Monday, 13 October 2014

First time Triathlon? Talk to Jenny!

According to governing body British Triathlon, triathlon is a fast-growing multi-sport, consisting of swimming, cycling and running with no break between the three disciplines. It’s also a great way to set yourself a challenging goal that will encourage you to train regularly.

Jenny gets ready to rack her bike in the transition area
This was one of the reasons first-timer Jenny Thorpe signed up for the recent tri at Hever Castle, officially the UK’s third biggest such event. Having watched many a friend undertake a personal challenge such as a marathon or cycle ride for charity, the 26-year-old digital marketing agency Account Manager was also reassured by the prospect of training alongside her cousin, who already had one tri under her belt. It ‘helped make the whole thing less intimidating’ she explained, although in retrospect, Jenny adds she needn’t have worried about company on the big day, as she ‘loved every minute if it’.

How much training will you need?

Part of the Castle Series, the Hever tri runs across two days in September, with a variety of races for adults and children, that accommodate the novice to the elite. Jenny signed herself up for the super sprint, a 400m swim, a 20km cycle and a 4k run – and was in an all-female wave. Jenny only started specifically training for the event about two months beforehand, since she was already a regular gym goer. She ramped up her swimming first, as she felt that was her weakest discipline, and then added two spin classes a week to her schedule and gym cycles to get used to the saddle. Each week she also got a few 3 to 6k runs in – and took part in an organized 5k for race practice.

Will it cost a fortune?

Equipment-wise Jenny took the cautious route – as road bikes and swim wetsuits can be pricey. She kept her costs down by borrowing a wetsuit (she had it a week before to practice) and a bike and helmet (which she only picked up on the day!). She did invest in a tri-suit, which provided extra padding for cycling and a built-in sports bra, meaning her transition to running was easier. She also bought some decent goggles. Her cousin hired a bike for the weekend, which Jenny would consider for the next time (yes, the NEXT time!) as the bike quality is good and the hire allows you some practice time before the event and a day or so to get it back.

Looking good on the final section

Will she be back?

By her own admission the Hever super sprint was a ‘tough course for a first go’, because the cycle route is hilly and open to traffic, and the lake can be murky, but Jenny feels this adds to the feeling of achievement once you cross the finish line (she adds that she ‘couldn't stop smiling’) – and that it has given her the confidence to try other courses and distances. Despite the tough course, Jenny says Hever was a great choice for a novice because ‘there were so many mixed abilities there, which was fab as everyone can fit in somewhere’. Having already bought her own helmet and started investigating secondhand wetsuits, Jenny admits ‘I've definitely got the bug’.

Top tips

If she was to do anything differently it would be to train on the road bike you will be using – and swim in a wetsuit too, but for the shorter distances Jenny says this isn’t essential. She’d also consider running a few other 5k beforehand too. On a practical level, on the big day you’ll need a transition box to keep all your bits together, she explains. Jenny packed a warm hoody for pre- and post-race, sunglasses, snacks, a bottle of water, a towel, plus her wetsuit, helmet, goggles and trainers etc. Her family also went along to support her, and alongside the other supporters and volunteers along the course, they really kept her spirits up. And if you’re looking for ideas for the triathlon in your family a GoPro would have been great to have says Jenny – for selfies (naturally!) and to record you beating those hills!

Who would't want to feel this good?!

So will Jenny go for another tri? ‘Yes! Definitely’, she says without skipping a heartbeat. She actually wants to do a few events next year, perhaps with a similar distance to try and beat her previous time, and then a longer distance too (definitely a convert then!). She sum up her day at Hever with one, enthusiastic expression ‘FUN!’.

Is a triathlon something you would consider? What would be the harder discipline for you? Perhaps you have another challenge in your sights? Let me know in the comment box below.


  1. My girlfriend finished the Irongirl last year and she would not trade that tri experience for the world! I was so proud of HER!!!! I am impressed with anyone who takes this one because this is NOT easy. The training is hard and constant. Congrats!!! #wowlinkup

    1. I think being able to cope with the three disciplines one after each other is amazing. It shows real fitness as you're using different muscles sets. And then there's the mental test too!!!

  2. All I keep hearing about these days is triathlons! I would love to do one one day, but swimming is definitely my weakness. Congrats Jenny! #wowlinkup

    1. Yes, seems swimming is most people's bugbear. My husband also did his first tri this year but luckily we live near the river Thames so he was able to go swimming each morning there. Maybe try a duathlon first for experience? thanks for commenting.

  3. Hi Vanessa,
    I haven't participated in a triathlon but a good friend of mine was in her first triathlon last year and we had so much fun supporting her. Thanks for sharing this wonderful tips with us at the Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Blog Hop! I appreciate it.

    1. I know, spectating is just as much fun (or maybe more???!!). It's always great to see friends achieving a goal too. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Oh man I'm always SO impressed by triathletes. I am a TERRIBLE swimmer despite finally taking classes to learn how as an adult. Maybe some day :) #wowlinkup

    1. I need those swim classes!! My eldest daughter is great at swimming and I feel I should at least try to improve!

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