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The Alluring Challenge of Multisports

By Matt Baker

Matt Baker in the Outlaw X 2020

Being a relative newbie to triathlon I’m still finding my feet, but there are a few things I have learnt from many a year playing both team sports and now individual pursuits. There are so many things to learn about a sport be it kit, tactics, nutrition, training, injury prevention and how to deal with different weather conditions to name but a few. Being an amateur I don’t think I will ever perfect this but I strive to come as close as possible, hopefully culminating in a few personal bests at some point in the future. After all we are mainly racing ourselves and trying to constantly improve and beat what we did yesterday, there comes a point however when the tide changes and we then try to maintain the same pace while getting slowly older, fortunately something that is yet to hit me. Needing a constant challenge to work towards gives either a sense of a never ending journey with shifting goal posts or a great motivational tool, fortunately for me it’s the latter. Be it at work or play the focus for me is on a target somewhere in the future. For some this may seem daunting but broken down into weekly or daily tasks becomes more manageable. It has been a challenge for me during this year for obvious reasons and having races cancelled like many of you, I quickly lost my mojo. I had 6 weeks off during lock down, after which I went back to basics and did what I felt like, as I am a great advocate for doing exercise to improve or sustain mental health and overall well being. Having events booked at strategic points throughout my traing (usually planned out at Christmas) leading up to a ‘A’ race really helps me, but I need to be disciplined to enact my plan and not get carried away racing someone in a ‘B’ or ‘C’ race just because i can, as I enevitably get caught out doing sometimes.

Having run for Ripley for about 5 years I found I hit a plateau after 2 or 3, my run times weren’t decreasing so I just enjoyed getting out and running off road in the beautiful part of the country we live in. I needed to do something different so I started to get involved in triathlon. The best part of being a member of a running and now triathlon club for me is the camaraderie, meeting like minded people and the new friendships that are formed. The worst part of this transition (no pun intended) was that I hadn’t swam since I was a kid, …apart from navigating the distance from a sun bed to a swim up bar when abroad! For most triathletes the swim is the most daunting as most don’t come from a swimming background, so I signed up to a swim block at a local leisure centre and got stuck in. First re-learning how to do front crawl correctly or at least knowing the theory behind it, then bilateral breathing (both sides) which I have later found to be invaluable depending on wind, waves and sun direction when out in open water. I’m still an improving swimmer as I’m all too aware it’s all about technique no matter what your age, gender or body shape is. I had many bikes as a kid but all were of the mountain variety with knobbly tires, not the best sort for zipping along tarmac and making the miles disappear behind you. A trip to Decathlon and the Huub shop in Derby served me well for kit as with 3 sports to cater for triathlon can be an expensive sport with some TT (time trial) bikes costing as much as a car. I’m not one for the latest kit but would rather it fit, work correctly and be comfortable than cost a lot, as I am aware that splashing the cash is no substitute for training the best tool we have at our disposal and that is our body.

Ripley Running Club has been great for me, turning up on a Tuesday night rain, snow or shine with a group of like minded individuals and getting out there, no matter what your pace there is a group for everyone. I always look forward to the post run pint which has been difficult and sometimes impossible over the last few months but it finally seems like things are moving in the right direction as Tuesday’s have been the new Friday night for me as events are usually at the weekends so running dehydrated isn’t a great start.

Fast forward a couple of years of hard work in the pool at Belper Leisure Centre on a Sunday night, New Bath Hotel outdoor pool in Matlock on Thursday’s, Sunday morning social rides im the peaks, a few track sessions in the velodrome in Derby and the Tuesday night runs at Ripley Running club stood me in good stead to start with short and local triathlon events. The first being Jenson Button’s at Markeaton Park (400m swim, 20k bike, 5k run) and various distances in between culminating the most recent, a middle distance (1/2 ironman distance) at Thoresby Hall only 2 weeks ago (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1m run). An Ironman is the holy grail of triathlon distances originally run in Kona Hawaii and now annually for the world championship and age groupers over a distance of 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and then run (or walk in some cases!) a full marathon. What a challenge and something I would love to say I have completed so it is in the diary. I have now completed 5 1/2 distance triathlons with varying levels of success ranging from cramping up on the run and hobbling in as both training and nutrition were not correct, to knocking off nearly an hour from my time where i first started, just by having a training plan and experimenting with different nutrition. Whatever you are intothere is a lot to be said for starting off short and slow and building up both the time and distance ensuring your body can cope with the increasing load and not over exerting or injuringyourself.

Transition is said to be the 4th discipline of triathlon (the process of swapping kit from swim to bike and bike to run), something which I have had great success at recently being in the top ¼ of all athletes in my past 2 races, which I put down to watching the pro’s race and YouTube videos.

2020 was supposed to be the year I attempted a full distance triathlon under the Outlaw brand, but now 2021 will be a rerunof 2020 as I have differed a lot of what has been cancelled, with the added benefit of being paid for already. So I know what it will take to get me over that finish line, It won’t all be smooth sailing with some expected bumps along the way but hopefully I can keep fit enough to get to the start next July and hear those immortal words as I cross the finish line ‘Matt Baker you are an Outlaw!’ fingers crossed.

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