Until a few months ago I wasn’t sure what exactly a triathlon was and the idea of ever taking part in one was about as likely as winning the X-factor.
As a 43-year-old mum of three, I’d resigned myself to slowing down, getting even softer around the edges and giving up on unmet dreams, of which there are many. I was doing Pilates, sporadic runs and the odd Zumba class – which had more to do with escaping domestic chaos and getting away from my home office desk than getting fit. I was as fit as I was ever going to get.
Then one of my friends started telling me about a local triathlon class she’d joined. I wasn’t interested, but as her shape and fitness levels started changing, I noticed a niggling little voice: “If she can do it…” Although I was terrified, I joined Jo’s tri-team for a few friendly sessions at first and loved it! Jo Lewis, in her fifties and a triathlon athlete in her own right who has represented GB, was a huge inspiration. Here was someone more than 10 years older than me, who clearly had no intention of slowing down, looked great and is still competing and inspiring men and women of all ages to get fit.
In September Jo organised a Splash and Dash event at the local leisure centre. Until the very last minute, I couldn’t decide whether I should enter as I had no idea whether I could swim 32 lengths of a 25m pool, let alone run 5km directly after. I’d borrowed a tri-suit and felt sick as I waited on the poolside. Until that day I’d no idea what transition meant – I’d never really got my head around the fact that you can’t stop and have a chat in between the different disciplines of a triathlon.
Well, I did it. I was the second last person out the pool, I lost precious time struggling to get my top and shoes on, but I ran 5km in the rain with wobbly legs and overtook one person to end second last in just under an hour. The organisers were packing up by the time I finished, but I couldn’t care less. I was on top of the world. Never in my life would I ever have dreamt that I’d be able to do anything as physically challenging as this. The best part was when one of my husband’s friends, who also took part, told him afterwards: “Your wife is a great athlete!” Athlete? No one has ever called me an athlete. As a child I always came last in every race. If I can become an athlete at the age of 43, anything is possible.
I’m onto my second term with Jo and I can’t believe the difference it’s making to my life. My attitude has changed from “no can do” – to “anything is possible” and the more I challenge myself, the more I want to challenge myself. My swimming technique has improved and I’ve completed a very challenging off-road 10k race in Burnham Beeches. I was temporarily out of action for a few weeks with an Achilles injury, but I’m determined to keep going and keep surprising myself.
I haven’t entered any triathlon races yet, but am planning to work on my endurance throughout the winter, hoping to do some more 10k off road races next year. A group of us are also thinking about training together for a half-marathon in October. I intend doing another Splash and Dash event in March and this time I won’t be content with being second last. Meanwhile I’ve signed up for the winter swim project online to measure my swimming progress. My weakest area is cycling and I’m determined to find the time to do regular spinning classes throughout the winter and perhaps find a small group of cyclists I can go out training with to build my confidence.
I know I’m not exactly triathlon material yet, but if you’d told me a few months ago that I’d be doing 10k races, doing hill training in the rain and swimming 32 lengths on a Friday night, I would have laughed in your face.