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Karen Marklands 1st year in Triathlon

What a difference a year makes!

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Like most, I’ve come to triathlon pretty late in life.  Having tried endless sports different sports from netball, football, volleyball, to gymnastics, diving, climbing even trapeze – I knew triathlon was the one for me from my first bash at it in the Drax Goole Sprint Tri last year. I’ve been hooked from there on in.

I was pretty chuffed with my first attempt – placing 9th female with a time of 1:11:44. Not bad I thought for someone who’d only bought a road bike 8 weeks earlier and still regularly toppled over when trying to stop quickly and not managing to get my feet out the cleats!.

I was so excited I went the night before to get my race pack and was so glad I did – the set up was nothing like I’d imagined. A really helpful bloke (who I now know to be Steve Dolby –  cheers Steve!) showed me where to rack my bike etc the next morning. I remember thinking how friendly everyone was and a year on that is one of my over-riding impressions of the sport. 

In my race goody bag was an Off that couch fitness leaflet and I saw they offered Triathlon coaching.  I thought I would give it a try – I only expected to have a couple of sessions of coaching initially – I thought “how much can there be to learn about swimming; riding; and running?”.  From the very first session I’d answered that question – “Er – quite  lot actually!”.  In my training to that point I had only ever gone out and ran, swam, or rode as hard as I could for as long as I could.  I am sure I would have given up by now had I continued like that – for the boredom if nothing else.

I’ve learnt tons from Steve over the last 12 months – I thought I was a pretty good swimmer anyway but I’ve come on loads with technique training – and the open water sessions made a big difference.  I’ve learnt how different types of training (endurance, interval, hill sessions etc) not only help you build speed and endurance but also mix it up and keep you motivated.  Each week, like a geek!  I eagerly await my training plan for the week – it generally appears in my Training Peaks app on Sunday’s – I then set about matching with my work diary and childcare – jiggling stuff around so I can fit it all in.

For extra motivation and a bit of company and coaching I usually head to Scunthorpe a couple of times each month for 1:1 coaching.  

I can’t believe the difference it made – I’ve always been pretty fit but I am now way fitter than I ever been.  By the time of my second triathlon – Grantham Sprint Tri in May this year – I’d knocked a minute and a half of my 5K PB and another 30 seconds off my swim time.  I came 5th female (missed out on 4th by seconds – 1:07:05 – Oh the importance of slick transitions!!!). I’d also by then tempted my husband into having a go (he too is now hooked!)

Throughout the season I managed to make it down to a few of the Burringham Duathlon sessions – great practice for me as my bike is by far my worst discipline and a really friendly crowd.

My first open water swim tri was the Lincolnshire Edge Sprint Tri in July.  The swim seemed to fly by. I couldn’t believe it on exiting the water when Steve announced I was the second female out.  But by the time I was exiting T1 Ruth Wilson was hot on my tail.  As I expected she quickly caught up and came past me on the bike (as ever with encouraging words – thanks Ruth).  I was thinking – come on keep going, don’t let anyone else past and you will finish top 3 female.  But half way on the bike course, I saw plaits ahead!  It spurred me on and I managed to pass the woman who had exited the swim first – I was thinking “OMG I’m second!”.  I know my run is pretty strong – but was it strong enough to hold her off? It was! Wahooo – second female and 1st Age Group (1:32:18).

A couple of weeks later I competed in my local Goole triathlon.  A smaller, very chilled out affair with lots of local support and a river swim in the Derwent. My first female win – and a huge trophy to add to my growing collection!

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Hubby and I then decided to have a bash at the Allerthorpe Olympic Distance Triathlon at the end of July.  We camped overnight – stunning weather.  Swim was awful, 100 people in a wave and I found out what all the fuss was about with swim starts.  I was punched, kicked and ducked under till spluttering! After losing quite a bit of time getting googles back on – I took the outside edge and played catch up and managed to beat hubby out the water by a few seconds.  I was pleased with my bike leg, I knew the course well and averaged around 20MPH which for me was phenomenal.  The second half of the run was tough but managed a decent top 20.  Reckon I can go under 2 hours 30 next year!

That set up me nicely for my final tri of the year – the Drax Sprint – a year on anniversary of my first tri.   I was over the moon to knock 6mins 13 secs off my time the previous year.  3rd female and 1st in age group (1:05:31).

My final challenge for the season was my first half marathon.  I entered the Bridlington Half a couple of weeks after Drax – having never ran more than 12 miles I was astounded to post a 1:37:44.  That’s it now – Half Ironman next year definitely – I’m thinking maybe the Vitruvian – I think a few smallish hills work in my favour!

I’ve loved this year – it has been amazing – and whilst I am hardly knocking on the doors of the elite athletes for me it is an incredible achievement and something I never thought I could do.  

After a couple of weeks of well-earned rest I’m now gearing up for another winter of training ready for next year – who knows what difference another year can make?  It’s a tall order, I’m not sure how much more I have left in me but reckon there is more in the tank (especially on the bike!) but if I can make half the improvement this coming year as last year I reckon I will be knocking on the door of GB Age Group Qualifying!  Something to aim for at least! 

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