Clubbed into shape

If you'd told me a couple of years ago that, once I'd moved out of London, I'd be getting up before 6am every Saturday I would have probably choked on my beer. However 11 months ago, after escaping the Big Smoke, I decided to join East Grinstead Triathlon Club banishing the prospect of a weekend lie in forever.

The club has been in existence since 1986 when a few like minded (ie slightly disturbed) individuals decided what was lacking in their lives was a ridiculously early start on a Saturday when most normal people are sleeping off the excesses of Friday night. Since then the club, like the sport of triathlon, has increasingly grown in popularity with its 100th member joining this year.

Copyright Lorraine Cowell
The club runs a number of coached training sessions during the week but the main event is the 7am swim on a Saturday morning. As I said in my first post, October marks the start of the training cycle so this weekend was the first coached session of the triathlon year. As a result the emphasis for the month is on technique rather than building up speed and fitness. This Saturday it was very much back to basics with the focus on breathing properly. This is something I have just about mastered on dry land but is something I haven't quite yet perfected in the water. Judging by the amount of water I swallowed it is still something I need to work on. The idea is  just part of your mouth is out of the water when you take in precious air so you are turning your head as little as possible, minimising energy expenditure.

Copyright Lorraine Cowell
The secondary part of this technique is to keep the part of your mouth that is still in the water closed when you breathe in. I think that's where I was going wrong. When I was getting it right though I could feel a considerable difference in the smoothness of my stroke. Hopefully by the end of October I will have perfected it without consuming too much chlorine, or drowning.

While I still have a long way to go, my swimming (and very obviously not my running!) has seen the biggest improvement since I joined the club. When I did my first triathlon, long before I joined EGTC, I swam 800m in 28 minutes with a mixture of front crawl and breast stroke (insert your own sexual innuendo here). In my last triathlon I swam 1000m in 31 minutes with a continuous front crawl; so you don't need to be a sports scientist to see the improvements I've made since I started setting my alarm on a Saturday.

Copyright Lorraine Cowell
When I was looking to join the club I had slight reservations thinking that I wouldn't fit in with a group of teetotal, health obsessed, stick thin uber athletes. However on popping down one Saturday morning I discovered that there were members of all shapes and sizes, ranging in age and ability. Our youngest member is 16 and the eldest 70; some members have raced the Ironman distance (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle, 26.2 mile run - that has exhausted me just typing it), others have represented Great Britain in their age group, while some members join with the aim of just getting fit and taking part in their first sprint distance triathlon.

And it turns out that triathletes aren't teetotallers. Our head coach has told me that in the early 90s a group from the club travelled to the Lake District for a race. However one member took a lot longer to the finish than the others. Eventually he staggered across the finish line, not necessarily through exhaustion, but because he had filled his water bottle with red wine and drunk it all during the bike section.

Probably best that I point out that this isn't something that is recommended in the EGTC training programme!


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