Martina, can you tell us why you chose to do a triathlon?
"To make a long story short, I grew up in a dysfunctional family where the result was extremely low self-esteem that affected pretty much my entire life and every decision I made. I didn't believe in myself at all and I was more of an expert on surviving than to actually live. I have always enjoyed working out but found it hard to start and hard to finish. After a cerebral haemorrhage 8 years ago everything changed and I chose to take care of myself and my life in a new way. Exercise above all improves my mental health. I was introduced to triathlon when my husband started his journey towards his first IRONMAN, which he completed just recently. I like the variety of triathlon training and with an osteoarthritis knee it is beneficial to do more of cycling. I also wanted to challenge myself to complete three sports in a row as it is in a triathlon.
I could never have believed back then, when my self-esteem was at its worst, that I would dare to do something like this. THAT is POWER to me. Feel the fear, do it anyway.”
Here are Martina's advice to others who are going to do their first triathlon
⭐️Never compare yourself to anyone but yourself. I've struggled with this in the past, but the more I strengthened my own self-esteem, the more confident I've become in what I do. We all have different conditions so comparing ourselves is just a waste of energy. It is a completely different thing to be inspired by someone, for example my husband and I have completely different conditions and goals, but we meet each other in the joy in what we do together.
⭐️Don't get hung up on whether you can swim freestyle or not. Many beginners have problems and fears regarding the swimming. Breaststroking the distance does not make you less worthy of a medal.
⭐️Have fun and be proud that you are even on the starting line. Regardless of whether you perceive yourself as slow in any of the disciplines, you do YOUR race.
Here is Martina´s race report that can help others on their journey to a triathlon.
SWIMMING - 750 m
- I was quite worried about this part as I didn't swim more than a few days a week during the summer. I have developed my own swimming style where I freetstyle-breaststroke-freestyle and that works fine. I have learned the basics in swimming freestyle but it takes more practice to feel like I can master it.
- During the race week, my goal was to swim the entire distance without leaning on my safety buoy. But that was a horrible experience, I was out of breath INSTANTLY, with chest tightness and confidence plummeting. I ended up having to tread water to catch my breath to be able to continue swimming. When I stood on the starting line, I was, to say the least, worried that history would repeat itself with panic. I had decided to breaststroke the first section and then if I felt stable, freestyle the way back. While I was swimming thoughts came like - "but hey, what are you doing? You're swimming in pretty cold water and you can't reach the bottom and there's no one to help you..." I let go of the thoughts as quickly as they came and could continue swimming. Suddenly I had rounded the buoy and I managed to get the courage to try freestyle swimming but I got out of breath and started breaststroke again and that felt really good. When I checked the watch I was stable in heart rate zones 1 and 2 so there was potential to improve with a little more exercise. I am very happy that I had a good experience and did not feel to much stress or panic. Once I was on my way to the bike, I couldn't stop thinking that the swim felt like forever even though it was only 30 minutes…
Cycling - 20 Km
- The transition to cycling went smoothly. Despite my concern that I would feel confused and stressed, it went perfectly. I felt calm and focused. I drank some water and had a snacks. It was nice to get on the bike and I felt good. My heart rate was pretty high, zone 4, and after half an hour I was worried that I might run out of fuel and not have enough energy to finish the run. It's hard to know how much you can handle when you've never done a race like this. After the first mile I felt calmer and I found a comfortable pace where I still had power in my legs. I was passed by other cyclists and some cheered words of encouragement as they passed, with that I got extra strength and energy. It was so funny! On a long uphill my gears started to mess up on the front wheel so I had to jump off and try to shift manually, it didn't work so I had to go downhill and try again. The last part of the bike course I made a mistake where to go but luckily the race officials told me which way to bike otherwise I would never have finished. LOL. I got so much energy when I entered the transit area and when the clock said I had done my best time despite the involuntary stop and wrong direction, it was a victory!
Running - 5 km
Full of confidence I switched into running. It went pretty quickly and my worry about my tricky arthritic knee was completely unnecessary. I felt NOTHING for the entire run. Apparently cycling before running is great for my joints, talk about warming up :) My plan was to run, walk, run, walk...so I did. Fellow competitors cheered and every time I got a boost of new energy. When I crossed the finish line my husband was there and some women from Power Woman Athletic Club so there were warm hugs and a few tears fell on my cheeks.
I felt so satisfied with the race, that I managed it even though I trained quite sporadically. I thought "how would it feel if I learned to swim properly and train in a more goal-oriented way?" My training motivation after a race like this is sky high to continue developing both mentally and physically. Comparing myself to others is not my thing, but competing against myself... - yeeeeah!
The mental gain in this is probably the biggest, I've had a tendency to get stress and anxiety attacks when I'm out of my comfort zone. I experienced none of that and THAT makes me want to cry with gratitude. Exercising and challenging myself has proven to strengthen me.
Right now the feeling is: I CAN DO IT!
Facts about Martina
- Martina Ekstrand
- Instagram @maskroskraft
- Age: 46
- Occupation: lecturer & shop assistant
- Training for the moment: Cycling before Tjejvättern and swimming
- Goals for 2023:
- -Tjejvättern 10/6
- -Bauer triathlon sprint 17/6
- -Possibly Vadstena triathlon in August