IF YOU’RE considering doing a triathlon, here are a few words of advice: Don’t do it on a mountain bike.
Having been given five days’ notice to do my first triathlon, another golden rule was ignored.
But I could hardly complain about my lack of preparation when two of my colleagues are Ironmen.
So I signed up for the Mayday Novice event – a 200m swim, 12k cycle and 2.5k run – organised by Try Tri Events at Kings’ School, Winchester.
It is the perfect distance if, like me, you do not have/make the time to do the requisite training for a sprint event, which is twice as long.
To give you some idea of my concern, a mere eight lengths of the 25m pool was a daunting prospect, this being my first swim for more than a year (taking my sons to Romsey Rapids doesn’t count).
Even if I was fit enough not to need a breather between lengths, I can only dream of executing the tumble-turns that Chris Hooper, my sub-editor colleague, has talked me through.
It was a relief not to see such acrobatics.
And having been allocated lanes and coloured caps according to our estimated swim times, it was comforting to hear the woman immediately after me reveal she had predicted ten minutes (I had gone for seven).
So imagine my panic when she started tapping at my toes, the signal to give way before beginning the next length.
Sure enough, she glided past me and my last few lengths were a struggle as I strayed into the wrong lane and took in mouthfuls of chlorinated water, which at least provided me with some hydration for the rest of the race (think positive).
I was so disorientated I had to double check I had completed eight lengths, before making my way outside to the transition stage, with my head spinning.
Trying not to be intimidated by the collection of lightweight racing bikes worth many thousands of pounds, my right hamstring suddenly tightened.
At that point, a trigonometry session in the school’s maths department would have been more appealing.
But fortunately this was not an equilateral triathlon. The swim only took up a tenth of my total time (6:07 for the record).
Even on a mountain bike, the second leg suited me more due to my daily four-mile round trip to work and the occasional trail ride around the New Forest.
And I could now gulp down fresh air instead of chlorine.
But it had been a while since I last encountered such steep gradients.
Once you were off the busy A3090, you were guided up hill and down dale and through the picturesque village of Sparsholt.
Not that it was easy to savour the scenery as I was overtaken by a blur of thin tyres.
At least there was no excuse for getting lost. Try Tri Events posted a video of the cycling and running circuits on their You Tube channel 11 days beforehand, the courses were well signposted and superbly marshalled by volunteers.
The whole event (the day also included a Swicle - a swim/cycle - as well as a Sprint and a children’s triathlon) was a feat of organisation.
Even the seconds spent at traffic lights were taken off your time.
But there was still the run to do.
As I exited the transition stage for the second time, I was warned: “Next time, don’t remove your helmet before docking your bike.”
I was flattered that I looked capable of a ‘next time’ as my legs threatened to buckle beneath me.
Somehow I shuffled round at quicker than 11-minute mile pace, despite only breaking into a ‘run’ when a water bottle was proffered at the finish line.
Thankfully it was not a mirage.
Adam Leitch, the Daily Echo's latest Ironman, had given me one piece of advice beforehand: “Enjoy it.”
That was easier said than done until I collapsed in a heap on the school’s playing fields, having finished 51st in a time of 1:02:49.
I’ve been asked if I would do another and, yes, I may well do. But I’ll be investing in a road bike first.