From that first race, I was hooked. Looking back, I loved every minute of it and cannot recommend it enough to people toying with the idea. In fact, coming from an overweight, lazy person who could barely swim a length, didn’t cycle an awful lot, and definitely didn’t run, as they say, if I can do it, so can you.
By this point, I had signed up for the next 2 races (12th July and 6th September) and I knew exactly where I wanted to improve. Running was the obvious one but transitions were also just important when it came to saving time. Should I practise running along and taking off my wetsuit? Could I lay out my kit in a different order? Did I need to wear socks? How about nutrition; could I practise taking that on the bike rather than doing it at my transition point? I spent a fairly decent amount of time thinking about these, seemingly trivial, things before the next race.
Being in the same location, it was a perfect way to see if I was able to improve anything. To make sure I did, I made the most of my new membership with Freedom Tri, and went to as many swimming sessions as I could, in the pit (3 or 4 mornings per week); joined them during their running practise; and sometimes joined them on long rides at the weekend. I also tried to fit in a cycle to and from work as often as I could.
During the run training, my ankles started giving me bother so I went back to the shop where I bought my wet-suit and got a professional gait analysis to see what kind of shoes I should be wearing. It was recommended that I wear a strongly supported shoe to counteract my over-pronation (feet pointing outwards). I bought these and happily went on my way. They took a bit of getting used to but they did feel much better.
My knee pain was still plaguing me so I decided to go to see an injury specialist. Luckily, there was one which would give discounts if you were a club member. He was able to slot me in pretty quick and give me an evaluation.
NOTE: I am not a Physiotherapist, Doctor, or biomechanical specialist of any kind so I will probably get things wrong and I will also limit the amount of fancy words used (probably to zero).
After giving me a thorough looking over, he came to a conclusion. It was that I had an imbalance in the strength between my quads and hamstrings (probably due to my training in cycling but not running) which caused my knee to hurt. The fact that I jolted it on the bike may have just sped up the pain coming to the surface. I was given some daily strengthening exercises to do to try and fix this imbalance. He also mentioned that I was a flat footed over-pronator and that to help straighten me out during the run, I would need orthotics in my shoes to support my feet and make them point forwards. I mentioned that I had already been given the gait analysis and that I was recommended the most supportive shoe (which I had taken with me); however, after looking at the shoes, he decided that the orthotic would be needed as well. I went back a week later once the orthotics had arrived. I was given two pairs: one for everyday walking about; and one for running. This meant that I was constantly receiving artificial support for my arches. As I had no basis to argue this, and trusted his professional recommendation, I went off and wore the orthotics daily and during running. They were very strange to start with (never actually got used to them) and was told that I would probably feel a certain amount of discomfort for the first few days, as I got used to them, so I shouldn’t wear them all the time from day one.
They were really uncomfortable but, being the obedient little sheep I am, followed his advice and transitioned into wearing them daily, assuming they would become comfortable as time went by. I think it got to a point where they weren’t comfortable but I didn’t realised they were there. I think the pain receptors in my feet just gave up sending me signals. I also believed what he had told me so I kept training in them (still with my supported shoe, as well) in the hope that one day I’d be running free and easy like Forrest Gump. It wasn’t long before the next race.