TDC athlete Michael Kontaratos has been with us for several months and coached by TDC coach Jill Parker. Mike as we affectionately call him, has made a successful transition to triathlon. Mike talks us through his first ever triathlon experience.
Following a long winter of training I am now 2 months away from my first Ironman race so ,bearing in mind that I had never done a triathlon race before, it was time for me to participate in my first event, a sprint triathlon (750m swim / 20k bike / 5k run) – “Transition Sports Schinias Sprint Distance” – which was being organised in Schinias (Greece). As I happened to be in Greece that week end, Jill suggested that I register for this event. The purpose of this race would be mainly to familiarise me with the race conditions, the transitions and the fact that I actually have to do 3 events! So I borrowed a wetsuit and a bike and off we go.
Regardless of the distance, a race is still a race so inevitably I was nervous. Seeing all the other competitors with their carbon tri-bikes and aerodynamic helmets I thought “What the h*** am I doing here? I will get destroyed! Oh well, let’s at least try and enjoy it…” So I started by setting up all my stuff at the transition area. I know that for experienced athletes this is second nature but for someone who is doing this for the first time it can be tricky – visualise how you will come in the transition area, what order will you wear your stuff, make sure that your bike is set at a low gear, etc. I must have gone back to the transition area at least 5 times to fix things. Warmed up, put my wetsuit and was ready to go…..
Followed Jill’s suggestion and opted for one of the sides. As soon as the gun went off the usual chaos ensued! Tried to maintain my position in the water and look for any openings that would allow me a couple of meters of open water swim. It actually went much better than expected (probably beginner’s luck) and following the first 250m I settled into my race pace and practice mode kicked in – controlled breathing and occasionally looking up to make sure that I knew where I was going. With 200m to go I started to switch my mind into the transition phase to prepare myself for what I am about to do. Very helpful as the transition will always come sooner than expected.
Off the water – start taking off the wetsuit while running and think of the order you need to follow. Wetsuit off, tri belt on, top, helmet, shoes, grab the bike and off you go. Trivial stuff for an experienced athlete! (panic mode for me!). On to the bike, clip on and start pedalling……only to find out that my bike chain has come off! (**%^%$). Off the bike, put the chain back on and start the cycling leg.
Cycling comprised of 4 laps around the rowing lake of Schinias (similar to the Eton course I guess) so totally flat. There was a strong headwind going up course so I had to use lighter gears while keeping high cadence. Once you go round half the course I would flick into heavier gears and “fly” down course. Huge difference in speed. But I am missing my tri bike. The headwind is quite strong and this heavy old road bike is not helping. I am overtaken by a number of athletes but in my mind I do not really care. After all, a) there is nothing much I can do, b) this is my race and I am sticking to what I know. So back to my practice mode. I make sure that I take on fluids and an energy gel as the salty water has made me quite dehydrated.
Transition comes earlier than expected and I realise that I have not had enough time to remove my feet from the shoes (mental note – yes Mike in a triathlon there are 2 transition stages). So I unclip and run the small distance to my transition area wearing my bike shoes. As a friend of mine stated “You looked like running in high heels” – my pride is destroyed! However, unlike other athletes , I am not wobbling around – all the winter brick sessions are paying out . So off from the high heels and on to my trainers.
Immediately into race mode. The course is through a forest by the sea (beautiful) but the terrain is quite sandy which makes the running difficult. So while running I try to look for solid terrain as much as possible. I am able to pass a number of competitors and soon enough I am looking at the finish line.
Loved it – what a great experience! The weather was amazing (25C and sunny), the location beautiful and the atmosphere extremely friendly. I promise to myself that I will be back for another race in the future. I am already on my way home when I am told that my overall position was 19th out of 140 male athletes (1:17:52) and that in my age group I was 3rd!……..Shocking!!! Insane!!!…….now I am buzzing!!!…… apparently my swim time and run times were quite strong while my bike run let me down. Now I am annoyed – “I should have brought my bike with me and give them a run for their money…..oh well next time!”
I started my journey last August and right now I have two months left to achieve my dream of completing an Ironman race. There is still a long way to go but it’s a huge ego boost to know that all the training is paying off! Do I sound addicted?