds 113 on 4 June, 2017...
My overarching aim for this event was just to finish the swim.
I knew I had the legs for the bike and the run, which are within my comfort zone. I was only really interested in climbing out of that water myself, rather than getting out of a canoe for another DNF. I had completed a 25 Mile TT the previous day, testament to how seriously I was treating the bike and run!! Not something I would advise by the way, which I will come to later.
My fear of water and in particular being trapped and drowning has been with me since a boy. Other than splashing about during primary school and a brief attempt in 2007, I didn't start swimming properly until last summer. I have found it incredibly difficult and took a while to realise that I can't apply working harder as in cycling and running to swimming, it just does not work. Water has been my nemesis. It took me numerous attempts to learn how to scuba dive, I used to panic under water and shoot to the top, causing blood to pour from my nose!!
I have swum with Havering Tri over the past year and progress has been slow and steady. I am not a natural and easily get disorientated in the water, hence why Kay (KAS) has threatened me with press ups on a couple of occasions for swimming the wrong way up lanes!!😂😂
Nikki and Sarah (my lanes mates) are very patient with me on a Tuesday night, when I bump into them and tickle their toes! Thanks girls x
My first experience of open water swimming was in Lanzarote in March. Kay and Graham took me under their wing as Debs had to take someone with cramp back to shore. I loved it. The clear blue water of Puerto del Carmen was great. My favourite day of Lanza, thanks Les for getting it in the calendar👍. I was so happy.
However, an Olympic distance Tri several weeks ago in a dark lake did not go as planned. I had no experience of people swimming over me or bumping into me beforehand and this really unsettled me. A five hour round trip was over in less than two minutes, with a panic attack and climbing into a canoe. I thought duathlon was the way forward and did not want to try again.
Over the last few weeks Debs encouraged me back into the water. I went to Tri farm and Stubbers several times and gradually grew in confidence. I still had setbacks in swimming a mass start, hence why a 750 metre swim at Bridge Aquathon a couple of weeks ago took me twenty minutes, with me having to tread water to get my breathing under control
More work was done on mass starts and Debs literally got guys to bash me up in the water!! Eventually I realised I could survive and things would get easier
So I arrived at the race and just focused on completing the swim. I got in the water first in my wave before the briefing and swam about and made sure I got the water down inside my wetsuit. I positioned myself on the end away from the melee. I tried to eliminate thoughts of what had happened before, tried to stay calm. I knew I had the distance in me and now was time to execute. The whistle sounded and we started. It was a totally different experience. I was calm throughout, I got in a group of similar ability and drafted where I could. Even the weeds which occasionally brushed me didn't bother me in the slightest. I tried not to over do it but on passing the final buoy and having the finish in sight pushed on past my group. I climbed out fresh and was delighted. I looked at my watch which showed 33 minutes for the 1900m swim and punched the air. That time was beyond my wildest expectations. I can say with certainty this made anything I have achieved in cycling or running pale into insignificance. I had stepped well out of my comfort zone, been frustrated and disappointed but somehow I listened to people around me and came back for more, fearing failure but looking it direct in the eye
Anyway, the bike and run went fine, although the tiredness in my legs from the previous day did show. Ironically, I enjoyed the swim more than the other two disciplines. If you would have told me I would ever feel like that about swimming I would have laughed at you and said you need your head tested!
I made a number of basic mistakes during this Tri, which I will learn from and share below:
1. Know where your bike is in transition and walk the route. I ran straight past it coming in from the swim
2. Consider having a wee in your wetsuit. I needed one in the water but didn't go until diving into a portaloo between bike-run transition.
3. A 500ml aero bottle for a 56 mile bike is not enough!!
4. Try not to over exert yourself the day before a race. It causes your legs not to lift on the run and I lost a fight with a tree stump and have cuts all down the left hand side of my body from the fall to show for it!!
5. Ensure your goggles are as clean as they can be to assist in your sighting
I was not bothered at all with a finish time. This event was all about the swim and completing it before my main event in July, the Half Holkham. I finished overall in 4:45:35. Thanks for all messages of support and particularly Debs for being there on the day supporting and for persevering with me. I owe you loads ❤️