WITC at Olsztyn and Piaseczno

WITC at Olsztyn and Piaseczno, May 2015

May traditionally sees the start of the triathlon season in Poland and WITC kicked off the 2015 season at Olsztyn and Piaseczno. We caught up with two first-time triathletes to talk about their experience. Simon, who did his first triathlon (a sprint distance) in Olsztyn, and Anastazja whose first tri was the 1/8 in Piaseczno.

Simon Van Hoeymissen – Olsztyn Elemental Triathlon, May 17th

The sprint seemed the logical distance to start with as I assume one’s first go at a new challenge is the hardest one. After that you are able to build on your experience. I was lucky enough to have a couple of WITC “veterans” there to point out the do’s and don’ts.

Simon with Pierre-Francois before the start of the swim

Simon (left) with Pierre-Francois before the start of the swim

First of all, when arriving at the venue it feels like a festival of sports. It can be a bit intimidating to see all those highly teched-up athletes there. A lot of bikes seem to be imported from the future and look like they need a manual for anyone to figure out how to ride them. But in the end you’re just there to have fun and give it your all and of course, you don’t need a EUR 10,000 bike for that. At the start of the swim I made sure to get some space, not to get too caught up in the chaos of the “washing machine”, which must be a hectic situation in the best of conditions… The weather in Olsztyn was quite bad with a lot of wind, waves and pretty cold water. It really felt completely different to swim in the open water compared to the swimming pool. You can’t see where you’re going or if you’re swimming straight, so you need to get your head out of the water every few strokes to see where you’re going, causing your legs to drop and drag. The cold water makes your feet a bit numb, making it harder to kick. And most importantly, the waves made it very problematic to breathe, which in combination with the adrenaline of the chaotic start, is quite disorientating and might even make you prone to panic. Occasionally swimming breaststroke for a moment to catch my breath while enjoying (and orientating on) the scenery helped a lot. Regarding the competition, I found it quite hard to gauge my position in relation to the pack. For the better part of the swim I had no idea if I was doing well or not. Also, if you find yourself swimming alone while another swimmer passes you heading 180 degrees in the other direction, chances are one of you is a bit lost. Luckily it wasn’t me.

11058566_10152948766173105_3684013342438045114_nAfter the swim it can be a bit messy with the transition. You really want to take things one step at a time in a logical order. I had a moment when I fetched my bike with the helmet placed on the saddle, which obviously fell, and things just got needlessly problematic, probably to the great amusement of the crowd :-) I imagine the biking must be very nice if your cycling skills are on par (or better) than your swim. I think most triathletes focus on their biking and running. In my case however, the swim is the best, and the bike is the worst of the three disciplines. So the biking leg proved to be agonizingly demotivating. I just tried to clamp on to the wheels of the droves of people that passed me, to no avail. Transition 2 is obviously quite straightforward if you’re biking with normal running shoes. So I can’t really share any useful info on this. Just remember where you finish the bike and where you start the run in the transition. It’s only a little effort which might save you some frustration during the race. That also holds true for the running: know the course. Usually you have to run several laps. In Olsztyn there was a clear sign at the end of the lap “finish” – “lap”.

To conclude, I think that the greatest thing about triathlon is the lifestyle that you adopt while training for the actual events. I’ve never felt healthier than during my training period. Everything you do for these events is good for you. Apart from the physical training and the mental confidence-boost you get while progressing, you also naturally change your diet for the better, and you just feel super! Thanks a lot to everybody at WITC to help me achieve this. I’ve never been super athletic, but with the right motivation and coaching I can now say I’m a triathlete. Next up: a quarter IM!

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The following week Simon also raced in Piaseczno (check out our photo album from Piaseczno here) which is where Anastazja took on her first triathlon:

Anastazja Zygmantowicz – Piaseczno Garmin Triathlon, May 24th

How does it feel to do a triathlon? I know some of you are thinking about doing triathlon for the first time and some are sure that you can’t do it.

For me it was at the same time more and less difficult than I thought.  It was more difficult because the preparations were very demanding. I had 5 months to learn how to swim almost from zero. Every time I went to the swimming pool, my hands were shaking and I could barely breathe. The best advice I can give for those of you who are not good swimmers is to get a swimming coach. Just couple of lessons and you will feel much more comfortable. If you didn’t try to swim in a lake, you have to be ready that it’s more difficult and less comfortable than in a swimming pool. I definitely underestimated that it is such a big difference, however it didn’t take too much time to get used. I quickly started to even love it 😉

I struggled to find time to train, because I constantly travel. I concentrated on swimming, I was cycling occasionally, running regularly and attending cross-fit every time I could.

Before the swim with Mark & Igors

Anastazja (right) before the swim with Mark & Igors

About triathlon itself: the swimming was difficult for me, I was changing styles to rest a bit, the water was very cold, there were lots of people around (nobody actually pushed or kicked me), the rescue boat came over twice to ask if I am ok, but I didn’t think to stop.
On the other hand, triathlons are easier than you think because of the atmosphere and amazing support. It has never been so easy to motivate myself. I remember two guys swimming next to me saying “Just a bit more, almost there!”, people clapping when I got out from the lake and was shocked that each step takes so much effort, children screaming ‘super!’, even though I was one of the very last on a bicycle. I remember fastest cyclists passing me on the road like bullets, it felt so cool to be close to them. At the end of cycling part I couldn’t dismount from my bicycle, because my legs didn’t listen and people started to cheer and laugh, so I was laughing too. I started to run and was very surprised to find out that despite my legs were dead I could run! 5k without a break! While running I’ve seen people fighting with themselves and truly admired everybody who decided to take part. When I finished I just fell down to the sand and 5 min later ate the tastiest watermelon in my life. It was totally worth it!

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Congratulations to both Anastazja and Simon and welcome to the wonderful world of triathlon! We look forward to seeing you at more triathlons in the future :-)

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