Triathletes Laura Fountain and Katie King have a brand new book out this month: Tricurious: Surviving the Deep End, Getting into Gear and Racing to Triathlon. We caught up with them to find out all about the new book…
Laura – you called yourself a “self-certified couch potato” in the book. What provoked your transformation into a committed triathlete?
Laura: I was the one who skived off PE at school with a forged note from my mum. As an adult, I tried a few times to take up exercise but always hated it and would give up after a few weeks. It was only when I was in my late 20s that I decided I needed to do something to get fit. I started running and slowly started to enjoy it.
How did you both decide to take up triathlon?
Laura: I’d actually entered a triathlon before I became a runner (or learnt to swim – it was a bit misguided looking back) but the entry form got lost in the post. It took a few years and a lot of encouragement from Katie before I got round to entering another.
Katie: My brothers and my mum did triathlon when I was a kid and I took some tentative first steps into triathlon aged 13, so tentative, in fact, that I didn’t do another until I was 27. I loved the idea of combining the three sports but the practicalities of it (and the underwear) baffled me; it was with the encouragement and advice of two friends that I finally entered another race.
What advice would you give to runners who are keen to give triathlon a go?
Laura: Do it. Runners are notorious for getting injured, so it’s good to have two other sports to fall back on. I describe running as a gateway drug where exercise is concerned; it led me to try triathlon and now I’ve got three sports I enjoy rather than just the one. I definitely think I’m a stronger runner for it.
Katie: Practise going for a run after a bike ride. As a runner, you’ll know you have your victory lap waiting for you at the end of a triathlon, but getting off your bike to start it is a feeling you’ll want to get used to before race day.
Which of the three disciplines do you find the most challenging and why?
Laura: For me it has changed over time. Running has always been my strongest but when I first started I could barely swim but was happy on a bike. My swimming has improved so much that I’d now say that cycling is my weakest link.
Katie: It depends on the event and the distance. I love running but it’s definitely my slowest discipline; I really enjoy long distances but running fast is a big challenge to me (and something I have yet to master) and it shows more at the longer events. Hills are my kryptonite on the bike; I enjoy riding down the other side though.
What kit would you recommend for a beginner triathlete?
Laura: A lot of people spend a lot of money on triathlon kit. But you can get away with very little. If you’re doing a race that has a pool swim, just a swimsuit and goggles will see you through. You’ll need a bike and a helmet for the cycle and your running shoes for the run, but very little else is essential.
Katie: Bike helmets are compulsory in a triathlon and having your own is a good idea to ensure a good fit. A comfortable sports bra is great as you can swim in it; a swimming costume or shorts and t-shirt can be thrown over the top but there are strict rules about coverage and you won’t want to be putting it on in transition! As long as your bike is roadworthy, there’s no need to be buying a specific bike for a first sprint triathlon; in fact, borrowing or hiring can be good options for some of the bigger bits of kit like bikes or wetsuits.
What keeps you motivated when you are in training?
Laura: Having a goal to aim for definitely helps. It might be a race or just a private promise to yourself that you’re going to be able to swim a certain distance by a certain date. And having a friend to chat about the ups and downs of training really helps too.
Katie: I love the variety that comes with triathlon and mixing up my training keeps me motivated. While I track my progress on the way up to an event, enjoyment is my priority and I look forward to training sessions because of that.
What made you decide to write a book together?
Laura: I’ve been very lucky to have Katie to help me through the whole triathlon thing and we wanted to write a book that offered that same sort of friendly practical advice to anyone thinking about giving it a go. So, between chapters about my experience, Katie offers some words of wisdom. We’ve tried to make it quite funny and entertaining, and we hope it reflects our ethos that triathlon is fun and something to be enjoyed.
Katie: Laura and I met through writing running blogs and we soon established that we shared similar interests and outlooks. I was only too happy to help Laura when she started out in triathlon; that’s exactly what you do when you’re enthusiastic about something and want to see a friend enjoy it too. Sharing that enthusiasm, either with a friend, or by writing a book, is also a great way of reminding yourself of exactly why you enjoy something too.
What have you learned from each other through competing and writing together?
Katie: Laura is full of ideas, and she is brilliant at making them a reality. It’s too easy to come up with excuses why you can’t do something, why you’re too busy, or why it’s not the right time. Laura doesn’t do that; instead, she says yes to things and makes them happen.
What’s next for you both and do you have any future ambitions on the triathlon front?
As well as our own race places, we’re putting together a Tricurious team for the London Triathlon in August. We have six places in the race and are looking for novice triathletes who want to give it a go but are maybe a bit nervous (we’re taking applications here: www.tricurious.co.uk)
Tricurious: Surviving the Deep End, Getting into Gear and Racing to Triathlon Success by Laura Fountain and Katie King is published by Summersdale and available to order here Tricurious: Surviving the Deep End, Getting into Gear and Racing to Triathlon Success