Race Report: Alison Lyons

Event: Free Tri Series Walton (IntoTri)
Date: 19th May 2024

This is a lovely, FREE, very relaxed triathlon, with children over 7 years even able to enter. Plus, it’s as local as it gets at the Xcel Centre. For adults, you can do a Senior Short (400m swim, 10k bike, 2.5k run) or Senior Long (400m swim, 20k bike, 5k run). Considering most triathlons cost about £40 to enter, I was amazed and excited that this one was free. 

My triathlon journey started aged 49 years young, post Covid, in 2021. I could only swim breaststroke (but always wanted to learn front crawl) and had never been on a road bike (never mind in cleats).  But I had run two marathons (slowly – 5hrs ish) and loved outdoor sports. Roll on 3 years and I had somehow managed to have been talked into entering a Half Ironman in July 24 (eeekkk).

So I thought I had better do some training…

My objectives for the Walton Tri were as follows:

  1. Swim.  I had taken swim lessons all winter (Full Stream – Lee, Riverbourne Leisure Centre Chertsey. Brilliant), but I was still not confident at front crawl (more of a reflection on my in-ability rather than Lee’s coaching). So objective 1 was: can I do the whole 400m doing front crawl without panicking??
  2. Complete the triathlon
  3. Get my legs used to the brick transitions (swim to bike and bike to run)
  4. Have fun
  5. Practice the transition
  6. Learn from it.

The venue was great. Easy parking, swimming pool clean. The pre-day online registration and race briefing was efficient and helpful, and the marshalls were very relaxed on the day (they are always keen for marshalls). Plus lots of excited kids which gave it a good vibe.

So I arrived early, racked my bike, sorted my stuff, chatted to my fellow competitors, quick loo trip and I was ready. I did ask a particularly muscly young man next to me if he had ever done a triathlon before.  He looked at his tri bike with tri bars and lots of fancy paraphernalia and said “Yes.” Ha ha – a bit embarrassing for me. Never mind.

Swim: We had to queue up by our expected finish time, so I headed straight to the back. Chatted to the others at the back and realised I might be quicker than 3 lovely Chinese ladies (similar age to me) and 2 guys, who all convinced me they were definitely only going to do breaststroke. So I shuffled up the queue to position 6 from last. When you are not great at swimming, I find it really stressful slowing other people down behind me. So the swim was all about a positive mental attitude, calming myself down during the race, slow breathing, not panicking. I can do this!! I quickly got overtaken by the 2 guys (their breaststroke was quicker than my front crawl). That’s OK. The rules are you let people overtake before you turn, which was fine, and actually it was nice to know the faster swimmers were ahead. I managed about 50% of the swim front crawl and 50% breaststroke. So that’s fine, pleased with that, and onto the bike.

Transition was not timed, so I relaxed changed into my bike stuff and dried between my toes.

Bike: I am confident on this. So I hit the road with my Wahoo Element on to see if I could maintain a consistent 25km/h plus speed. The bike route was lovely. Flat, well marshalled, easy to navigate. Two loops of a course turning at a lovely church. I waved and cheered the 3 x Chinese ladies (plus one other lady) cycling on the other side of the road, and they waved and cheered back, which made us all giggle. There were some roadworks with traffic lights, which got me twice, but I welcomed the break to rehydrate (note to self – must practice rehydrating whilst cycling more). Bike done. Pleased with that. Onto the run.

Run: By this time I was feeling a bit tired, the sun was getting hotter and I hadn’t practiced much running recently. So this was going to be all about getting round. The route was along the river, a bit shaded, nice support, so all good. 2 laps. This is where I need to kick in my mental support. I can do this. This is fine. Keep going Al. With one foot in front of the other, a positive mental attitude, and congratulating my fellow athletes as we passed, I got round. With the obligatory high five jump, ‘jazz hands’ wave and smile whenever I saw an official photographer.

So by 9.15am the tri was done. It would have been lovely to chat to the Chinese ladies, but they had done the shorter route and were long gone. I was second to last overall (in front of the other lady on the bike), so had a lovely chat with her at the end (similar age to me, she had completed a Half Ironman before). Our bikes were the only 2 left in transition, which made us laugh. We congratulated each other on how fabulous we both were and then headed off for bacon sandwiches.

A great event, very well organised, lovely marshalls, very relaxed and nice routes. And Free!! The next one is 14th July.

Alison Lyons (aged 52). Not yet quite ready for World Champ Qualifiers, but getting there 😊

PS. Alison has since done another Free Tri and knocked 2 minutes and 20 seconds off her time! Whoop, whoop!