Liverpool Triathlon

Liverpool Triathlon

Today I completed the Liverpool Sprint Triathlon in 1 hour 41  mins and 41 secs.

This is half the distance of the Olympic Triathlon which I’m thinking of doing next year. The distance I did was 750 metres swimming, 20km on the bike and 5km running. I wasn’t running, I plodded along really.

I started ‘training’ for this back in March. I was riding 16km a day to work and back but I hadn’t done any running since 2001 and I had stopped swimming regularly in March 2009.

I looked up a few training plans online and reckoned 8 weeks should be enough. If I could get to do at least one discipline each day.


I used to swim a kilometre each time so I decided to go back and do that. I had advice from my friend Karen that swimming in open water is very different and that I should practice with my eyes shut. The idea is that it mimics not being able to see in open water, you only open your eyes when you breath. She also explained that I’d need to ‘sight’. This is the practice of glancing forwards when you breathe (if you are doing front crawl) so that you can check you are swimming in a straight line. This is hard than it sounds, but is important to stop you swimming in zigzags. She also explained how swimming in open water can be more tiring as you don’t get to push off from the pool wall at the end of each length. This was all very valuable information. I went out and bought a triathlon wetsuit. This investment was the motivation to then make sure I used it and actually did the triathlon. I bought it from Eureka Cycle Sports for about £120. With hindsight I think it’s slightly too small but as I expected it to stretch over time and hopefully I’d lose some weight I decided it would be ok. I’m now hoping that it will have stretched a bit more by next year.

I have been swimming breast stroke since I went to university in the early 90’s but I envisaged no problems in going back to front crawl. That was until I actually tried to do front crawl in the pool. I soon realised that I had to re-learn it. I slowed right down (not that my crawl was any faster than my breast stroke anyway) and tried to swim technically and got some advice from Tony Fisher who I had met on the Mersey Ferry commuting to work. I really slowed down my stroke and found that this way I was actually swimming at about the same speed as I would if I was doing a gentle breast stroke.

I also found out that I could do practice open water swimming at Manley Mere on a Tuesday evening. Marieta came with me so she could time my efforts form the shore. At Manley they have three courses measured out I think they are 250 metres, 500 metres and 750 metres. The first Tuesday I decided to start on the 250 metre course. 20 minutes later I had done one lap. It was absolutely horrible. You really can’t see anything under the water, not even your arms passing under you. If you are doing front crawl then you can’t see anything to give you a reference point so you end up swimming in a zigzag until you get the hang of ‘sighting’. I didn’t get the hang of sighting that day. I swam the course again and it was no more pleasant. Given that I normally swim 1km in the pool doing breaststroke in about 20-25 mins you can see how difficult I found it. I went to about 3 Tuesday sessions at Manley Mere and anded up doing the 750 metre course in about 18 mins. I also went to an open water swim session in the docks in Liverpool one Sunday. It was useful as I learnt how salty the water was and it was where the triathlon was going to be so I got to see how the water was. It was better than Manley in some ways as the water is clearer and you can see your arms (and the odd jelly fish) pass underneath you but it was also much more expensive. Here though, I tried doing a 750 metre front crawl lap and another breast stroke. The breast stroke lap was about a minute slower. This gave me confidence as I then knew that if I couldn’t manage crawl on the day then the breast stroke was not that much slower.

In between the open water sessions I did some practice in the pool but maybe only once a week. I’d say I swam twice a week most weeks but sometimes just once. I knew I could swim the distance so I just wanted to get used to open water and improve my crawl.


I was riding 10km to work and 6km from work each day with work clothes/waterproofs/panniers/laptop/change of clothes and anything else I needed to take back and forwards. I had started this back in October 2009 so I wasn’t too concerned about doing 20km. However, I worked out a route which was just over 20km. It took me about 46 mins the first time and I did it about 8 times in all getting my time down to 41 mins. I reckoned that on closed roads with no traffic lights I’d be able to do the 20km in under 40 mins.

I was using a Giant Rapid 3 a ‘Rapid commute bike’ which I had bought tax free through the cycle to work scheme last October. It has flat handle bars but has a similar geometry/gearing to a race bike. I had already bought clipless pedals and associated shoes for use on my daily commute.

I bought myself a tri-suit from Tri-Active in Chester. This is a lycra one piece shorts/body combination suit which is worn under the wetsuit and then for the bike and the run. It wasn’t as padded as my cycle shorts but 20km isn’t long enough to get saddle sore. Having looked at  myself in the mirror my first decision was to make sure I wore a t-shirt over the top. Lycra and nearly 40 really don’t mix.


Not having done any running since 2001, and even then it was only about 2 miles max, I was apprehensive about doing 5km. I decided not to buy new trainers and went with my old ones form 2001. A bit of superglue to re-attach the sole and I was away.

I started running with 2.5km through a local nature reserve which I did a few times with Marieta. It was taking me about 20-25 mins. Really though I needed to go a bit faster and further. I moved up to 5 km by myself and was surprised to do it in about 35 mins. I’d expected 40 mins or more. I managed about 3 runs of 5km each one going a little faster but then on the 4th of June I was having a good run and decided to push to see if I could go under 30 mins. I don’t know how I did it but my achilles started to hurt after about 3km and was really bad by the time I got home. I laid off  any exercise for a week and didn’t run for nearly 3 weeks as my achilles was too painful. I tried running again on the 22nd June (just 5 days before the event), I got half way round but then it started hurting again. Time 36 mins. I wasn’t too happy but at least I could get round.

On the day:

The organisation on the day was good though the distance from swim to transition and dismount to transition seemed a bit far. It was a warm, sunny day which was not ideal. We had to get down there about 2 hours before my start time to register. In the transition area everyone was really friendly. Two guys next to me were from St Helens and had been doing their open water swimming practice in Carr Mill Dam where I go water skiing.

In my swim start there must have been about 100 people. It was quite crowded as I stayed towards the back (as a novice) but found myself going faster than people in front. I was bumping into people and it was very difficult to keep a rhythm with front crawl, I felt more comfortable doing breaststroke so I could see where other people were. I got a real kick in the chest from someone at the first corner which winded me and made the next 200 metres quite hard. Overall I probably did half front crawl and half breaststroke.

I struggled a bit to get out of my wetsuit but felt ok come the first transition.

The bike ride was good. I was trundling along, swapping places with another guy. Then when I got to about 13kms I realised that I couldn’t feel anything in my groin. Those adjustments I made last night were a big mistake. When I came to stop and get off the bike I could hardly walk. It was agony. Fortunately by the time I’d racked my bike in transition and stretched a bit it started to loosen up.

As my achilles was still sore I was only planning on a gentle jog round. Given I now had a painful groin as well it was just as well. I jogged round chatting to other runners and generally having fun. There were drinks available on route, though no Vodka no matter how many times I asked for it. The volunteer stewards on the route were all friendly and encouraging, it was great fun.

My splits were:

750m swim – 19mins 21s – more or less what I was expecting though I hoped for 18mins. I blame the kick in my chest which winded me for the delay.

Transition 1 – 3mins 51s – next time I’ll use vaseline under my wetsuit.

20km bike – 43mins 46s – I wanted about 40 mins but I think it started to go wrong last night when I made some last minute setup adjustments to my bike.

Transition 2 – 2mins 41s – I could hardly walk when I got off the bike. Having done 20km plenty of times with no pain/issues I am certain I can blame this on my bike set up adjustments last night.

5km run – 32mins 05s – I just plodded through this gently as my achilles is still not good and was pleasantly surprised with the time.

Total 1hour 41mins 41s – I had hoped for 1 hour 40 mins but honestly I’m just glad to have got round and finished.

What else:

I used MapMyRide and MapMyRun on the iPhone to track my routes and my times. Works quite well though I’d like to be able to add in my swims and record everything in one place. I did have some problems occasionally with it jumping on the run but I think that was because I put my phone in my pocket and it lost GPS signal.

Do not adjust your bike the night before and event.

If I can do it I guess most of you out there could do it too. It’s really not as difficult as it sounds.

I raised about £500 for the Clatterbridge Oncology Centre.

What next:

My initial plan had been simply to get round and finish. However, as I’d been training I’d decided if I could do 20mins swim, 40 mins bike and 40 mins run then I might be able to do the whole thing in about 1hour 40mins. As it took me just a little over this then I’m quite pleased.

I’ve decided to do the full Olympic distance next year… 1500 metre swim, 40km bike and 10km run. I’d like to do it in 3 hours but we’ll have to see how long my achilles takes to get better and how well my training goes.

Thanks are due to:

Karen Gee for initially planting that seed of an idea a couple of years ago.

Liverpool Triathlon organisers for organising the event. If they hadn’t organised the triathlon in Liverpool then I probably would not have done a triathlon. For me the fact it was in Liverpool was a strong driver.

Tony Fisher for top tips on swimming, riding and for being completely mad. His stories about when he did the Deca Triathlon (23.6 mile swim, 1118 mile bike, 262.2 mile run) made me realise that doing a sprint triathlon was not that big a challenge.

Marieta for helping me start the running and having faith in me.

One Reply to “Liverpool Triathlon”

  1. You shouldn’t put vaseline on under a wetsuit as it will degrade the neoprene. Use babyoil instead. AS its water-based it wont damage your wetty.

    Good luck with the Oly this year.

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