Since moving to Taiwan last August, my buddy and I have met a number of other foreign teachers living and working here that are into long distance cycling and triathlons.
I’ve often thought about doing a triathlon, but always been put off by the amount of kit you have to buy, and also just not knowing how I’d even train for it in the first place. It just didn’t seem accessible to me at all, especially because I’ve never been naturally very good at either running, swimming or cycling despite enjoying them. The whole transition thing was another world to me and a lot of stupid questions like ‘Would I have to do a run in my swimming costume?’, “What if I get really hungry?”, and “Where would I put all my stuff for the other 2 sports?” popped into my mind.
We really wanted to try and get fit here and talked about signing up for some kind of race, but somehow we never really got around to it. We both work pretty full on schedules during the week, and travel as much as possible during the weekends, which doesn’t leave much time for training. We often feel knackered and under the weather, whether its from being around little kids, the high levels of air pollution or just not resting enough in general. But a few months ago, a friend mentioned that she was doing a Half Ironman Relay. I’d never realised that you could do a triathlon as a team, and we decided it was a good way in for us.
A load of people from Kaohsiung, where we live, wanted to enter the Challenge Taiwan in April, so in the end we had about 8 teams. Its a half distance triathlon of a 1.9km open water swim, a 90km bike ride and a 21km run. My friend is actually really good at running, so we decided he’d take the run, and seeing as I don’t have a bike here, I went for the swimming.
As is so often the case, the months passed quickly, the excuses mounted, and before we knew it the date had rolled around. We both felt nervous, tired and unprepared. My friend had been ill with a cold for a couple of weeks so unable to train properly, and the best I’d managed was 50 lengths in the pool a grand total of once. I had been swimming on my lunch breaks regularly, but not anywhere near the distance required, and only in a pool. I was also being a cheapskate and refusing to spend more than NT500 (the equivalent of around £12) on a swimming costume, which meant that I’d stuffed my body into one a couple of sizes too small, thereby cutting into my shoulders and inner thighs giving a kind of raw sausage effect.
Anyway, we’d booked our trains, paid for our our registration and booked our hotel – plus we had a third teammate (our cyclist) who we couldn’t let down. So we reluctantly set our alarms for 5am on Saturday the 25th April and made our way to the starting point with the others.
I was first up, and my heart sank when I saw the lake. An expanse of dark, gloomy water seemed to stretch out endlessly in front of me, and my nerves almost increased to hysteria when a fellow swimmer mentioned “At least it’s only there and back”…..I hadn’t even realised it was more than once across! I was comforted, however, by the many competitors around me with flotation devices/buoyancy aids. In fact, a woman next to me said she was going to breaststroke the whole way because she didn’t like the pressure of feeling like she had to rush (and yes- it is a race).
As you can imagine, it all went fine! I managed a respectable (ish) time for a beginner, and my two two teammates gave their respective disciplines a bloody good go. Actually our cyclist was a bit of a beast, and thanks to him we finished in 2nd place for the mixed relay teams, earning us a place on the podium and a wee trophy.
So the point of this blog is to try and convince others to give it a go! A relay is great way to enter in the world of triathlons, especially if you choose the sport you’re weakest at/most scared of. It’s still a long way to competing solo (the transition between cycling and running looks painful!), but its a way to meet some experienced competitors, get some inspiration, and allay some of the fears. So what are you waiting for?!