From Beginner to Grinner

I stumbled across triathlon a little differently to most…

Last November my partner at the time encouraged me to sign up for Noosa Triathlon with him. You’re kidding right?! I couldn’t run 5km let alone 10km, could barely swim 1.5km, had never swum in the open water, am a little (OK a lot) afraid of bluebottles AND had only ridden a bike maybe 3 times since I was a kid. He persisted though and promised to help me with training so I thought, why not? Maybe it was time to try something new and with someone to help, how hard could it be? Half nervous and half excited, I signed up.

Three weeks later, he broke up with me. Not only was I completely heartbroken, I now had a $300 Noosa registration with no skills to use it. I deliberated for a few months about what to do. Some of my friends were incredibly encouraging whilst others disappointingly discouraging with comments like “Triathlon?! You can’t do that, you don’t even own a bike!” Gee thanks guys…Eventually after doing some confidence building laps in the pool, I decided it was time to bite the bullet. I was going to do Noosa; and I was going to do it for me.

I had ten months to train and teach myself three sports before putting them all together. Sounds simple, right? As my journey unfolded, it became very obvious I had a lot of work to do and absolutely no idea how to do it. There are shoes that clip you into a bike?!

I threw caution to the wind and entered a 1km open water swim. I nervously stood on the beach waiting for my race, feeling intimidated and out of place. There was an electric buzz in the air as everyone seemed to know each other, chatting away about “the chop”. What that meant, I had no idea and the thought quickly escaped my mind as the person standing next to me just mentioned the ‘B’ word; bluebottle. My Dad had surprised me and come to watch (I think he had to see it to believe it!) and I found myself at the age of 32, standing on a beach in my togs being counselled about what to do if I got stung mid-race. Not my finest adult moment, but thanks Dad…. I swam my little heart out and survived to tell the story. To this day, that swim is my 1km PB in both the pool and open water.

As time went on, I started to realise that there was more to this training than doing a session or two a week in each sport. The terms “double-session days”, “brick session” and “run off the bike” got thrown around. It also became very apparent that doing an Olympic Distance Triathlon as my first ever race wasn’t the smartest idea... My aunty Stacy, a seasoned triathlete, suggested I do a couple of smaller races for practice and exposure. Putting this all together with enduring guidance and support from her is how I found my coach, Dan McTainsh. It’s been the best decision I’ve made.

I can honestly say that I’ve never been so far out of my comfort zone. There has been blood, a couple of tears and a lot of sweat. There have been so many times where things haven’t gone to plan, but people have been there to pick me up off the ground when I’ve fallen, literally. These cleat things are hard! As time has gone on, I no longer freeze just thinking about getting on my bike and cycling has become my favourite of the three disciplines. I’m still pretty shaky and clumsy clipping in but once I’m clipped in, I’m off! I love every second.

If it wasn’t for the incredible support and encouragement from the people surrounding me, I may have thrown in the towel, making up some excuse to pull out. They have answered my endless questions (and I mean endless), helped with nutrition, training programs, fed me when I’ve been too exhausted to cook and given me kudos galore on Strava. This wonderful triathlon community has been so positive and encouraging when my “negative thought committee” has been in full-swing and believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself.

I am so thankful to have such amazing people in my life who have helped me get to this point today. All of the hard work has been done and it’s just me and my mental game on race day this Sunday. Whilst I may have started this journey with a heavy heart, some fear, and a lot of self-disbelief, I’m ending it with a massive smile, huge sense of accomplishment, stronger relationships with old friends and family, many new friendships, believing that anything is possible, and a new-found love for this crazy world of triathlon. Honestly, what more could a girl want?

Many of my friends, colleagues and family have mentioned along the way how inspiring they’ve found watching my journey unfold. At first, I didn’t give it too much thought but as time has gone by, I’ve recognised that so many people have dreams and aspirations that they never start or finish because they’re so scared of failure. People worry that they’ll be judged, or are discouraged by others. It’s always so hard taking that first step but once you do, the world is your oyster. I hope to inspire you to take that step and don’t look back. The sense of accomplishment and empowerment is incredible. 

Erin Lawlor

Game face set

Game face set

Stay tuned for Erin's recap after her first ever Olympic Distance Triathlon at Noosa this weekend!

Good luck Erin!