Having known Jess Dignon from my hockey past, I contacted her and after our interview, I had joined Trifactri in their beginner training programme, with Jess as my coach. We discussed, that given my triathlon experience (0%), work, study and other sporting commitments, a sprint in May at Sun City would be an ideal race for my first triathlon. I was suddenly caught up in the hype of training, trying to hit the daily ‘greens’ on my Training Peaks account. After a further discussion with Jess and Lucie, I signed up for the training camp in Nelspruit, to further improve my fitness and skill base.
It was the day before camp and I started to get the usual feelings of excitement and nerves (but mostly nerves). I had been on many hockey training camps before and they were all extremely tough, but I had no idea what to expect on a triathlon camp. I knew that the training schedule would be harsh, but what made me really anxious was that I did not know if I could physically cope with the intensity of training required (even if the programme was scaled down for me to a beginner level). Looking at the list of athletes attending, it struck me - I am the only beginner going on camp and I am the only one to have not done a triathlon yet. I was freaking out!! I had literally just learnt how to swim a month ago. I had only ever cycled on the road five times before camp, and never in rain conditions as the weather for Nelspruit had been predicted. All I could do is run. Following some last minute ‘pick me up’ discussions with my coach Jess and a pep talk of why camp would be good for me from Jade, panic was averted. I was camp bound.
The five day Nelspruit camp run by Lucie was extremely well structured and all the training was done at a high intensity. Everyone had to push their own limits every single day. It was a really difficult, yet rewarding training camp. Triathlon training is not easy. There was no place to hide. You had to front up to the challenging sets for running, swimming or cycling every day. It is difficult to explain how testing the camp was for everyone who attended, but one thing is for certain, I learnt a lot. Things such as ‘test your brakes before you cycle (thanks Aubs for the ‘in cycle’ saving of my life)’; ‘eat and drink all the time on a long cycle’; ‘don’t cycle on painted lines when it is raining’; ‘sit further back in your seat to power through on up hills’; and ‘how to brake doing 40km/h downhill with a puncture’. There is not a single person from the Trifactri team who did not guide or advise me in some way on the camp, which has left me far better off now, than I was going into camp.
As a beginner, you tend to fret about the small things. You fret a lot. Clipping in and out of your pedals is a constant challenge to get right. On our Saturday cycle, Chants had lost half of her cycling shoe 60km in and had literally fixed her shoe up with insulation tape and a spot of glue whilst en route and was ready to tackle 100km more. I was blown away by her courage. She is an Ironman. If she could do that, I figured worrying about clipping in and out of my pedals was no longer a problem for me. Poor Ralf gets loads of grief for his swimming form. It is difficult to describe what he does in the pool, but even I know that what he does is just not sanitary. But he swims. Like a persistent oil tanker in the ocean, Ralf swims. He gets the job done. He is an Ironman. When you are around a group of high level athletes like all the people who attended camp, they can only inspire you to be better every day. Camp has changed my outlook on what I alone can accomplish in this sport.
I didn’t have any set goals or targets for camp, other than surviving the rigors of training and ensuring that I came out of camp with a strong foundation from which to build my race specific training for May. The camp and the pure spirit of my team mates and coaches, allowed me to achieve a few solid personal bests. A month ago, I could barely swim 25m in a pool. On camp I managed to do a couple 2.5km swim sets, thanks to Lucie pushing me to do more than I personally thought I could physically handle.
The camp would have broken me, had it not been for the backing from Lucie, Jess and all the Trifactri team members in attendance. Without their unwavering support, encouragement, guidance and sheer belief in my ability, I would not have been able to push myself towards achieving new training milestones. That is a fact. From camp I learnt that within Trifactri, it does not matter if you come first or last, what matters is that you never give up, you never give in and you always keep moving forward. The team will always support you. As a beginner, you may be nervous, uncertain and downright scared, but never stop moving forward, because with a solid team like Trifactri supporting you, giving up is not an option.
Like anything in life, if you surround yourself with the right people, like the Trifactri team, you can only improve. Head Coach Lucie is exceptionally talented, skilled and experienced and will always push you to be better and push you to achieve more. She has been there, done it and continues to do it. Small tips from Lucie can have dramatic improvements in your performance. Trust her process and you will end up improving performances in leaps and bounds – believe me I know. Jess is the most encouraging coach for beginners, her keen eye for detail (especially in swimming), her patience, persistence and continuous honesty allows you to learn rapidly and adapt to the harshness of triathlon training very quickly. She is a pillar of strength for all beginners and her attitude reassures that you lose the ‘fear of failure’, which often holds beginners back. I encourage all beginners to not be afraid to train with the team, to ask questions, to listen to experiences and to trust the process from the coaches.
I look forward to tackling more training challenges, pushing my limits to the maximum and experiencing more training events and races with the Trifactri team. Most importantly, I look forward to making my own contribution to the team. I may not be Ironman material just yet, but you best believe that with the assistance of the coaches and team from Trifactri, one day, one day, I will take on the challenge!!