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27 things I've learned

27 things I've learned

Fiona Russell, aka Fiona Outdoors, is a press and on-line journalist and a professional blogger. She writes, mostly, about the great outdoors, adventure, sports and fitness. She has a weekly outdoors column in the Sunday Mail. She is based in Glasgow and is a single mum of a teenage (non-sporty!) daughter. Fiona is currently in pursuit of the World Age Group Triathlon World Championships. We spotted her blog writing at and have offered her a sponsorship as a blogging triathlete. She now has a Planet X TT Stealth bike and will be writing about her training and racing in the coming year.

27 things I learned qualifying for the world champs:

Find out more about Fiona at have only ever raced five triathlons – and just one outside Scotland. I am now 45 and while I mostly feel good-for-age, I do sometimes feel old and frumpy. I have a full-on full-time job, a teenage daughter, a separate dad and a busy social life.

But on Sunday I qualified for my first ever world championships. In fact, I qualified (at the Bristol Sprint Triathlon) for my first triathlon championships of any kind.

At my grand age – and with a body and work/life against me – I finished third in my age group and will now represent Team GB along with 24 other Fit Old Birds in the Vets 2 category at the 2013 London ITU Sprint Distance Triathlon World Championships.

It was an unexpected outcome ­– and to say I am thrilled is an understatement. There are many things I have learned over the last six months of training.

What I have learned about world champs qualifiers

1)    Never think you can’t do something, especially something sporty. I am an ordinary person who enjoys cycling and running but I’m nothing special. I set a goal and simply focused on it.

2)    Don’t worry about free time. Train as hard as you can when you can. Ask a coach to set a programme according to your work/life schedule.

3)     Try not to stray from the training focus. There were plenty of times when I wanted to walk a mountain with my partner or join a longer cycling session but this would normally interfere with my training schedule so I didn’t.

4)    But don’t give up everything. I still eat what I fancy and enjoy a drink every evening. I have partied and had fun. It has not al been about triathlon training.

5)    If you fail at first try to stay positive. I came 15th at the first qualifier event in Nottingham earlier this month. I was intimidated by the numerous Fit Old Birds and the carbon bling. But I took the experience and tried again at the next qualifier.

6)    Don’t be intimidated by looks. At Nottingham it seemed that every fit person in the UK had arrived to race. But looks aren’t everything. They might be putting on a good front. Take confidence from your own training.

7)    Don’t be intimidated by the carbon bling. Get your own! Or get sponsored by Planet X! My blogging about sport, triathlon, bikes and races has won me a blogging athlete sponsorship and the loan of a beautiful Planet X time trial bike.

8)    Don’t be upset if some competitors seem mean. One lady at Nottingham didn’t want to let on to me that it’s a good idea to wear your race belt and number under the wetsuit. She clearly thought this time-saving tip would affect her placing against me. Thankfully others were more obliging in their advice. Shame on you that old bird…

9)    The water in English lakes and harbours is a lot, lot warmer than Scottish lochs – thank goodness!

10)Open water swims in national qualifier events are carnage. I have been swum over and into; I have been pushed and barged; I have cuts on my wrists and ankles from buoy abuse. I swam into the harbour wall. The swim is just about survival for me!

11) Owning a bright bike is brilliant in a busy T1. My Planet X Red Racing Machine was easy to spot when I need to find it after the swim.

12) Don’t forget the baby oil! Oiling your forearms and lower legs helps when trying to pull off a wetsuit.

13) But don’t leave the bottle of oil in your race trainers! I did this by mistake in Bristol and lost valuable seconds trying to get it out of the toe of my trainer.

14)   Bike drafting is taken very seriously indeed. You’ll lose 2 mins or be disqualified for drafting abuse.

15) Men are the worst drafting offenders. Many more men than women were penalised for drafting in my races. The rules aren’t hard to understand. Just give other riders space and make sure you are always increasing speed as you overtake on a bike.

16)) Carbon bling is good for the mind. I raced the first qualifier on a second-hand Planet X Superlight Pro Carbon fitted with aero bars and felt pretty fast. I raced the second on the Planet X TT Stealth and felt far stronger and faster. It might be in the head because comparing races in different places is impossible but I felt good. And that counts for a lot in a race.

17) Doing a T2 bike dismount after coming off a corner is very tricky indeed. Make sure you practice before the event.

18) It is not permitted to undo your bike helmet strap until you have racked your bike. I had no idea about this and was stopped by a marshal and made to re-do the strap in my first race. Note to self: Re-read triathlon rules. I did not make that mistake in the second qualifier.

19) A run in a triathlon with any hills whatsoever is very unpleasant.

20) Running fast and strong comes down to what your have done in training. I have run reps for months and practised bricks (going from bike to run). All this helps.

21) Do more bike time trials. I need to improve my speed on a bike and plan to enter a few time trials in the coming months and before the World Champs. Pushing yourself hard will reap rewards.  

22) The thought of a large glass of chilled white wine offers great incentive in the last 1k of a race.

23)  I always have a wee sprint in my legs for the finish line even when they feel like they will fall off.

24)  Little beats the emotions of crossing the finish line in a personal best time that is more than 3.5 minutes faster than you’ve ever gone before (and even when I’m now quite old). I did that at Nottingham.

25) But the best emotion is realising that you have come third in a qualifying race – and will be part of the Team GB at the world champs in September.

26) My coach, the Mighty Vickster, is a very good coach indeed. She has helped this old lady race faster than ever before.

27)  That large glass of white wine goes down very, very well after a race.

Click here to buy a Planet X Stealth Pro Carbon bike or frame.

28 June 2013

Planet X Triathlon Essentials