Neil’s first Triathlon

Garmin Triathlon de Paris, June 30, 2019 (S)

Race Reporter: Neil

After playing competitive rugby and rowing, plus more recently Crossfit and completing a Spartan race, I finally succumbed to the idea of Triathlon.

I met The members of the Expatries Traithlon club 6 years ago but made the decision that Triathlon wasn’t for me until late last year.

I began training with an online coach but after many cold rainy nights on a track and evenings alone in the pool, decided to join a club and Expatries was the logical choice.

Fast forward to Saturday June 29th and I found myself riding my bike with a fellow Triathlete to the RER, to take our bikes over to the Transition area of the Garmin Triathlon De Paris 2019.

On arrival, this all became very real as hundreds of competitors were busy racking their bikes, walking to the swim start to familiarise and generally preparing for the race the following day.

It was during this day that we were made aware by email that this was definitely a non-wetsuit swim (the water temperature needed to be 24°c or less for it to be a wetsuit swim).

This notification by all accounts made many people very nervous, as the extra Bouyancy provided by a wetsuit instills confidence in many people in open water. Coupled with the fact that for many Triathletes, the swim is the most difficult discipline out of the 3.

For me it was totally fine as I’m very confident in water.

Fast forward to the morning of the race.

I woke up at 04:30 as I planned to arrive at La Vilette by 06:30 and have time to eat properly, take in more electrolytes (due to the heat) and relax.

On arrival, I met with some of the other members of the team and we walked over to the Transition area and began to pump up our tyres (we were advised to let the air out the day before due to the heat and so a danger of tyres exploding) and lay out our kit for the race in order of bike and run, coming out of the swim.

It was at this point that I made an error and one that I wouldn’t realise until the ride home: I didn’t put enough air in my back tyre (I will explain later).

All ready and the nerves began to creep in a little.

It was at this point that I remembered an old rowing coach saying to me that ‘the race is simply a celebration after all of the hard training that you have completed and so enjoy’.

The swim

With a friend who was starting in the wave before me, we walked the few hundred meters to the start of the swim and waited. It was at this point that I switched on and prepared my mind for what I was expecting to be a fairly physical start to the swim as 200 or so competitors in my wave all jumped into the water at the same time and swam toward the first bouy, before turning left and swimming straight down the channel of the Basin La Vilette.

As an ex-rugby player and being tall-strong, I was actually quite looking forward to the start of the swim. After taking the first few strokes looking up to sight, I was a little surprised as it wasn’t quite what I expected in terms of physicality. I turned left after the buoy and looked up to sight and saw a sea of Blue and Black swim caps in front of me with no clear route through. It was at the point that I made the decision to make my own path down the middle, which maybe wasn’t too popular but…

Being typically English, I apologised to a girl that I caught quite hard in the head with my elbow (she was more surprised that I apologised I think) but then continued forward, passing people as fast as I could.

Out of the water and I ran the 500 or so metres to the transition area, remembered to put on my helmet before I took my bike off the rack and off I ran with my bike to the line, where I was able to get on my bike.

The bike

As soon as I began to ride, my back wheel didn’t feel right. I stopped quickly to check the tyre pressure but all seemed ok. I continued but it definitely didn’t feel right and felt like the wheel was sliding, which downhill on the cobbles and coming back fast through the tunnel, was not a good feeling at all. Given also that this was only the 4th time (incluiding riding to the race venue the day before), riding a bike ever(since I was a child), was concerning.

However, I continued as fast as I could albeit due to the competitive person inside me, it was very frustrating to be overtaken quite often.

I vowed to put this right on the run.

The run

At the transition, I grabbed a bar to eat and began the 5km run.

By now, the temperature had increased but I felt strong and quickly began to overtake people, reaching the 2.5km turnaround point and still feeling strong.

I took water on the way back, thanking the volunteers (I did as often as I could) on the bike and run, as, without them, this race would not have happened.

It was nice to hear the support and with about 1km to go, I began to increase the pace, checking my watch every minute or two. My plan was to target a person or group 5 metres or so ahead, catch them and onto the next. Whilst there are many faster runners at this club, I was happy with the pace and how I was feeling.

One of the volunteers announced 1km to go and I picked up the pace even more, gradually building up to a sprint in the last 3-400m.

It was during this point that I was a tad overwhelmed at seeing so many supporters in that last 2-300m, which really gave me a lift to really go, passing people as I did.

I crossed the finish line very happy, receiving my medal and finally calling myself a Triathlete.

After a few minutes to rehydrate and eat and a quick reflection, I realised that I am fit enough to complete an Olympic but as a first Triathlon, it was good to do the Sprint.

A few thoughts after the race;

° I thought that it was very well organised

° Transitions are really very important to practice

° As the bike is the longest part of the race, you can make up the most time on this and so a real focus for me, whilst continuing to improve my swim (happy with how my swim is improving and so will continue to put in the time in the water).

° Ensure that your tyres are properly pumped up to the correct psi!

All in all, a great first race and now onwards to the next.