750m swimming – hm – that should be doable. Although, that are 15 lanes in a 50m pool and even 30 lanes in a 25m pool. That can’t be that difficult and I still have 4 months. That was more or less what I was thinking mid April 2014 at 2am before I signed up for my first sprint triathlon. How did that happen?
Well. I was in the middle of my studies and wanted to explore something new. Change. To get the body in form, the mind should be already fit from studying.
It was during the easter holidays where I was studying for an exam and in the middle of the night I remembered about a triathlon in the city I grew up. Coincidentally, I sometimes saw that event as a kid, but never really gave that more interest. I was just impressed with the speed some athletes rushed through the transition. Back then I had no clue that this was a sprint triathlon and that there are other distances. However, all that changed in the night in April 2014, where I learned all the basics.
5km running – doable. 20km cycling – should not be a problem. 750m swimming – I could not remember when I was the last time in a pool actively swimming – maybe back in school? I simply don’t know anymore. Nevertheless, as mentioned I signed up for the race, and that is how it all began.
The next day I went straight to the indoor pool – I could not swim freestyle at all, but that can’t be that hard, right? Tried it right away and after 10m, I was choking on the side of the pool and got pretty nervous. I had great doubts about the decision from the night before. However, 4 months were left in order to learn freestyle swimming with a ton of Youtube clips. I did not want to go to a swimming coach – simply because I felt too ashamed and insecure. I can’t do 10m freestyle and want to do triathlon in 4 months, they will just laugh at me – more or less these were my thoughts back then. Therefore, I spent more or less each and every evening in the indoor pool to learn freestyle swimming, beside that some running and cycling.
On the 17th of August 2014 I finally stood – or floated – nervous and full of anticipation at the swim start. Starting shot – and the field went off! This event was for me the beginning of my triathlon journey. I was happy with my performance. It was great fun and position wise I was somewhere in the middle of all finishers. After the event I just trained further on. It was a relief from studying as well as great fun for me. Swimming, cycing and running – each individual discipline had its own unique fascination for me – and in combination even more.
The next year I raced Ironman 70.3 St.Pölten, also with that I was fairly happy, except the swim. I felt like I got a bit of panic in the water from the whole washing machine I was caught into. It was my first swim that year in swimsuit as the temperature was not really pool like 😀 However, the whole experience as such was amazing. The differences between – let’s say a “village” triathlon – and an Ironman event was for me a super exciting experience I realized the first time.
After that I was further racing in some smaller (smaller means for me sprint triathlons) triathlons, before a friend of mine and me signed up in February 2016 for a relay for the Race Around Austria (RAA) Challenge. The RAA Challenge is more or less the small sibling of the Race Around Austria – a 2200km non-stop ultracycling event following the borders of Austria. The RAA Challenge consists of 560km and around 6500m elevation – quite something, however, in a team it should be doable. Therefore, my project for 2016, and that was really a project with all the organization around. As for such a race a pace car, with a driver, somebody for navigation and so on, is required.
Race day came closer and closer and my training kilometers got more and more, when suddenly two weeks before the race my friend called me that he was just hit by a car – luckily nothing really serious happened to him – but he was not able anymore to take part in the race. However, it was not that easy to find a replacement for him, so we decided that I will try it solo. In short: after 300km the race was done for me and I needed to call it a day. My right knee hurt extremely and simply said I was just not prepared enough for such a solo ride. Anyway, it felt like I got defeated, and I still could not accept and leave it after months, as it felt like an open chapter that needed to be closed. Therefore, I signed up as a solo rider the year after. Back then I lived in The Hague, which makes training for the 6500m elevation a bit tricky. The biggest hill around was a 10m high dam. However, during that preparation I started the first time to learn and tried to understand the basics of structured training and tried as good as I could (and understood) to execute it. In August 2017 finally the time was come, and I was able to finish the RAA Challenge in 22hrs and 43mins. I tell you; I was happy.
The months after that I did not do any bigger events – just some smaller local running races and cycling events. Until I realized, I am just not getting better with how I train. Still, I had a lot of fun, but I makes even more fun getting faster and seeing progress. Therefore, I decided to give it a try to work with a coach – now, I can say that was a great decision, why?
I dare to say that as an ambitious athlete one tends to possibly train too much or too hard sometimes, and I definitely did that. Or one has a lot of questions about why certain training sessions are helpful or not and what they are good for. For all of those things support is key!
I know for me I like to compete. I really like the feeling standing on a starting line, seconds before the gun goes off, be it a local half marathon, triathlon or cycling race. The mix between excitement, being nervous and anticipation. However, what I learned for me, what I like even more than competitions, is the training itself. I usually don’t have issues motivating myself, if there isn’t a goal defined yet. Of course, there are days being more tired or stressed than others, but I like it to have day in and day out smaller (with Flo sometimes a bit bigger 😀 ) challenges.