Louise Hutchinson tries a triathlon

Last year, having recently passed a significant birthday, I decided I needed a new challenge. I've been a member of the Hogarth since 1993 (so a very long time!) and during this period I've sampled all sorts of classes and also taken up running and competed in various races. I have always found that training and keeping fit is a little bit more fun if you set yourself a target and have something to aim for. So, with this in mind, I decided to do a triathlon.

Triathlon is one of the fastest growing mainstream sports in the world, combining the disciplines of swimming, biking and running into one event. The standard distance is the Olympic triathlon which involves a 1500m swim, a 40k bike and a 10k run. There is also the sprint (750m swim, 20k bike and 5k run) and various longer distances such as an Ironman and Half Ironman.

My introduction to the sport was a bit haphazard. Following the death of a close friend and fellow Hogarth member, Debbie Phillips, my family undertook a challenge to raise money for The Debbie Fund which was set up in her memory. We divided up the distances of an Ironman (2.4mile swim 112 mile bike and 26.2mile run) and completed it between the four of us in a day. We managed to raise quite a lot of money (thanks to the generous support of friends and family) and our efforts that day whetted my appetite to do a triathlon properly.

I had some swimming lessons to improve my rather recreational freestyle stroke, I bought a racing bike (after much advice from all the biking pros at the club) and learnt how to ride a bike with clip-in pedals. I started doing 'brick sessions' which is when you bike and then run immediately afterwards. At first your legs feel like concrete when you do this but with some practice your body begins to adapt and the concrete feeling lessens (honestly!) I also bought a wetsuit and learnt to swim in open water.

At the end of September I competed in my first sprint triathlon at Dorney Lake. It was freezing cold and I was incredibly nervous. My transition times (the time it takes to 'transition' from the swim to the bike (T1) and the bike to the run (T2)) left something to be desired but I finished in a respectable time and subsequently discovered I was first female in my age group (okay, I was the only one!) More importantly I discovered that I loved it.

During the winter I have been training in all three disciplines - the triathlon season runs from April to September only - and the training in itself has been enjoyable because it is so varied.

So far this season I have completed two more sprint triathlons (2nd in age group, 1st in age group - you see, there are still not many of us!). The next big event is the Hyde Park Triathlon on August 7th which is part of the ITU World Series and will take place over what will be the Olympic course in 2012. The Elites will be out there battling it out somewhere ahead; I will be plodding along amongst the (older) age groupers but the chance to race past Buckingham Palace on traffic free roads was too good an opportunity to miss.

The triathlon community is very welcoming to all ages and standards. Everyone I meet is supportive and friendly. So, if you feel like your training needs a bit of a kickstart, come and join us. There are lots of clubs and people out there to advise you and if like me, you've also had a few significant birthdays you may well find your results end up being more exciting than you could have ever thought!

For more infomation on triathlon and training please speak to the gym team or email terry@thehogarth.co.uk