I remember my first time.
Welsh Mountain Bike series, Dare Valley country park 1992. Entered in the novice category, unadviseldly wearing a prized, pristine, white t-shirt emblazoned with ‘Taupo Bungy NZ’, a precious acquisition after the terror of the jump. I sat upon a discounted Kona Cinder-Cone, surrounded by high end Kleins, Cannondales and Oranges; the weapons of choice in the early 90s. We started. I hit oxygen debt. I realised I could do it. I finished 3rd, winning a can of WD-40 for my efforts.
The Bungy t-shirt did not survive the muddy onslaught.
Cardiff Try-a-tri. 1996 (I think). 400m swim, 16km ride, 5km run. A similar story, though by this point I had 4 years of endurance sport behind me, a commitment to training surpassed only by a love of pizza and ambient electronica, and the acquisition of a decent road bike. Pool swim. The staggered start gives no sense of your performance. I mistime my lengths and try and get out with 350m under my (race) belt. I continue. I ride well, courtesy of one marshal – Norman Carter, Jules’ dad – screaming at me to ‘Bloody slow down on this bend!’. I ran better. Sometime later I found out to my surprise, that I’d won.
Aside from exact dates – I’m rubbish at detail – I remember the experience and the feeling of virgin racing like it was yesterday. The knots in the stomach. The ‘I’m not worthy’ feeling, brought on by seeing fit, well equipped athletes going about their thing with quiet confidence. I remember the pain.
I also remember the exhilaration, the lasting feeling of achievement and a Pandora’s box opening, with a myriad of new opportunities spilling out.
Yesterday, I was reminded of all of that. I’d help to organise a group of people from Coryton Primary School to participate in the Lydney triathlon. A hilly sprint distance race on the Gloucestershire fringes. Most were new to it. All were raising money. For my part, I was sidelined by the Roubaix crash and forced to watch, so I grabbed a marshals bib from the organisers and helped out. I’m really not very good at being a spare part.
There were nerves, incidences, smiles. There are lots of questions going into your first event. What training do I need to do? Have I done enough? What about kit? and the biggest question of all; Can I actually do it? In the case of yesterday’s newbies the answer was a resounding ‘yes’ (only one person couldn’t complete; Helen selflessly gave up her race at the mid-point to look after a triathlete who misjudged an overtaking manouever and clipped a car – shame as Helen had blitzed her 400m swim PB). Yesterday, many personal barriers were broken and limits were removed. It was rewarding and gratifying to see. You really. really can’t beat a collective effort. Well done parents and staff of Coryton primary. Where next?
All funds raised will finance much needed IT equipment. If you can help with corporate sponsorship please get in touch. More details can be viewed on the Coryton PTA website here. With thanks to Zoe and Matt Emery for the image.