How I fell in love with Triathlon

showing off my Sandmand triathlon finisher medal

Let’s face it – I’m a very unlikely triathlete.

I’ve always loved sport – as a spectator.

As a child, attempts at taking part usually ended in misery. At my school we played hockey and netball – both particularly unpleasant when you’re short, slow and with poor hand eye coordination (at least netball was mainly inside). My years as a horse riding teenager ended when I was splatted against a tree, forcing me to realise that actually, I didn’t like horses.

I dabbled in other sports over the years. I was always willing to try things in the hope that I might find something I could manage reasonably competently.

But as I got older I became more and more inactive.

Blame it on the BBC!

Then in 2014 while watching the Commonwealth Games on TV, I came across one of those internet quizzes on the BBC website.

“Which sport should you do?” was the question. I went through it without thinking much. The answer – Triathlon!

How I laughed. It seemed a ridiculous notion. I was in my fifties, unfit and couldn’t even run, let alone swim or cycle.

2 years later I was lining up for my first triathlon event.

The wake-up call

In 2015 I was diagnosed with cancer.

I was lucky – it was found early and was treatable with surgery only. No need for radiation or chemotherapy.

But as I struggled to come to terms with the shock of diagnosis and a slow recovery from the operation I realised I REALLY needed to do something about my fitness.

Like so many I started with the couch to 5k program.

Then triathlon was mentioned – a group from a cancer support group were doing a women only triathlon the following year. I signed up.

Learning to Swim, Bike & Run

There were a few snags. I could only swim extremely slow, head out the water, breaststroke.  I hadn’t ridden a bike in 25 years. And I’d acquired a hip bursitis that meant running was impossible.

I had 6 months to get my act together. I booked swimming lessons. I bought a bike. I did lots of physio exercises for my hip and started power walking.

Alison on her first bike in 25 years
Learning to cycle after 25 years

I made it round that first triathlon. The swim was tough, the bike slow but enjoyable and I walked the run – although I managed to jog over the finish line. My time was over 2 hours for a sprint distance, but I didn’t care.

I absolutely loved it.

Getting hooked

Since then triathlon has become a huge part of my life. In particular, I’ve developed a passion for open water swimming.

My list of “I want to do that” swim events will probably take me until I’m 90.

Great Scottish Swim at Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond swim - ticked off the bucket list

Each summer revolves around triathlon events and when possible I like to escape for some warm weather training in Winter.

I love the atmosphere of triathlon events. Friendly, encouraging and often in stunning locations. I love the challenge of doing something way outside my comfort zone. And I love the sense of achievement.

I don’t always relish the training. The turbo trainer is a particular hate of mine and I’m a wimp when it comes to cycling in cold or wet weather. But the benefits both physical and mental have been immense.

And I’ve discovered that anyone can be a triathlete. It doesn’t matter if you’re young, old, sporty or not. If you have enthusiasm and determination you can do it – and love it.

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