As a newbie Triathlete and a first-timer to an open water triathlon competition, I am happy to share with you my pre-race preparation and my experience.
Honesty, I could never believe that I would have completed a Triathlon when I first started training for the first month due to my XS size compared to all of the tall guys with the beautiful muscled bodies. Anyway, I am a good runner and have been training by myself for many years so this is a chance to add more sports in order to enjoy my workout and also meet more people who like the similar things. Especially, since training with the team helps improve my performance, so far so great. Apart from running, cycling is one of my favorite hobbies. To find a race bike of my XS size is not easy; fortunately I got some great advice from the cycling team of the ExpaTRIés club and honestly, I am not yet a great swimmer.
“Practice makes perfection”
Beforehand, I went through a couple of Super Sprints to gain a bit more confidence. I have also been watching many clips of inspirational videos. My nature of loving outdoor activities : run around in the woods, climb trees, swim in the a wild lake (with the head up out of water even though the water temperature is warm (25-35°) due to the tropical climate). I actually learned to swim crawl only a few months earlier in an indoor swimming pool so that I could swim with my head under water : good training & good coach & all advice from many cheerful boys & girls from the ExpatrTRIés team have been very helpful and contributed to my progress. Yay, I am able to swim crawl properly in a swimming pool.
Swim in the lake : just only a day before my competition, for the first time I got my wet suit on and tried swimming in the lake. Thank you to the ExpaTRIés, especially El Presidente Nick who did push me a bit for my first jump into the freezing water. I could not even put my face down under water. Oh well, I thought I would have abandoned. Finally after a few tries and time to warm up, my body was listening to me so I felt more comfortable and eventually gained more confidence. Now I love swimming with the wet suit as I don’t have to waste too much energy on my legs to kick. Wondering if those with large shoulders would be the better swimmers, yes or no …???
A day before my race, I finished work around midnight, waking up at 6am, luckily I already packed my bag before going to bed (thanks to Sarah & Ionut who put a list of a “must bring” on meet up)
Meeting others @ Gare du Nord to board at 7:26. Getting there early to ride a few minutes to the lake. It’s bit chilly and I would never have imagined I would be able to swim in such cold water in my life.
This is a short distance of Triathlon, there was Sarah, Karen, Catherine, Marie, Helene and me.
No stress as we arrived early so we had plenty of time to relax and get our stuff set at the transition area. Too much time maybe for me as I spotted a big rotten fish floating around the corner. This was really a nightmare to me during my first swim. Somehow with all I trained to swim crawl, I could not manage to turn my face down. The rotten fish was haunting me in my head; I did not do very well at all. Anyway, it was too crowded when we started off then I swam very calmly and slowly on my own, back crawl to avoid my face into such extreme cold water, moreover, it was so dark I could not see anything underneath the dirty water so I decided to watch a beautiful sky while swimming like daydreaming floating my own thoughts, thinking to myself, this couldn’t be real.
Well, “Keep clam and do triathlon” spirit did really help me to get through this struggling moment in the lake. Focus mainly on my back stroke and taking it easy on every each breath, hitting and gettin hit by the other competitors. Never give up, slowly but surely.
Suddenly I heard a person cry out for help but I didn’t stop as she didn’t seem to be actually in need of help or an emergency, possibly stress.
I started swimming more properly and realized that I was racing against time.
Having been trained by the ExpaTRIés properly how to take off my wet suit so I didn’t waste too much time on that.
I was expecting to ride on some small hills through a few small villages. By the way, giving the fact that I have lived in Paris since 2003 somehow I still find outside Paris is exotic for a Thai-born like me. So this offered me a fabulous city view to make the ride more pleasant : lovely view among nice big houses and public and volunteers were cheering up along the way. It has to be a very rich neighborhood of Enghein. I would enjoyed it more if there was a rural area or one surrounded by green fields with some colorful flowers & trees along road side.
Catherine, one of ExpaTRIés, did help me while I was struggling with my gears. I should have checked them properly a day before as I found out later that my gear won’t shift to another one even though, I could change them on the handle.
Remembering Sarah’s good advice, telling me to put my bike on the right gear before racking it, but I failed to check or set it properly so, such a neglect on my behalf.
Almost cycling to the end, getting a bit tired then spotting a very good looking competitor with the brightly brilliant smiling face who was running while shouting to cheer me on. So positive & light & nice & really cheerful 😉 I felt great then started spinning my peddles as fast as I could. I didn’t know why such a reaction due to a lovely smile.
As a big fan of trail running, I didn’t enjoy much running my last 3K through concrete streets with only 100 metres along side of a part of the Enghein lake. I passed some competitors at the end who could not run anymore and started to walk.
The last 50 metres before the finishing line, I noticed Catherine running while another competitor challenged me for a sprint. I ran as fast as I could for the last 30 metres and did pass her, then also Catherine.
Learning so much from my mistakes and hopefully to race against myself again for my next competition or to try longer distance on Triathlon competitions.
After all, more importantly is to enjoy every each race as well as be happy to come back again next time. Thinking to myself again and wishing that the water would be clear with a higher temperature on a warmer sunny day. I need to swim more often in dirty & muddy water so I can get used to the dark & dirty water and the fact that I could not see anything except during my back stroke swimming. At the end, I am happy to have finished the race without any injuries.
Results aside, training allows me to stay in a great fitness and any kind of sport is a great fun. Surprisingly, we learned later that Karen should have been on a podium and Cat was again on a podium and offered a trophy for her great performance. We all are very delighted for both ladies or anytime, there is a winner from our ExpatTRIés team, yet somehow, it doesn’t matter whether we win or loose. I believe that every each single person who finished a race is also a champion in our own heart.
“BRAVO to us all”
After the races, we spent a nice moment with the other team members, to appreciate our achievements and personal best records. We all went to have a drink together which was very great, even though I decided to become non alcoholic. A glass of strawberry juice could get me drunk enough.
Thank you to myself and everyone in the ExpaTRIés family.