She didn’t own a bike and wasn’t a strong swim­mer, but that didn’t stop Mimi Parfitt

Sunday Herald Sun - Body and Soul - - MY STORY -

“When my friend Jo first sug­gested it, I could think of sev­eral very good rea­sons why I shouldn’t sign up to do a triathlon with her. Three stood out. One, I’m al­most 55 – fairly ma­ture, shall we say, for a first-time triath­lete. Two, I’m not a strong swim­mer, and three, I don’t own a bike.

“As it turns out, I can run. Jo came up with her crazy idea at

the end of a 10-kilo­me­tre fun run late last year. We were high on adren­a­line and talk­ing about our next goal, and I suc­cumbed.

“Orig­i­nally we were aim­ing to do what is of­fi­cially called the Sprint triathlon: a 750-me­tre swim, a 20-kilo­me­tre bike ride and a five-kilo­me­tre run. I could man­age each of those legs, even if I wasn’t par­tic­u­larly fast, but I wasn’t so sure I could put them all to­gether.

“Af­ter var­i­ous in­ter­rup­tions to my train­ing – an over­seas trip, Christ­mas, my hus­band’s 60th birth­day, my friend’s bro­ken heart – I set my sights a lit­tle lower. Ba­si­cally I was just a naughty, undis­ci­plined trainee who read­ily put any­thing else first. For­tu­nately triathlons come in a range of sizes. I de­cided to aim for the En­ticer – a 250-me­tre swim, 10-kilo­me­tre bike ride and 2.5-kilo­me­tre run – and sud­denly that nag­ging sports de­mon on my shoul­der went quiet.

“Melissa Ash­ton, our trainer, was a pro­fes­sional triath­lete for al­most 10 years be­fore re­tir­ing in 2007. The op­por­tu­nity to train with her was cer­tainly an­other in­cen­tive to give it a go.

“Our group of six met twice a week for for­mal ses­sions with Mel. In be­tween we were meant to fol­low the in­di­vid­ual pro­grams she had tai­lored for us. Along with run­ning, swim­ming and cy­cling, mine in­cluded yoga on Wed­nes­days be­cause I al­ways did that any­way. Some­times I ig­nored the pro­gram com­pletely, apart from the yoga, and I never once did the re­quired amount of swim­ming, which wasn’t the wis­est thing to do.

“Mel taught us the triathlon rules – stress­ing, for in­stance, that we shouldn’t re­move our hel­mets at the end of the cy­cling leg un­til we had racked our bikes. For­get­ting would mean dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion. She em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of stack­ing our equip­ment neatly for a quick get­away – sun­glasses, hel­mets, shirt, shoes with elas­tic laces – and also to mark our spots with a brightly coloured towel so we wouldn’t lose our bikes in the ex­cite­ment.

The triathlon

“The sun had just risen when I ar­rived at the Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional Re­gatta Cen­tre in Pen­rith for the TriShave Women’s Triathlon Fes­ti­val. Women and girls were wheel­ing their bikes across the bridge to the reg­is­tra­tion area. It was re­ally hap­pen­ing.

“I was too ner­vous to eat break­fast, so watched the early events. The at­mos­phere was friendly but tense, with pinched faces mak­ing valiant at­tempts at smil­ing. I thought, ‘Just let the swim­ming part be over, then I’ll be fine’.

“A few min­utes af­ter 8am I slid into the wa­ter, tired and with­out much fuel in my tank. I felt like I was swim­ming in heavy boots. Even­tu­ally I made it to the end, ahead of only a hand­ful of other swim­mers. But worse was to come. De­spite all Mel’s great in­struc­tion, I couldn’t find my bike in the tran­si­tion area. Panic ris­ing, I ran up and down the row, shout­ing, ‘I’ve lost my bike, I’ve lost my bike!’

“At last, there it was, just a cou­ple of me­tres fur­ther along than I had re­mem­bered. It was so great to get on it and go, even if I was at the tail end of the group. We had to cy­cle around the lake twice. At the end of the first cir­cuit, I looked over to see Mel cheer­ing me on and nar­rowly missed col­lid­ing with an­other cy­clist when I took the cor­ner too fast and wide. Off to the left, I could see other con­tes­tants al­ready start­ing the run­ning leg, but I didn’t care. I was ex­hil­a­rated – I was in a triathlon and I was sure my worst mis­takes were be­hind me.

“My next tran­si­tion was clumsy, but not nearly as ridicu­lous as los­ing my bike. Then I was off on foot. As I started to run, I heard Mel call­ing out be­hind me, ‘Go Mimi! This is your favourite!’ It struck me as in­cred­i­bly touch­ing that, af­ter all my er­rors, she was still there. Spurred on, I ran rea­son­ably well – 2.5 kilo­me­tres in 14.52 min­utes – and didn’t come last by any means. I was happy with that.

“Would I do an­other triathlon? Ac­tu­ally, I find my­self strangely at­tracted to the idea. Cer­tainly, I’ve learnt a few things the hard way that will help me if I ever do.”


Do you have an in­spir­ing tale to tell like Mimi? Tell us how age didn’t stop you from achiev­ing your goal in the bodyand­soul.com.au Fo­rum.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.