• Caley Johnson - Part1

From Start to Finish


I’ve always been the type of person where the harder it sounds, the more I want to do it.

I’ve done 24 hour challenges consisting of bike, row and run in teams, I’ve done so many charity runs I can’t keep count now (my favourite being the Wings for Life World Run) and in 2015 I even competed in a 3 day wheelbarrow event, that’s right a wheelbarrow event! In teams, we pushed a wheelbarrow 140km over 3 days to raise money for our chosen charity. So when a friend of mine said he was doing Cairns Ironman this year, I was intrigued. I’d heard of triathlon before but all I knew was that there was a swim, bike and run involved, that’s it. So I jumped on google and started researching. I looked up triathlons in Townsville and that’s when I came across the Townsville Tri Fest. After that I was hooked, I had my sights set on the Tri Fest and there was no going back.

To give you a little bit of context, the only sport I’ve ever played before is Netball. I played for about 10 years but nothing serious, just a bit of fun on a Saturday morning. I’ve never been a good runner, I haven’t ridden a bike since I was a kid and I never learnt how to swim. Now with the running, I’ve always wanted to be good but never put the effort in to make it happen until last year. I started going to the free local Park Run held every Saturday and had a goal of running 5km in under 25 minutes. In October/November last year (2017) I was running 5km in around 28 minutes and by February this year I broke the 25 minutes! I’m now running a flat out 5km in about 22 minutes.

So now I could run, kind of, but what about the bike? And the swim? Crap, the swim! I couldn’t even swim a full length of a 50m pool without stopping, how was I supposed to swim 1,500m in open water with 100’s of other people! I’m the type of person where I’m either all in or not in at all. Well, I’d already decided that I was all in, so I started looking at local Tri clubs. A friend was part of a local club that she highly recommended, North Queensland Triathlon Academy, ran by Graham & Pam Pemberton and Claire Ferguson. I went to a track session and after speaking to Graham decided to jump head first into being coached, aiming for the Townsville Tri Fest to be my first big race.

I struggled to hang on for even 10km

I bought a second hand road bike off Facebook with no idea how to ride, clip in pedals what are those? I remember the first half dozen times I rode, I went around the block just so I could practice. The first time I clipped in I didn’t even get 20 meters up the road before I fell off! After a few more rides and a few (okay maybe a lot) more falls I finally got the hang of riding a bike again. I was extremely slow to begin with, the first time I did a training session with NQTA we did a mini triathlon just before they were all about to compete in Cairns 70.3. We only rode 20km but I remember I couldn’t even keep up. I struggled to hang on for even 10km. I’d only been training for about 3 weeks by this stage and I had to keep reminding myself that everyone else had been doing this for years, not only that but they had all just finished a massive training block leading into Cairns. Slowly Graham had me building up the kms, and just a few weeks ago I completed my longest ride to do of 90km during the TOWNSMAN event. It’s a 3 day event that ties in with the Townsville Running Festival, we swim, bike and run the total distance of a 70.3 but over 3 days. I’ve come a long way but still got a long way to go.

I couldn’t even remember why I was feeling nervous

So now that the running and riding has been taken care of, the only thing left was the swim. I never had swimming lessons growing up, I knew how to keep myself afloat but that’s about it. The first few times I got in the pool before I started training with Graham and NQTA I tried swimming from one end of a 50m pool to the other. Every time I’d reach the end I would have to hang on for dear life gasping for air. I’d have to wait a good few minutes before I could swim back the other direction. I would have hated to be a swim coach on the side looking at my form. Picture a dog when they first learn how to swim, their legs are moving way too fast, eyes open so wide trying to keep their head out of the water but they aren’t really going anywhere. Yep that would have been me. It took a few weeks of forcing myself to the pool but I finally managed to be able to swim 1,000m in the pool without stopping. The first time I went and did a group session with the crew I was extremely nervous. I didn’t have any fancy pool toys yet, my swimmers were so faded because I’d had them for years and years and I was brand new so I didn’t really know anyone. Of course, once I got there everyone was so friendly and inviting and by the end I couldn’t even remember why I was nervous.

Swimming and riding has definitely been more of a mental battle for me then physical. For the swim we spent the first 1.5 months of training focusing a lot on the most basic swim drills. I actually enjoyed them too because it broke the session up and made it more enjoyable. Nothing worse than staring at that black line underwater for an hour doing constant laps. With the ride, the mental battle for me was sitting there for hours in the freezing cold. I know people interstate will laugh but Townsville does get bloody cold! There were a few mornings at the start before I had any proper kit that I would get out of bed at 4am to ride for a few hours and almost cry because the wind was so damn cold it felt like it was cutting right through me. But we did a lot of strength building sessions, a lot of speed work and while I’m still not the fastest I’ve definitely improved from that girl a few months ago that couldn’t hold on for even 10kms.

I started training with Graham and NQTA in the beginning of May this year with a goal of competing in the Townsville Tri Fest August 17-19. When I initially set out to achieve this goal, I think I was a little too ambitious and maybe didn’t fully understand the commitment it took to training for a triathlon. Of course we are all there to have a good time but like I said earlier, if I’m going to do something I’m either all in or not in at all. I’ve given my all to the training and while I would be lying if I said that I loved every session, I can definitely say I’ve loved the process. I’m also confident in saying that this will be my first of many, many races to come! Stay tuned for the after race report, can’t wait to spill all the details!

#NQTA #Townsman2018 #triathlon #NQTriathlonacademy #Swim #Ironman #townsville #Coaching #RunningFestival

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