By Hannah Mann – 25th October 2016
‘I’m going to do a triathlon!’ That’s what I told myself in June in a vein hope to regain some independence 18 months after the birth of my son and assist in the never-ending struggle to maintain some kind of dignified weight. To most of you reading this you’ll think that that isn’t really a big deal let alone a challenge but this was important to me.
My name is Hannah, one of the founders of Bikebox Online and definitely no lycra clad athlete. I dabbled in swimming during my teens, competing at county level before my back gave in and alcohol seemed a much better option for my Friday nights. I started running in 2014 in order to lose weight (running is the cheapest form of exercise after all!) but soon discovered I was pregnant and promptly hung up my trainers.
8 weeks to triathlon:
I picked an event and chose the Portishead triathlon, sprint distance and on my doorstep, this was going to be easy! That was until I looked up the course and it suddenly dawned on me how hilly the town I call home actually is- funny that you don’t really notice that in a car!
7 weeks to triathlon:
I didn’t own a bike, in fact, I hadn’t even ridden a bike in my adult life (something that I’m sure appalled my brother a long term mountain bike fanatic Sam Gardner). Not wanting to spend any money on this venture I borrowed my husband’s mountain bike and set out for a ride. With so little time to train I concentrated on the actual event route planning to do one of the two laps, log a base time and then work on my speed from there – this did not happen quite as I’d planned! Living at the top of the biggest hill in Portishead I wizzed down to the lake grounds which would soon be the transition area. This meant that the next challenge was to get back up the hill I’d so effortlessly just descended. I pedalled furiously and sunk the gears, 100 meters later I stopped for a drink!. This pattern continued until I eventually reached the top, red faced and embarrassed, deciding to call it a day I chucked the bike into the garage and wobbled in for a shower.
6 weeks to triathlon:
I’d completed a few short runs over the last few weeks, concentrating on speed rather then distance, the run in a sprint tri is only 5km after all. Digging out a swimming costume I headed for the pool, buying some goggles and a hat in the foyer I entered the pool full of gust and enthusiasm. 3km later I emerged with a smile on my face, thank goodness I haven’t forgotten how to swim and tumble turn. My confidence regained I decided to get back on the bike and promptly came back to earth with a bump, slipped chain and a very sore bum. The following 3 weeks continued in this vein, good job I’d paid my entrance fee and roped in a few friends to share my pain or I think I would have given up.
3 weeks to triathlon:
Great timing- my local bike shop, Mikes Bikes have started a women’s cycle club! 18:15 on a Thursday night I bounded up with my trusty mountain bike and a few too many ounces of enthusiasm, this is exactly what I need, some women to train with.
3 other ladies watched me walk into the shop, dressed in lycra and straddling their expensive looking bikes, I recognised two of them as bike box customers, these ladies were serious cyclists!
‘What height are you Hannah?’ asked Mike from behind the counter, ‘5’6’ I replied and he promptly handed me his cross bike. ‘You’ll never keep up on your bike, borrow mine instead!’ (I should add that I’ve known Mike for many years as he often services my bike box customer bikes before they’re packed.)
Pretty intimidated but filled with appreciation and determined not to let Mike down we left the shop, turned left and rode out of Portishead. Joining that group of women came at just the right time for me and I learnt so much on that first ride, the next day I went into the shop and purchased a new bike!
2 weeks to go:
Riding my new bike is a dream, I did have that near miss with a bus but apart from that I can now make it up hills without stopping albeit rather slowly and without any grace.
Arriving early I set up my bike in the transition area, having no idea what I was doing and having never practised I just copied what the other competitors were doing and placed my gear in the same arrangement. The weather was cold, damp and pretty miserable but I was in the second wave of swimmers and didn’t have time to dwell on the conditions.
I boshed the swim, in my comfort zone and a warm pool, I over-took all 6 people in front of me and ran towards T1 second in my wave. Jumping on the bike I made it onto the road which is where people started overtaking me! I made it round the full 25km without stopping and arrived at T2 tired but in good spirits, by this time my husband, mum and son had arrived to cheer me on and I started out on the run. Running passed the commentator I was astonished to hear a full run down on my brother’s glittering triathlon career, the guy had obviously done his homework but it did rather add to the pressure! I plodded around the run thankful that it was largely on the flat and grateful for the water station.
Crossing the finishing line was amazing, I mean I felt terrible, all shaky and blotchy but beyond that I knew I had achieved my goal. I put my mind to something, dealt with the pain and embarrassment, squeezed myself into some lyrca and lost some weight. Most of all I got to know my customers, I understand what drives them to go that extra mile, put in hours of training and enjoy going up hills!
So what next…. Bristol Olympic distance triathlon I think!