Name: Paul Roe (Thames Gargler)
Occupation: Head of resource management team
Sporting background: Played football for 10 years, regular runner, completed two sprint triathlons
Goal: To feel comfortable in open water
Get involved on Paul's forum thread.
The overall experience was really enjoyable. I didn't have a fixed time in mind, but if I'd been offered one below 2:40 I would have definitely taken it, so I'm happy with that.
I thought I would be nervous, but I wasn't; it comes from having done various things in preparation and training, such as the open- water swim sessions and the sprint triathlons.
The first 200m of the swim were grisly. I always expect them to be, in terms of arms and legs all over the place and finding somewhere to swim calmly. You also have to remember not to go off too hard.
But the swim - bearing in mind it was the thing I was dreading - was fine. Even things like getting out of my wetsuit were an absolute doddle. It's strange: I envisaged all sorts of horrendous scenarios, but it was fine.
The bike ride was the highlight for me. It was nice to ride on roads that were closed to traffic. The route took us into central London and that was quite pleasant. Also, I'd actually tapered properly, so I was cycling with fresh legs for the first time ever. I was really pleased with the bike leg because judging from my training I had imagined that it would be my poorest discipline.
Then, within the first couple of minutes of the run, my hamstring seized up and I actually had to stop for a minute, stretch it out, then start again very gingerly, taking small strides. It dawned on me: I'd spent a lot of time worrying about the swimming and cycling, but it was the running, which I'd taken for granted, that caused the problem.
When the cramp kicked in, just being able to complete the race seemed like a big ask. It eventually cleared up and I did my final lap at the kind of pace I'd hoped to run throughout.
Hopefully, readers will pick up some tips I learned, such as the importance of tapering - it made a huge difference to my cycle time.
Overall, I am pleased with my time, butI know now I want to get below 2:30. I've already started looking at races - I want to press on and shift the focus from just completing a triathlon, which was the goal this time, to doing myself justice.
It's not been a bad month. I did a half-marathon in Richmond in 1:30:40, within a minute of my personal best so I was happy with that. I also took part in a couple of triathlons: I did the Crystal Palace sprint, finishing in 1:18:43, and then I did a Thames Turbo.
What's been interesting is my position in each of the disciplines. In the Thames Turbo for example, in the swim I was about 70th, for the run I was 69th but for the cycle I was 221st. I'd been for a long bike ride in the Surrey hills two days before so my legs were tired. It will be interesting for me to see what effect properly tapering will have and not having done a hilly cycle ride two days before a race.
I'm going to get some tri-bars to see if a more aerodynamic position improves things. I've also got to get used to cycling efficiently at a high, sustained pace.
The race was useful for gaining the experience of getting on the bike straight after the pool and running straight after the bike. It also helped me put together the pieces of the jigsaw that are going to make the day go well: what I need; what's going to work for me. I learned that I need to make sure my shoes have a good fit and aren't too loose so they end up rubbing.
I also learned about using the time you have on the bike to take in food - it's so much harder once you're running to be able to ingest anything.
The training plan has been good for checking that the race parts are being covered by what I'm doing. I also get so much out of my running club, the Wimbledon Windmilers. If there was one tip I could give to anyone planning their first triathlon it would be to join a club.
I've got a 10K soon, which will be interesting because that is the actual run distance in the triathlon and it will be my last event until race day. Races are great but they can actually get in the way of training.
Training is going fine: I don't feel like I'm doing anything that I wouldn't normally do. I was imagining that it would all change when I submerged myself into a cold, murky lake for our first open-water swim session.
It was a far more useful experience than I had been expecting. There were a lot of hints and tips, which meant I left the one-hour session feeling far more equipped to tackle a triathlon than before. I'd thoroughly recommend it.
I recently took part in the Thames Turbo triathlon, which is a 400m swim, 20K bike and a 5K run. I did it in 1:14, faster than my time last year. It was useful in terms of practising transitions and the like. I need to invest in some new laces: I wasted tons of time fiddling around getting my shoes on. I've done lots of research now so I've learned my lesson.
I've stepped up the distance on the bike ride. I tend to do about 60 miles around the Surrey Hills at the weekends, which is a stunning area, and the weather has been perfect. It's horrendously hilly, though, and I'm relieved to look out my window at work and see how flat London is.
The weather has been so nice that I've done a lot less swimming than I wanted to because, in advance of the open-water season, it seems such a waste to go into an indoor heated pool and breathe in chlorinated air, rather than being outdoors. I'm hoping to do open-water swims every week from now on.
My club practises mass swim starts in the pool, with a dozen people in one lane. That's been very helpful in developing a sense of what it's going to be like and to get over the sense of panic that would otherwise ensue when, just as you're swimming along and about to take a gulp of air, someone inadvertently grabs your foot and you get a mouthful of dirty water instead.
One thing that surprised me was when I cycled home from work and then went straight to a training session with my club. We were doing a pyramid set, where the length of the efforts increases each time. The first two were fine and then I suddenly felt drained of all my energy; there was no discernible difference between my effort pace and recovery pace. That definitely made me think about making sure I've got the right nutrition for race day.
Since appearing in the magazine I've had an email from a colleague who, unbeknown to me, was keen on triathlons. There are more people at work into triathlon than I thought. It's prompted a few discussions about what people are up to. I'm planning to do a sprint race in a few weeks. I can use it as a stepping stone to see what kind of time I should have in mind and what training to do over the remaining weeks."
"I started running to stay fit for playing football. My running partner said he was going to do the London Marathon so I decided to give it a go. A couple of years ago I realised the people I was playing football against were 10 years younger than me so I decided I'd had enough. I needed something to fill the void, socially as much as anything else, so I joined my local running club.
They also provided triathlon training, specifically a dedicated swim session, so I started going to that
and getting out with people on long bike rides. Having done two 10K races and a half-marathon, and realising that I enjoyed cycling and that my swimming was improving, it seemed logical to put it all together.
I did two sprint triathlons last year with the swim being pool-based, so I had a nice, gentle introduction to the sport. London will be my first open-water event and my first race longer than a sprint.
The swimming mass start is definitely my biggest challenge. As far as I'm concerned, once I've survived that mosh pit of elbows and feet at the start, the rest will be easy. I've never had to take off my wetsuit in
a hurry so I don't want to find myself wriggling around the floor trying to get out of it. The bike ride and run don't hold any particular fears.
As luck would have it, I live on one side of London and work on another so that gives me the opportunity to cycle about 25 miles a day. The most intensive part of a bike ride isn't when you're flying along at pace but when you're starting from scratch. I always seem to do it behind a bus. I run with my club twice a week so my cycle home may turn into a brick session.
One of the reasons I agreed to appear in a magazine was that it would motivate me to avoid looking like
a complete chump. My reputation is on the line now, so I don't want to change my mind or not do myself justice. There are many good triathletes at my club - much better than me - who are going to find it highly amusing to read about me in the magazine. This kind of thing is second nature to most of them but at work there are people and friends for whom doing a triathlon is real eyebrow-raising stuff.
I can see the Thames from where I work and it doesn't look particularly inviting. However, I think the familiarity of the area will help take away some of the anxiety. The fact that colleagues from work will be
there will be another reason to not start choking or speeding up, but to remain the calm and composed person I pretend to be at work.
I don't think my diet will need to change because doing sport every day won't be a drastic change to my life. Knowing how to take on energy before and during the race is going to be the bigger issue.
I certainly think I'll do more triathlons. I don't think I'd do something like Ironman - I'd get too hungry. But knowing that I can do an open-water swim and moving to triathlons that aren't pool-based will be something
I can take away from this experience."