It’s 4am and the total of 15 minutes sleep I’ve had is probably I sign that I may be a little nervous for my first triathlon. I don’t need to be up till 5 because I packed everything the night before, but at this point I’ve given up on the possibility of sleep.
I decide to watch the Ironman I recorded on TV the night before for a few tips and tricks. It doesn’t take long before I’m excited and motivated to give this triathlon everything I have. After all, the event I’m doing is classed as a “Sprint” Triathlon which consists of 750m Swim 20km Ride and 5km Run. Unlike an Ironman which is 3.8km Swim 180km Ride and 42km run. Might have to try one of those next .
I met Andy Gibb at 6am in Hillarys, Andy is a 62 year old through knee amputee who damaged his leg in a motorcycle accident. After many years living with his injured leg that never recovered, he decided to have his leg amputated and has not looked back. Andy was my mentor for the event as he has done many shorter triathlons before this one, but this was both our first full length sprint triathlon. I spent the next hour bombarding him with questions.
The Swim, standing at the edge of the beach nervous and freezing in my little speedos waiting for the official to start our wave of athletes.
“Go!” I jump into the water and start swimming. Straight away I encounter my first Rookie Mistake #1. Because I’m not wearing a triathlon top, my heart rate monitor slips down to my waist and I’m thinking it’s gone, but somehow it manages to stay holding around my waist and I focus on the swim again. I’m pacing myself on the swim because I know next I have a ride and then a run.
Conditions for the swim were close to perfect. I did pop my head out of the water all the time to make sure I was still swimming towards the next buoy. Feeling pretty comfortable and in rhythm I circle around the last buoy ready for the home stretch back to the beach.
This is where the race got a little more difficult, my goggles had started to fog and the the sun was rising directly in front of the swim finish flags. Not being able to see a thing! I continue swimming in what I believe to be a straight line(I was told afterwards looked more like a zigzag).
Popping my head up to see where I am, I decide to remove my goggles so a can see the last 50 meters of the swim. Finally finding my way to the shore, my wife Nat runs over with the crutches and passes them to me as quickly as possible.
Crutching to the transition area for the ride was hard work, I had to go a 100 meters through sand on an incline. Sand and crutches are not friends.
Rookie Mistake #2 packing a ultra light weight towel to save space… why? Well turns out this towel didn’t work well at getting me dry fast so I could get my leg on and not worry about it falling off. With me still partially wet which is a great way of attracting dirt to the end of my stump before putting the silicon liner on. Not recommended!
The ride felt slow… I didn’t feel tired during the swim, but I was tired now and I hadn’t finished the 1st lap of 3. As I tried to find a rhythm with the ride, I noticed just before the end of each lap the head wind was getting stronger. Slowing me to a crawl almost.
Rookie Mistake #3 not enough water.
As I finished the second lap of the rides I was surprised how hilly this course was and also disappointed to discover that I was out of water.
Knowing I had another water back at the transition area, I focus all my remaining energy of finishing the ride and rewarding myself with a drink of water before I died.
The Run - This was easily the hardest part of the event. Running with one leg is hard, but running without a running leg is even harder again. The reason being that with an everyday leg, you don’t get any force or spring from the foot it’s like running on a stilt. Speaking of stilts, Andy does the 5km run on crutches! No idea how his arms and shoulders manage to survive this ordeal.
It didn’t help that when I put my leg on for the ride, because I was is such a rush it wasn’t on straight. Which caused my knee to lock when running. So I moved off the side of the track and removed my leg to straighten it up.
Rookie Mistake #4 - Running to close to the edge of the path, this was a little embarrassing when I fell off the side of the foot path. luckily not to many people saw this happen. During the run was where the metal challenge of the triathlon started, my mind wanted my body to stop, it ached everywhere. I soon realised that I wasn’t conditioned enough to sustain that level of effort for over an hour.
Rookie Mistake #5 - Forgetting to turn on the GPS on my heartrate monitor. This meant I had no clue how far I had ran and to me, it felt like I had ran much further than 5km, but I hadn’t even reached the halfway turn around point yet .
Fellow athletes at the event were amazing! The atmosphere was fantastic, just about every second person that ran past yelled out words of encouragement. The fact that I was on the verge of death made it hard to respond, but I managed to get some type of grunt out to say thanks.
I took advantage of every water stand I can passed, but never really managed to get much of the water in my mouth. Passing the half way point I now had an Idea of how far I had left to finish the race and recover. I managed to maintain a slow jog and with the finished in sight gave the race every last single bit of energy I had left.
A sense of euphoria(looks more like near death in the photo) came over me, I had completed my first triathlon! I completed the race in 1:44:15. Finger crossed this qualifies me for the World Championships in London later this year.