Being a member of a triathlon club was about as far away from my mind as it is possible to be just 18 months ago. Surely those places are full of elite super-human athletes who devote their lives to training hard and competing?
I joined AVTC at the beginning of January 2018, and admittedly it was made easy by having a buddy as the then membership secretary. Tamsin encouraged me to just give it a go. At that point I could just about run 5K (having completed the couch to 5K programme in September; before which I couldn’t run for the metaphorical bus), I could swim but hadn’t swum more than 0.5K for several years, and I had just upgraded my hybrid to a road bike (a 10K ride felt like a decent workout). I was also >4 stone overweight, so the thought of running around in a tri-suit was more than a little intimidating!
My first few sessions were at the pool, and I was amazed by the coaching – I wasn’t aware that there is this breed of people who give their time to help others improve their technique, strength and confidence. It took me a while to feel confident enough to join bike and run sessions, but there was no need to hold back - everything is organised so that people can go at their own pace. A nice thing that happened near the beginning was when coach Ben spotted me at Didcot Parkrun one Saturday. He ran his race then jogged back to join me and offer words of encouragement for my last K or so – I got a new PB that day.
My first triathlon was the super-sprint ‘Try-Tri’ at Radley at the end of March. I was very nervous and quite sure I would come last. It was a grotty cold day, but I loved it. And of course I was nowhere near last – not that it would have mattered if I had been. The swim was over in a flash and I really enjoyed the bike, managing to pass a few people on the way round. The run was as it always is… a slow struggle, but there was some AVTC support (Wendy and Kate) to cheer me around.
My first sprint and first open water event was the Cotswold Women Only Tri in June. It was a glorious hot day, and I was nervous and convinced (again!) I would be last. The ‘washing machine’ swim start took me by surprise a bit and it took me a while to settle down, but once into some space and a rhythm I felt pretty good. Again I enjoyed the bike (nice and flat!), and the two lap run also felt pretty good. I took a little band of spectathletes to high-five on the way round and I surprised myself by bursting into tears when I came through the finish.
My third tri was the club champs sprint at Newbury. The swim and bike went well and the run was a slow slog, but the club support was brilliant! AVTC made such a racket as each member came through the finish – I’m sure we were the biggest and loudest club there, and it was really lovely that some members (Hannah and Paul) came to support even though they weren’t competing.
Somewhere between my first and second tri’s I bought a training plan, then upgraded to having coaching through one of the club’s sponsors. Again, something I thought only elite athletes do… and again I found that it works for beginners too. I work full time and have a young family, so I have a very busy and unpredictable schedule. Having a coach to tailor my sessions feels like a bit of a luxury, but it does make a big difference, and I definitely work harder knowing that coach Sorrel will be checking up on me!
So if anyone is nervously hovering in the wings I say go for it! I am firmly at or near the back of every AVTC session I go to, but I have never experienced anything other than support and encouragement from everyone at the club. I was made to feel welcome from day 1, and the only voice saying ‘what are YOU doing here’ is the one in my head. AVTC does include some hugely impressive super-human athletes, but it also includes some super-slow novices - and lots of very friendly people in between.