Are Triathlon Clubs over-rated or under-utilised?
Back when I started triathlon (re-started) I did my initial bit of training by myself. My first few runs were 300 & 400m runs up the road and back. I was really impressed with myself when I was able to do my first 3km loop without stopping.
This was in the days before Couch25k and all the other training methods became vogue.
Cycling was the same. 10k on flat roads gradually became hilly 20k and ultimately taking on a 40k loop which went up Rocky Valley (in Co. Wicklow) and around gave the same satisfaction as if I'd climbed Everest.
I felt I had to do this sort of 'introductory' training to bring myself to a respectable level of fitness before considering the joining of a club. It also served a function of ensuring that I would like the sport and more importantly enjoy the training.
The reason was I'd taken on a challenge of doing a sprint distance triathlon in July of that year. It was a charity event for Focus Ireland and I'd drawn my brother and brother-in-law (to be) into forming a relay team for this. The two boys baled out and I was left having made the commitment to do the event & also having raised sponsorship I couldn't back out.
I took on some duathlons in the Phoenix Park that May & June, as part of my training, and got to see a social side of the sport which hooked me immediately. All levels of athlete mixed & chatted, shared information, tips on training, setting up your transition. All conversational, sort of like the passing of the guard, old teaching young. Not for one second was there an elitist vibe. By being there you were in the gang, there was acceptance, you belonged there without having to belong (if that makes sense?)
It was here that I met my first club members. They so impressed me with their hospitality, invited me to join them training the following week, which I did, it was a run session, my first ever properly coached running session. Weekend cycles and open water swims followed soon as I joined the club and got stuck into club life.
Nowadays I'm still a member of a triathlon club (not the same one, though I have very fond memories of my first club) even though I do all of my training solo or with one or two regular buddies.
Why am I a member of a Triathlon club?
Well, I want to give something back, if I can.
You see, without my club I would never have become the triathlete I am, nor would I have the confidence to be still training to develop into the triathlete I will be.
I learned an awful lot from senior members and coaches and from the sharing of information and from the sharing of sources of information.
As well as learning from my own experiences, I was learning from the experiences of others.
I was learning from people who had been Ironmen, I was learning from those going to be Ironmen, I was learning from those who had been injured, recovering from injury, about to be injured.
I was learning from those who broke things, fixed things, those who don't know how to fix things, those who relied on others to fix things. How to eat, how not to eat, how to pack a bike bag, unpack it, set up your race day checklist, plan a race, plan nutrition, recovery.
Pool etiquette. (the number one frustration for so many people is the lack of common manners in lane swimming)
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400"] My ideal lane designation.[/caption]
How to ride in a group, how not to ride, how to draft in a run, swim, how not to draft on a bike. How to be safe in the sea, how to get into the sea! How to get into a wetsuit. How to get out of it.
How to post race party! :)
You name it, everything I know or learned about triathlon started within a club structure. The follow up was from me, but the learning about how to learn came from the club.
This is why I believe it is critically important that anyone considering taking up triathlon should join a club.
Even if you train by yourself because of work, family, time commitments, you will still get the club emails about what's on, where. And you never know you might be able to swing that early Sunday morning cycle or that late evening swim session. Maybe not every week but even once in a while helps. Even if you never train with the club you will have access to a remarkable source of useful information and hopefully a set of peers you can bounce ideas off.
The best thing for me joining a club?
I met my wife there and we have two tri-babies :)
Go join a triathlon club, you never know what could happen.