In the beginning I didn’t really have a clue what to do so I asked lots of questions. It’s by asking questions that you quickly realise just how much triathletes love to talk about their experiences. 🙂
I started out on a bike that was given to me by a friend’s husband. I could just about reach the brakes which made travelling downhill, at speed, bloody dangerous. A white knuckle ride is the term I’d use for my first few races. My bike also weighed more than my husband’s mountain bike so I nicknamed it the tank. When out on solo rides I’d be puffing and panting whilst watching other riders glide past me. In one race, a lady came past me on a bike with a basket on the front and gave me a cheery hello; I was mortified because I could not keep up. To make matters worse she was not even in the race. But the tank did two things for me; it gave me the nerve to go a lot faster downhill without braking and it gave me the strength and determination to hang on to the wheel of those Bradley Wiggins wannabees that would zoom past me. I told myself to keep trying; it had to get better and easier eventually. That year (2013) I won the most improved bike award. I was chuffed to bits.
I have four young children so training was, and still is, very difficult to fit in. As with most parents, after school clubs dominate my life. Most of my training therefore had to be done late in the evening. Friends in the village thought I was a) mad for even doing a triathlon and b) mad for training so late. You would often see me running at 9.30pm just so I could fit in a session.
A few more awards followed in 2014 – first team and fastest female in the club sprint and most improved triathlete. I was on cloud nine; the late night training was starting to pay off. Sounds funny but I still did not see myself as a triathlete.
As for my children, I know that my triathlon journey has encouraged them to try hard, try new things and not to give up when things go wrong or get tough. It was good for them to see me train and compete; I wanted to inspire them.
2015 was the hardest year for me. My husband was very ill in January and my life was turned upside-down in more ways than I could have ever imagined. But his drive to get better showed me that with determination you can do anything. He encouraged me to enter a duathlon in February. I was not feeling mentally or physically ready for it, I even told myself to chalk it up as a training session. I remember playing cat and mouse on the bike with one lady. Once out on the second run I pushed really hard just so I would not have to hear her repeat “we have to stop meeting like this.” At the end I was exhausted but very happy. I decided to head home before they announced the awards as I didn’t expect anything from that race; I was so pleased just to finish it. When I got home I found out that I came 1st in my age group and had won a little trophy which they were going to post to me. There were lots of happy tears that day.
I was not expecting to continue in 2015 but we worked around things so that I could keep training whilst my husband slowly recovered. 2015 turned out to be the best year I’d had so far. I look back on what I achieved during that difficult time and I feel very proud. During the awards night I was presented with the female triathlete of the year trophy. I had joined the likes of Amy, Hayley and Sandie; their names were proudly engraved on the trophy and so were mine. This was something I secretly wanted to achieve but had never told anyone. When I collected the award I had lots I wanted to say, especially to Andy Sole who helped me so much with training and mentoring but I was so overwhelmed and emotional I couldn’t say anything. I just smiled and held onto the trophy. I kept checking that my name was actually on it. All I could think about was that Stu and the children would be so proud of me. At last I could finally call myself a triathlete.
Triathlon is such an amazing sport and to have such a supportive club makes a huge contribution into helping people achieve their goals. Thank you to all who give up their time to make our club run the way it does. I am very grateful to Ely Tri Club for giving me the encouragement I needed to keep going and achieve my goals.
PS: I still have the tank, it will make an appearance this winter when I’m out in the cold trying to regain my fitness after my injury lay-off. There’s nothing like adding more pain to a long winter ride.