John Fotheringham GB age group triathlete gives an honest account of his journey into triathlon and overcoming serious sporting injuries to become an expert in swim, bike, run!
I was a late arrival in the sport of triathlon, following a lifetime of rowing, road running and rugby.
That had proved to be lethal for my lower back and I was told by a surgeon in no uncertain terms to take up swimming and cycling. He also suggested I lose 4 stone.
The swimming and the cycling I enjoyed but I missed competition, the excitement and fear the night before a marathon, the locker room banter of rugby and above all the joy of the race.
As the weight came off and I was able to run a bit more, a friend suggested I take part in my local Olympic distance triathlon.
To be honest, what I found was a brash young sport in love with itself and its gear (which many people seemed to just throw money at without much thought)..
The socioeconomic realities of triathlon are decidedly middle class and the triathlon environment for the newcomer can be a lonely and highly intimidating place.
Bike and wetsuit bling is everywhere and there’s a whole new vocabulary to learn. Words like brick session, T1 and T2 and nutrition strategy are bandied about and I found it best to keep my mouth shut and listen as much as I could.
Having a sports science and medical background helped enormously because I knew how to train already and it was more about applying that knowledge to new disciplines.
Some three years down the line and 15kgs lighter I am older and wiser and reasonably competitive at age group level.
What would I suggest to a newcomer in what is at times a complex and bewildering sport?
– Don’t be intimidated by the gear, start simple with your normal trainers and an entry-level bike and wetsuit. Chances are you will shrink with triathlon; I dropped 2 wetsuit sizes in my first season alone.
– Don’t buy into everything you read about triathlon. The biggest gains you will make in your first season will be in racing as often as you can. Start with sprint events and then do some standard distances.
– Do open water swim as often as you can, there are many local groups around the country and they are generally very welcoming and friendly.
– Do practice the swim start and have a plan. This organized water “scrum” is intimidating for everybody including the Brownlee’s. Remember that. Start at the side or the back at first and prepared for a few kicks or elbows. A wetsuit will keep you buoyant.
– Do start working on transitions in terms of organizing what you need and in what order.
Above all enjoy yourself, it’s a great sport and has a fantastic age group structure, which allows you to be competitive against your peers.