Triathlon can seem an intimidating sport to get into but it is important to remember that everyone starts somewhere.
Yes, there are 3 disciplines to become proficient in, gear to invest in, rules and regulations to follow on race day plus unique methods of training. At first, you‘ll overhear alien phrases as triathletes chat about flying dismounts, FTPs and brick sessions. I have often felt in awe and overwhelmed at triathlons at the athleticism and gear that is all around. A transition area full of Brownlees and Charles Barclays and bikes worth more money than most people would even dream of spending on a car.
BUT… everyone had their first race/ first transition and EVERONE has made their first mistakes. As triathlon has increased in popularity, there are so many more people out there giving it a go. It doesn’t have to be intimidating and it can be a lot of fun once you make the decision to try. There are always going to be the elites and the expensive tri bikes, but there is actually a huge range of abilities, shapes, sizes, ages and personalities at many of the events, local and abroad, that I have encountered. As triathlon has grown in popularity, there are lots of events now aimed at beginners and those intrigued to try.
One of the incentives for me to get into triathlon initially was the idea of 3 disciplines. I loved the idea that I could dabble in different sports depending on my mood (and the weather). You can do it solo or it can be incredibly sociable. You can join triathlon clubs, running, cycling, swimming clubs and meet tons of new people. You can also build your training around your own schedule and be flexible with your training if you can’t commit to a club.
Another incentive was the amazing camaraderie I felt in, what may seem on the surface, an individual sport. Everyone was so supportive of me at my first sprint event. Other competitors were cheering me on the whole way round the course and I had never experienced anything like it. I was addicted from the very beginning and so many triathletes I meet echo this. Once you tri, you just can’t stop! There is so much to love about this amazing sport. My dad even competed in his first triathlon in his sixties!
How I started
My triathlon journey started 6 years ago when I was in a bit of a rut. I was working too hard (as a primary school teacher) and having wine every night when I got home from work to de-stress. I wasn’t eating healthily and I wasn’t exercising. I had put on weight and knew that I had to do something about it. I started a 100 healthy day challenge where I blogged about my food/ exercise and positive thoughts. The plan was to take small steps every day towards becoming healthier. I wanted to change my whole attitude towards healthy eating and exercise rather than find a quick fix. I decided to try lots of new hobbies and different activities to get me exercising and meeting new people. The whole challenge was a big success and it made the national news. I lost lots of weight, felt amazing and also….discovered triathlon.
It started with the purchase of a bike as part of my 100 healthy days challenge and trying new things. I fell in love with cycling instantly and couldn’t believe that I hadn’t discovered it earlier in adult life. As I became fitter and my stamina improved, I decided to try and run 10km on a treadmill. I hadn’t been able to run properly since a broken ankle aged 17 so it was a big step for me. I remember running 10km no problem and feeling amazed. The cycling fitness meant that I now had a good foundation for running. I had been a strong swimmer at primary school so that had always come naturally to me. It was like a jigsaw puzzle coming together. I can swim, bike and now I can run so there is nothing stopping me from attempting a triathlon. I signed up for a local sprint tri in Cornwall and that was it.
The chain of events followed…
My first sprint race, I was just happy to finish. My next race, I wanted to improve my performance. Then, I wanted to do well and maybe even podium. Then I started to podium, and wanted to come first. Then, I competed in a whole sprint series of 6 triathlons over Spring/Summer and ended up second female overall.
The next obvious step was to increase the distance so I was thinking of London Olympic distance triathlon. However, in a moment of madness, I bypassed London (I didn’t like the idea of swimming in the Thames at the time) and spontaneously booked an Ironman 70.3 in Austria instead.
I had 3 months to train which was quite ambitious. I worked hard towards it but running was always going to be the challenge. I had never even run a 10km race, definitely never thought of a half marathon so the idea of a half marathon after a 1.9km swim and 90km mountainous bike ride was a little intimidating.
Competing in my first Ironman 70.3 triathlon was incredible. I crossed the finish line and was ecstatic. (You can read the full race report here)
Fellow triathletes told me that once I had completed a 70.3, I would want to race a full Ironman. However, I had no desire to run a marathon. Half a marathon had been more than enough for me at the time. I still considered myself a non runner really.
Over the next few years, I competed in more Ironman 70.3 triathlons as a hobby. Sometimes I trained and on one occasion I didn’t at all. I was always just ecstatic to finish. I never committed fully to training because I had moved to Singapore and life was fast paced, social and full of travelling. Triathlon was just one of my many hobbies.
Then one summer, I decided to take the next step and try to actually do well in an Ironman 70.3 I learnt about the World Championship and decided I wanted to train and try to qualify. As soon as I found out they were happening in New Zealand, I knew I had to do it.
I ended up with Rich as my coach and followed a strict training program. I won my age group at Xiamen Ironman 70.3 and qualified for the 2020 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Taupo. Then Covid happened and it was cancelled. Rich and I decided to take a year out of our careers to train full time anyway and here we are, trying to qualify as professionals. Everyone starts somewhere but then imagine how far you could go.