In my early twenties my health took a bit of a spiral and it got to a point where any form of movement was extremely painful. Thanks to a very persistent Mum, I was eventually diagnosed with something called “Ankylosing Spondylitis”.
I started swimming as a direct consequence of my illness. Looking back I think swimming was something of a silver lining, at the time it was the only place I felt normal, it was also a massive outlet for me. Running initially was a no go, as at my worst I relied on the use of walking sticks and family members to help me get round. In regards to cycling, even before my illness I couldn’t ride a bike for any distance.
Fast forward a decade and a half, and my condition is fairly under control due to swimming, a self-help group and some new medication. I’ve been a member of the club for over a year now. I’ve learnt to ride a bike, although some members may disagree with that statement :-), and I’ve only got 17 more park runs to go before I reach 100.
I regularly attend the training sessions provided by the club which I find invaluable.
The first one I ever attended was something called the ‘The Blue Bell’ run. I find meeting new people can be a bit daunting; however, these concerns soon disappeared after meeting Paul and Adey. Paul was leading the training session and explained the course and what you had to do. During the training session I still vividly remember that everybody was making an effort to chat and introduce themselves. At the time I thought it spoke volumes for the club.
One of my concerns before joining the club was that everybody would be super fit, but it soon became apparent that the club catered for a wide range of abilities. From people attempting their first triathlon to those competing in ultra-marathons and Ironman events. Training sessions are well thought out to deal with the various abilities.
If you need to get confidence on the bike I can definitely recommend Alex’s brunch ride every month. He’s always there to offer help and advice and at the end of the ride you have the option of a cooked breakfast and an opportunity to socialise a bit more with other members of the club.
I also found the Go-Tri events the previous year were useful to gain confidence in open water swimming. The participant numbers are a lot less and they have canoeist in the water to help you out if you get into trouble. On my first attempt I made the mistake of not acclimatising correctly on entering the water. I then tried to swim like I was in the pool, a few minutes later I was holding onto a canoe struggling for breath. It then took me two more attempts before finally completing the 300 metre swim. I was grateful that the canoeists were there that day.
So last year I completed my first sprint tri and this year the aim was to complete the standard distance which I did at the Owler. Along the way I also did my first cycling sportive, standard distance duathlon and just completed my first 10k run. At each of these events there was always somebody from the Ashford Tri Club offering words of encouragement.
I’m now contemplating a half marathon in November.