Challenging yourself and striving to be the best you can be are fairly common tactics within our team at Fairway Group.
Staff, senior management in particular, constantly focus on achieving goals both in and out of the office so it’s hard not to feel inspired by a Director who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in her 50th year or a CEO that undertakes a triathlon most weekends!
The Jersey Tri Club Try-a-Tri challenge therefore presented itself as the perfect opportunity for me to push myself out of my comfort zone and face a challenge of my own.
I’ve always been fairly sporty. I’ve run a marathon (slowly!). I love the sea but I’ve never attempted any kind of distance sea swimming apart from a refreshing dip and the odd surf on my longboard in St Ouen’s Bay.
It turned out that this was to be my nemesis as the 400m sea swim – the first stage of the triathlon was the most challenging of all.
If you didn’t know, the Try-a-Tri is an introductory triathlon for male and female novices that consists of a 400m sea swim, 10km bike ride and a 2.5km run. The Jersey Tri Club have been running the event for a few years in a bid to introduce people to the sport in a fun and supportive environment. This year it took place in the water off St Catherine’s slip with a cycle to Long Beach and back followed by a running course marked out along the pier.
Registration opens in March and once you’ve signed up you can either follow your own 12 week training plan or join in with the many coached session made available by the fantastic volunteers and coaches who give up their time to run free sessions in the pool and on the track.
The support on offer is fantastic and the coaches are there every step of the way to support you, ease any concerns and advise on everything from where to buy your wetsuit to what to eat before the big day.
So, I soon got into a training rhythm undertaking 2-3 pool sessions, a spin class and a run during the week. Some Saturdays I got up early and joined the 5km parkrun at Les Quennevais but mostly I stuck to the distances needed to complete the challenge and started to enjoy the variety of training for the three disciplines.
However, with sea temperatures at a bone chilling 11 degrees Celsius in March, sea swimming did not become a reality until mid-May, just three weeks before the actual event.
We started with a group swim at Havre Des Pas pool – safely ensconced in my new swim wetsuit, double swim capped and googles firmly fixed – the first session got underway. It was more about getting used to the conditions than swimming any laps and that was a challenge in itself.
The tide was high, there was no sign of the surrounding pool walls and there was a rising swell that slapped you in the face with freezing cold water reminding you that perhaps you had taken on more than you had first imagined!
Not selling it well so far but trust me the more you dipped your toes in the salty stuff the more confident you became. The group swims, which took place later on in the month, did however take a bit of getting used to as starting off with 50 or so swimmers at the same time felt a bit like a bun fight on spin cycle.
The bike and run training had so far been pretty straightforward but the group swim really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I struggled to relax and control my breathing, felt panicked I was getting left behind and felt motion sickness when I stopped. I was advised to hang back, swim to the outer edge of the group, wear ear plugs and relax!
Thankfully after a few challenging sessions and a lot of smaller group swims I managed to control my fears by distraction and practice- counting each stroke as I went and focusing on my own race.
The day of the event soon dawned and with a very early 6.30am registration, 140 of us made our way down the slip to begin the sea swim. The atmosphere was highly charged with nerves and mixed emotions from those taking part – mostly first timers, some slightly more experienced but many just wanting to achieve a goal whatever their shape and size.
I was delighted with my swim, I was never going to be first out but I remained calm and focused and exited the water somewhere middle of the pack. Transition to the bike involved a long walk/run up the slip to the bike rack with a quick removal of the wetsuit, feet slipped into talcum powered trainers and bike hat on I was off.
The bike course along the coast to Long Beach is gorgeous, scenic and fairly undulating. I also practiced this a number of times to work out when to change gears, when to cycle like the wind and tactical places to take a sneaky breather.
Heading back into transition to ditch the bike, helmet and start the run is straightforward enough but be prepared for heavy legs that take a while to feel powered enough to carry you forward.
I found the run gruelling, I had thought I would be so relieved to have finished the swim that the run would just happen at whatever speed I could muster up. Turned out that speed was pretty slow but steady. I was a lot more tired than I had thought I would be and it just goes to show that training on every aspect of the challenge is key – perhaps toward the last few weeks I had focused too much on the sea swim and neglected my running fitness.
Once I had crossed the finishing line however, I was just chuffed to have completed my challenge, I battled some demons and pushed myself to #bethebestyoucanbe
So if you fancy taking up a new sport, getting fit and making new friends then I highly recommend the whole experience.
Thank you to Jersey Tri Club and the coaches for organising such a fantastically run, well supported event.
Debbie Jeffries, Communications Officer: Fairway Group