Meet some of our club members
17 weeks ago I watched an inspirational speaker at a networking group who was a triathlete. Never having been sporty before during lock down I managed to complete the couch to 5k which meant I could jog very slowly for 30 minutes (not actually running 5km). After seeing this amazing woman who only learnt how to swim 6 years previous to completing her first triathlon I mentioned (after a few drinks) that I could probably do a triathlon. I would like to note at this point that I hadn’t been on a bike since I was a kid and hadn’t really done much more than a few lengths exercise swimming whilst chatting for years. The next day I received what’s app messages from colleagues at work saying they would sponsor me in a triathlon, I responded that it was very nice that they would but I was just joking when I said I could do 1. Then I discovered that my husband Ross King had not only signed me up to the London Triathlon but had signed me up to do it for St Francis Hospice, a worthy cause which meant I couldn’t back out.
The first thing I did, after checking I definitely couldn’t get out of it was set up a training timetable. Having 2 young children and a 16 week deadline meant I had to squeeze as much in to my lunch breaks and evening times as possible. I decided if I did each discipline a couple times a week I would manage. I ran in 1 of my lunch breaks and cycled to and from work the day I didn’t have to take the children anywhere. I cycled with my dad on a weekend who showed me routes that he does with the Hornchurch Cycle Club and I was just happy I managed to stay on the bike. I kept trying to get to swim but struggled to book in to the local public pools due to restricted lane size. And the most important thing I did was join Havering Tri Club.
To be honest, I was really nervous about joining the Havering Tri Club. I was expecting loads of super skinny muscly Olympic type people who were not going to want to run or cycle with slowcoach me. But I was wrong. In the Facebook group everyone seemed quite welcoming so I decided to chance going to a running track session on a Friday night.
I nervously parked my car and went cautiously into the track area. There were people of all different ages, shapes and sizes and although I was 1 of the slowest I didn’t feel like I was holding anyone up or like anyone was making fun of me. The coaches were very helpful and I felt like I actually pushed myself a bit harder than if I ran by myself. I was given a tee shirt (part of the membership) and I was assigned a buddy, Lynne who was lovely. Gone are the days of going out drinking on a Friday night, I now enjoy running around in a circle?? What was I becoming?
Shortly after joining the Tri Club I started doing swim sessions on a Monday night with K.A.S swim school which definitely pushed me to do better. I have noticed if I am doing something by myself I just do the bare minimum but if someone is telling me what to do I always manage to get there. The first night we were told to do 16 lengths front crawl as a warm up…that was the swim part of my race – how could it be just a warm up?
The techniques I have learnt from those swim sessions have made my swim easier, I am going faster with less effort. Definitely worthwhile. When they found out I was competing in the London Triathlon I was assigned a mentor Laura who is possibly 1 of the coolest people I have ever met. Even though she hated lake swimming she agreed to come with me on a Saturday morning at 6am to Grangewaters. Whilst we were waiting we saw people fishing in the lake which was a stark reminder that there would be fish in the water. Once I got swimming I forgot about the fish and the strange furry weeds and the fact I couldn’t touch the floor and just enjoyed being out in nature, in water that didn’t taste like chlorine (not that I drank too much). I had now adjusted my schedule to include swimming on a Monday evening at the pool and Saturday morning at the lake and was loving it. The best thing about signing up for this triathlon is the friends I am making at Havering Tri Club. Even if I never do another triathlon I will keep going for them.
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Introducing to you Havering Tri's new Head of Cycling, Dave Lindsey. Here Dave gives an insight into all things triathlon.
I joined HTC in 2017, I think after deciding to do a triathlon with my wife for some “fun”. She didn’t do it but I did and the bug bit. Learning how it all worked in 2018 and learning to swim “properly” with @kaysadultswim.
On to 2019 and it was race time. I have only completed one season with 4 triathlons as 2020 was a write off with Covid.
How did you get into triathlon and what was your sporting background previously?
As mentioned triathlon was originally something I was joining the wife in to give her a reason to train for. Coming from a cycling background of around 8 years, Club riding, sportives and the last few years racing Crits and road races with some half decent results, a couple of wins and a few more top 10’s. I figured how hard could it be adding a bit of swimming and a run to it. Well, shockingly hard as I found out. A reasonably good competitive Cat 3 ranked cyclist doesn’t default you as even a mediocre triathlete without some seriously training and adapting LOL!
What was your first triathlon that you competed in, please give a brief overview?
My first triathlon was Hanningfield Olympic, thankfully I’m a pretty confident person and winged racking and all the new stuff and just went for it. It all turned out okay. The water was freezing and I couldn’t swim it all front crawl but then come the bike and it was fun again. My outlook on the bike is all about go fast as I can without spoiling the run. I am very reserved when it comes to over doing it in events and always like to finish strong.
Hanningfield was a warm up event for Ironman Staffordshire 70.3 and my A race for the season. All went well and I finished off with Maldon and then Clacton which was also the Club championships. Not a bad first season in triathlon.
2020 I was due to step up to full distance at Outlaw Full but that has rolled over to this year. With not ideal prep, its looking like its going to happen and I’m about to get into my next training block in preparation for the race.
How have you maintained your training over the past year in the hope that we will get to race at some stage?
Since Covid I haven't liked to ride outside much especially when numbers were so high. So I resorted to my trusty turbo trainer as odd as it felt outside of winter training time. A decent set up has allowed me to continue to progress through 2020 with the plan of rolling the event to 2021. I just had the mindset that I would be faster with another year to prepare and to keep training as I love the routine and focus it gives me.
What was your go-to-work out and most invaluable piece of training kit that has helped you continue to train?
My go to workout would 100% be a mixed effort turbo session, something to really get the heart rate up. My turbo trainer along with a decent power meter has allowed me to train well, monitor my progression and given me motivation to keep working hard.
That along with a decent long(ish) run to clear the head, have time to reflect and chill out. I never thought I'd say I like to run a few years ago.
Your race goals for 2021 and 2022?
2021 will be a PB at 70.3 at Outlaw Holkham Half and a respectable time at Outlaw Full
2022 will probably be some more family time but I expect 1 or 2 quick 70.3’s in there somewhere.
And your dream race?
Somewhere warm with a fast, flat route and good scenery. Oh and it has to be easy to drag the family along for a bit of a holiday too. Answers on a postcard please!
Michelle Majique McCullough
Celebrating International Women's Day, Havering Triathlon Club are celebrating the women in our club. We are club with 124 members of which 36 are women who are either looking to complete their first triathlon or are training to complete anything from a super, sprint, olympic, mid or full distance triathlon and we all support each other!
One of our members, Michelle Majique McCullough has very kindly agreed to share her story of why she chose to join Havering Tri and her aim to complete a triathlon despite fighting a constant daily battle with ill health. A big thank you for Michelle for taking the time to write her story, it is both an inspirational and moving read.
It just over a year now since I joined Havering Triathlon Club. A decision I made after drinking way too much Prosecco at the HTC awards ceremony that I attended with my husband Adam. I decided at that point that I was invincible and proceeded to tell everybody there that I was going to do a triathlon despite being registered disabled with a bunch of complex conditions. Who is this weird drunk stranger and where did she come from you all must have thought. If I chewed your ear off that night, I apologise!
Well I stuck to my guns and joined the most wonderfully supportive bunch of people I have come across. I honestly thought I wouldn’t be accepted. I thought a major requirement would be that I would need to be an athlete or have already completed several races. Definitely not someone living with chronic pain, has major organ issues, who’s blood pressure drops without warning and joints that dislocate daily amongst other weird and wonderful symptoms, but here I am!
I wasn’t always disabled. Ten years ago I was a Senior Street Youth Development worker working in gang culture, developing youth projects and facilitating young people in extreme sports. In my spare time I was a fire dancer. I adored my job and bragged how I got paid for doing something I loved. Then one day it all came crashing down.
I was coming to the end of my usual two mile walk to work when my legs began to tingle and burn. I was suddenly overcome with exhaustion and didn’t think I would make it to work even though I was only a few metres away. I clung on to a nearby fence feeling my leg muscles weakening. As the pain seared through my legs I looked down to see where I might fall. All I could see was dog pooh underneath me. There is no way I’m going to fall on that I thought! I pulled everything I had and stumbled to my works entrance. Once through the door I collapsed screaming in pain. That was the last time I walked unaided for six years.
I had numerous scans and tests which at first showed as inconclusive. I was now mainly bed bound and a wheelchair user with one per cent muscle tone in the left side of my body, zero in my right. My joints were so weak I dislocated several times a day. Even sneezing would result in a body part dislocating. I was told I may never walk again. I hated this idea and focused on getting a diagnosis. My theory was get diagnosed, get fixed!
Being the impatient woman that I am I cashed in my savings and went private. I was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) Hypermobility type. Basically my collagen is faulty causing my joints and ligaments to become lax and weak resulting in dislocations or subluxations (partial dislocations). I have since developed several other complications due to EDS which include Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, Small Fibre Neuropathy, Gastroparesis, bladder and bowel dysfunction and Fibromyalgia, the list goes on . Long story short before lockdown id have a hospital appointment at least once a week, I have seven specialists, every system in my body is compromised so nothing in my body works properly. All my conditions are life long but not life limiting so I’m grateful.
Finding out I couldn’t be fixed after my diagnosis’s I focused on a new theory. If my joints were loose then building muscle around them would keep them in place thus stop them from popping out. I can fix myself!
I started with bed Pilates that I got from YouTube. Once I built my core muscles I was able to sit up in bed and work on my limbs. Adam would help me get out of bed and walk me to another room, then the garden, then to the end of the street. There were many tears, dislocations, tantrums and fireman carries back to bed but it was working! My muscles were waking up and starting to hold my joints together resulting in less daily dislocations. In six years I went from a year bed bound, two years in a wheelchair, Zimmer frame, two crutches, one crutch then no disability aids at all!! I was far from fixed, but I was walking unaided!
Being mobile again is important to me. I still suffer greatly and am very limited to what I can do. I also have frequent bed bound days and dust off my specially made Smartcrutches to minimise wrist dislocations. For me my mobility means I have a tiny degree of control over my conditions. Being ridiculously active, then immobile overnight is hard to cope with mentally. People tell me I’m inspirational for teaching myself to walk, I think I am just desperately bloody minded and probably in denial of my disabilities. I was definitely in denial at HTC awards ceremony!
Putting myself forward for a triathlon is pretty dangerous without strong planning as so much can go wrong for me. Just after I joined HTC I discussed my plan with my GP and some of my specialists. Some were horrified, some were bemused. However once I’d shared with them my basic but realistic training plan, the expert advice from HTC and physical support from my personal first aider they all agreed I was in safe hands. My personal first aider is my husband Adam AKA my hero. He will compete next to me to observe and act on any complications. He will help me in and out of my wetsuit, strap me up in transition area and pull me out completely if he feels I’m endangering myself. If you compete in the same triathlon as me and receive a mild bump by Adam, please don’t take offence. He is paving a free path for me to avoid injury.
I really have had some invaluable advice from HTC members along the way. The support I have received and enthusiasm for me to achieve has humbled and inspired me. My appreciation to you guys is endless.
Training for a triathlon has been interesting. I have to adapt most exercises to suit my ability. Obviously PBs are out the question. I’m just looking to finish! I can’t build on strength and stamina as with most chronic conditions each day is different. My blood pressure can drop leaving me susceptible to fainting episodes, or I might not be able to relocate my dislocations properly and tear tendons. If I have a flare up I can decondition to a devastating degree within a few days.
Running is out the question. I will never run again, but I am able to walk strapped up. Swimming is tricky as waves can and have popped many joints. I’m hoping a wetsuit will hold me together. The recent pandemic has stopped my wetsuit experiment. If it doesn’t work, I will just have to downgrade to a Duathlon. But it’s not an option I want to make.
The best discovery I made is that I can ride a bike without causing too much injury. I don’t mind sharing that I cry sometimes. The experience of almost pain free mobility overwhelms me. I’ve been known to cry happy tears just talking about it. I get a taste of the old me and it feels incredible! I aim to build myself up enough to join in on a ride outside with you guys. Plenty of tissues for me on that day!
Sadly Covid restrictions put a stop to all our events. Then contracting Covid at Christmas put a stop to my training. I know I am lucky to still be here and not need medical intervention. My specialist explained that all his clients with my complex conditions either ended up in hospital care or died. I can’t describe how i felt after that bombshell. Shocked, confused, survivors guilt, grateful to be alive, all of those and more. We both believed my increased fitness levels played a key roll. It’s so important to keep moving. However since contracting Covid I’ve struggled as the virus has exasperated my conditions causing all sorts of mayhem and deconditioned my body to extreme lengths.
Each time I tried to be active I ended up in bed for days with dislocations , increased pain , exhaustion, gastro and heart problems. I reached an all time low a month ago . I had zero interest and became completely numb to life. I knew I was not alone. We are encouraged to talk, but it’s hard when numbness consumes you including your will to speak and even the desire to cry. It’s hard to ask for help when you know everyone else is hurting too.
My saviour came in a photo that popped up on my memories on Facebook. It was a few days after I received my HTC membership. Adam took a comical photo of me posing in my freshly bought HTC swim hat and cycling top entitled “all the gear, no idea!” It reminded me of what I had achieved since joining HTC and all those years leading up to this point. I had been here before. I had been worse. I had spent over a year bed bound, taught myself to walk over several years. I can build my body again and I will. I had mentally reached my rock bottom, but that day because of that picture and the support of my family, friends and HTC members I promised myself I will try at life again.
Every Havering Tri member inspires me. I follow all your achievements. You are all such a bunch of incredibly strong, unstoppable and supportive people. I’m honoured to be a part of something so wonderful that is way more than PB’s and medals. To get back in the saddle (excuse the pun) I’ve taken part in the plank and squat challenge. I can plank, but my squats are adapted to keep my knees from sliding out. The camaraderie within the Facebook comments cracks me up. I’m slowly beginning to rebuild myself and currently able to walk a mile every few days with bed rest in between. Frustrating as hell, but moving forward nonetheless. Having recently been diagnosed with long Covid I am listening to my body, but aiming to stay out my bed more than I’m in it. The plank and squat challenge has helped that.
My aim a year ago was to complete a triathlon no matter how long it takes. That still stands. In the words of Ross Edgley “be naive enough to start it, but stubborn enough to finish it”. I’ve reawakened my stubborn. If you’re feeling rubbish find something that will reawaken yours. We got this! We can do this! We are Havering Tri. Love to you all.
How did you get into triathlon and what sport did you compete in previously?
So some may know, and some may not, but my background is swimming - at the age of nine I was training 12 times a week and competing for a local club and racing internationally against the likes of Sharon Davies in the 800m freestyle - by the time I was 15 I represented Scotland and travelled to some amazing places, my high was Scottish Junior Champion for 200m butterfly. I then retired from the pool and ventured to open water competitions coming 8th in Europe for 3K.
I did my first triathlon in Lanzarote, at a place called Club la Santa – which is where we go regularly for Havering Triathlon Club training camp, we were there on a swimming camp and they offered this as an event , just a small sprint being pretty fit in the pool , I thought this will be easy .. oh how I was soooo wrong ! It's not about being fit in one discipline it's trying to put them all together.
First triathlon that you competed in, how did it go?
So after returning from La Santa I decided to enter my first triathlon in the UK, one of my mates wife’s lent me a bike, a wetsuit and I had entered the Olympic distance London Triathlon at the Excel Centre in the Docklands. I was very nervous and didn't know what to expect , I knew I would be ok in the water, well that's what I thought... there was a massive wave , people swimming all sorts of directions and abilities, not what I was used to with organised open water events. I managed to get to the front and get ahead exiting the water first in the wave. Running up the steps to bike racking, nearly falling and slipping, not being able to get the suit off .. it was all a bit of mess. By the time I got on my bike I reckon 50 people had come in and gone!!!
I had a good race on the bike, however it was not fast, more people passed me and I was not confident at all. I got off the bike and ran , ‘ouch’ where had my legs gone ? .. I think I came second to last that year .. so plenty of room for improvement then!
Most memorable race that you have competed in so far?
In triathlon terms I would say it was the 70.3 in Cascais, Portugal – it was amazing. I had worked pretty hard on cycling that year as I knew there was a tough hill climb, I completed it and those of you who know me descending is not my favourite .. also I would say Turkey 70.3 had to be there too , just the venue they held it at was gorgeous , it was nice to know you were never far from the finish.
Another event I have to throw in would be ‘Windermere One Way’ – which was superb, and last I would def say the Sweden ‘swim the artic’. It was an amazing experience but a long way to go for a swim !
If you could compete in one race, be it a triathlon or swim event, what would your dream race be?
I would love to try ‘Windermere Two Way’ but some training would have to be put in - as that’s the same as the channel distance. My aim is the Channel , however the cold and jellyfish and night swimming I’m not 100 % persuaded about!
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This month's athlete is our club chairman GRAHAM GODDARD!
How did you get into triathlon and what was your lifestyle previously?
Throughout my life I've always gone through phases where I've undertaken various activities of one sort or another and then I would become obsessed with it. In my teens it was swimming then in my twenties and early thirties it was cycling - both road and mountain biking. I then switched to nature photography for many years....
Into my forties fell out of love with cycling (all of my heroes were being exposed as cheats) and my work was starting to get very busy and, I then took up photography as a hobby. The social side of my life was also pretty busy.
All of a sudden I found myself putting on weight and my life was largely sedentary and at the grand age of 45 I decided to buy myself a new carbon bike and started to ride it and then my old obsession with bikes started to return but technology had moved on.
My pal Karl introduced me to Garmin bike computers and then to Strava - OMG - cycling AND gadgets - I was completely sold - anyone who knows me knows I am a complete sucker for a gadget !So I'm looking at Strava one day and I notice an old photographer friend of mine is doing a lot of swimming, running and bike sessions so I asked what he was doing - 'training for Ironman Nice' he tells me.....
So that was it - challenge set. After a bit of research I decided I was going to do an Ironman before I hit 50........
First Triathlon, please give a brief overview?
It was the end of summer 2014, and I was about to prepare to start base training for my first 70.3 and full distance which I had booked for spring and summer 2015. I was a member of HTC by then and I got a text from a member saying 'What you doing next weekend mate?'
He then offered me a place at the Hever Castle Gauntlet 70.3. I can never resist challenges and so of course I accepted straight away - how naïve was I !
7 days later there I was jumping into this muddy lake - a complete novice who had no idea what was about to come.....
It was a hot day, the race was tough, but I got my medal, my finishers T and backpack and I was well and truly hooked.
What has changed the most in your life since you became a triathlete and joined HTC?
Everything in my life has changed entirely - so much so that I almost don't know where to start - I became the fittest I've ever felt, I have completed some of the most iconic races on the circuit, made some of the most amazing friends I could have ever wished to have, became a tri and swim coach, became (the very proud and honoured) Chairman of Havering Tri, BUT most importantly, I met the love of my life - Kay, who I will have the honour of marrying next year.
You’re returning from injury, what advice would you give to a fellow club member who finds themselves sidelined and unable to train?
My current injury is actually the 2nd serious issue I've experienced. As an athlete who came late to the sport, I'd be training most days but I'd wake most days with niggles or soreness.
At the end of 2014 I overstressed my left leg running (I was obsessed again - further/faster/longer) - a niggle ended up becoming MTSS (medial tibial stress syndrome). 6 months out from my first long distance and I could barely walk for a month. It was 3 months before I could get out to tentatively take a light jog around my local park. My body was forcing me to patient.
My current knee issue has meant I've not been able to run for a year - lack of motivation and high levels of frustration starts to take over and knowing rehab is going to be a very long road is a tough thing to deal with. I guess the best bit of advice I can give is to listen to your body - if something doesn’t feel right - don’t ignore it.
Pain is a warning signal and you ignore it at your peril. Better to be patient, rest, recover and seek advice than push through and end up with a serious issue that can cost not only your season, but your wallet.......
You are a multiple Ironman, what has been your favourite race so far?
I have so many memories from so many races - I mentioned earlier my pal who was training for an IM and who inspired me. He raced IM Nice and I ended up doing that one in 2016 in his honour - I raced that with 3 of my closest pals and in short, I had a very tough day at the office but that one will remain with me for ever. The Mumbai marathon was also special for me - my father was born in India and so I had always wanted to visit and spent time there. I've run it twice now and it's the most amazing event to experience.....
Fav race to date would have to be Roth - my knee meant I had to walk the mara so I came into the finish a lot later than I am used to. I finished that race arm in arm with HT member Daniel Plawiak and the advantage was that 3000 of our fellow competitors and their supporters were in the purpose built finishing stadium to cheer us home - and we got our medals from Reece and Lucy on the finish line which was a lovely touch !
If there was one dream event on your bucket list, what would this race be?
This is a tough one - I've done all of the races that were on my bucket list but there is one event that I want to do - the Windermere One Way swim.
I watched my partner Kay swim it in 2018 and for me, what she achieved that day was tougher than any IM I'd ever done and so that's no 1 on my bucket list right now.....
Jane & Lee Evans
This month’s athletes are Jane and Lee Evans. Jane has very kindly given an insight into how they both got into into triathlon and their lifestyle / exercise background, enjoy the read...
I chuckled at the prospect of being called an athlete worried that we may be charged under the “Trade Description Act” …. We have been married for 35 years and have 2 children. Once the kids were not interested in holidaying with us we started to embark on some adventurous holidays whilst we were still able to fitness wise. These included cycling holidays through Cuba, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma and trekking in Alaska, Japan, Peru (Inca Trail), India and the Himalayas (Everest Base Camp). This is something that we both feel strongly about that you should do whatever you have dreams of doing while you are still fit and healthy enough and not leave it too late and then realise you are unable to do it. Which then leads us on to joining a Triathlon club. Just the other day we were getting in the car at 6am with our wetsuits half on to go and swim in a lake and asking each other 'What the hell are we doing at our age'. Then meeting up with everyone and the great feeling afterwards gave us our answer. The same goes with the cycling and running(not so much). Our family and friends think we are mad but love asking us what we have been up to.
You are both also members of Havering 90 Joggers, what made you decide to take up triathlon?
Lee had completed 3 London Marathons before I foolishly thought I could do one as well in 2014….I joined H90J to assist in the training and Lee joined as well, London Marathon done I then injured my knee in 2018 and was told that I could not run anymore. After some discussion with the doctor he relented saying that if I could strengthen the muscles around my knee I could run “recreationally”…that is 5miles or 10km events which seemed okay. The doctor then advised to undertake cycling and swimming to help as these involved less stress on the knee. So it was a no-brainer to attempt triathlons in some form or another.
How did you both get in running / what was your lifestyles previously?
As mentioned running came late for me, Lee had dabbled on and off for years but we both have always exercised in some way. Lee played Rugby, Basketball and football at school. I played Hockey, Netball and Rounders at school and when leaving lee continued playing football and also dabbled with American Football. We both were into Badminton and gym members for most of our adult life. Lee then played a lot of league and team squash.
As relatively new members to the club, how have you found the experience of joining HTC,
what advice can you give to more recent new members?
I think we felt a little daunted at the beginning as in our eyes “Triathletes” are extremely fit and, as
we are on the wrong side of 50, we thought we were punching above our weight but everyone has
been so supportive to the point of members harshly talking us out of our negative thoughts!
Having the buddy system was brilliant, Lynne Wade has been marvellous providing lots of information
and support. We are now on the mentor program with Paul Collins, he was fab in Lanzarote and
will continue once things are a little more back to normal. But my advice to people thinking of joining or new joiners is just do it…listen to the advice, don’t worry about how good/fit/fast you are just do it!
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your triathlon plans for 2020,
what races/events did you enter for 2020 that have now been cancelled/rescheduled for next year?
I had completed a novice triathlon in September 2019 so had a taste of one then, Lee couldn’t do it
because of work commitments so we were both looking forward to completing our first Sprint Tri’s in
2020, the Hanningfield club Tri in May and the Windsor Sprint Tri in June, both cancelled! Hopefully we will both be able to do them in 2021.
Describe your typical training week, do you both train together or separately?
Lee’s training is very erratic as he is a shift worker so cannot always attend the scheduled training,
we are currently cycling twice a week and swimming 2/3 times a week. The running is sparse so we
need to up our game!
Dream race, if you could compete in one triathlon, which one would it be?
70.3 ironman would be a dream.
Continuing our monthly profile of our awesome club members, this month's athlete is Lisa Gaskin.
How did you get into Triathlon?
Around 9 years ago I use to attend a small boot camp, we would do a monthly fitness test and I’d improve my time month on month then go off on holiday, lay on the beach for a couple of weeks but when I came back I was back to square one. So in the Summer of 2014, I decided to go on a cycling holiday rather than laying on the beach, I had a cheap mountain bike that I had bought from that well-known bicycle retailer, Tesco’s! Paid for in club card vouchers. My training for the holiday consisted of cycling the Brentwood half marathon route which was the longest route I knew at the time. I could cycle the 13.1 miles in a 1 hour 17 minutes which was four minutes slower than the guy who won it running that year! I headed off in the September to Northern Spain to cycle the Camino De Santiago, 283km in five days, I was in love….. with cycling. I came home, dumped the mountain bike and splashed out £500 on a Specialized hybrid with a pannier stand on the back, I still have that bike and use it for commuting to the station if I have to go to my London office. I would love to cycle this route again and would definitely recommend it. When I got back to boot camp I had massively improved on my fitness test. Our PT said if you like cycling and running we could do the London Triathlon next year! Yah! The only problem was I could hardly swim 25m in the pool, don’t worry he said you have 11 months to learn!
What was my first race?
My first race was not in fact the London Triathlon, it was the 2015 Blenheim Palace Super Sprint. I drove up to Blenheim on my own, it was the 15th of June and 14 degrees, I had to put my wetsuit on two hours before my wave time as it was so cold. This would be the first time I have ever swum in a lake, it was the longest 400m of my life, and after a woman swam over the top of me the canoeist/marshal came over and said “do you want to know the fastest way out of here” I was delighted she was going to give me a secret short cut, she just pointed to the swim exit and said swim! It proceeded to rain throughout the bike and run but having my hybrid I could take the corner faster than them ladies on silly road bikes with scary thin tyres! And my massive advantage was that I had an M&S egg mayo sandwich stashed in my pannier to fuel my run. Not as bad as my second triathlon I sellotaped Soren fruit loaf to my handlebars to munch on during the bike leg.
My invaluable piece of advice………
I hear this all the time, “I’ll come to the session when I’m better at”. Whatever level you are, Havering Tri will include you in whatever session you turn up to, and that’s the way you will improve. When I did eventually buy a road bike, the first time I rode it was around the car park of the bike shop. The second time I turned up on a very cold Valentine’s day to ride around the Bulphan Loop with Kay. I had never been so sore and cold but I just kept turning up week after week, they could shake me. Come November at Havering Tri awards night I was presented with the most improved cyclist award and in the past couple of years I’ve become a Havering Tri bike leader so can hopefully help others gain confidence and enjoy their riding. Who knew!
Most memorable race and what’s on my bucket list.
When I was first dipping my toe in Triathlon I had got up early with a hangover on a Saturday morning, switched the TV on and saw these people in Tenby, Wales doing a race called Long Course Weekend and I thought wow. I really could not ever imagine doing that but it looked fantastic, and I’d secretly (maybe not so secretly) always wanted do the LCW since that day. It’s a full-distance race (2.4 mile swim in the sea, 112-mile bike up big hills, 26.2 mile run up and down more hills) split over 3 days.
I arrived in Tenby on Friday afternoon, once all registered and settled into our accommodation, it was a walk down to a beautiful beach. The water was beautiful but I had to navigate a couple of hundred jellyfish (some as big a beach balls), it’s the biggest swim I’d ever done, I ended up swimming nearly 3 miles that evening but I got out of the water within the cut off time and a big smile on my face, no beers that night, early bed as we had to be up at 5.00 a.m. to eat loads as we had the 112-mile bike. It was great bike route, yes I did walk the second half of Wiseman’s hill but that was the only one and I’ve never been up such a steep hill (even at training camp in Lanzarote) and when you come into town, the support and people shouting your name is so amazing.
Again no beers to celebrate, back to the caravan, Laura Kelly (who did the bike/run too) was my wing girl that weekend. I was so tired, I said to her that there was no way I could get up and run a marathon the following day. She sat me down and worked out how many miles I would have to run an hour to make the cut off time, I had a plan and it was manageable. The good news was the marathon didn’t start until 10.00 a.m., so lots of time to eat but I totally forgot my gels on the run but considering you were running along beautiful country lanes, all the local came out and had set up homemade feed stations which was my salvation.
At about mile 21, a man who was also running started to talk to me. Now anyone that knows me knows I don’t talk in races but this man, Wayne was easy to talk to, he got me through those last 6 miles with his local knowledge of the race and the route. This part of Wales has more triathletes per capita than anywhere else in the world. I finished the race running through the town to the same cheers that Paula Radcliffe would expect, down the red carpet to see my lovely Laura crying her eyes out, it brings a tear to my eye just thinking about crossing the line that day. You have to get a ticket to say you have completed all three disciplines within the cut off time, then your name is called out and you get clapped onto the red carpet and get to parade your medals. Not only was it beers that night, it was ice cream and pizza and more beers and champagne. So really I have done my bucket list race and I’d be happy if I never top that weekend as it was so special.
I’ve had the best time with Havering Tri over the last five years, I have met some amazingly supportive people and just wanted to thank everyone who has helped me. along the way.
How did you get into triathlon?
In 2017 I had a rough year. My mum and father in law died and I had a second foot operation that didn’t go to plan. So when I had learnt to walk again, saw the consultant and he said that the operation hadn’t gone to plan. He said “Give anything a go . If it hurts don’t do it.” I had not been able to run since breaking my foot originally in 2014. So I decided that life is short and you just need to give things ago. I had watched the London Triathlon a few times and really enjoyed watching it. So decided that it was now or never. I joined up with Kay for swimming in September 2017 as I could only swim a width of front crawl.
Your first race?
The first race was supposed to be Southend Triathlon but the swim was cut short, so ended up being a duathlon. So my first Triathlon was Eton Dorney sprint with Sarah and Mark Robson. It was a non-wetsuit swim (ahh) but I managed to get round. The bike? Well I got stung by a bee while cycling and this is where it all started, I did an extra lap!! Finished the race and felt fantastic, how could I have done three disciples and still be standing?
Personal highlight of the year
One of my highlights was winning the Trifarm Triple crown Leg 2 Age Group winner, having never won anything before this was a miracle and I was totally shocked.
My highlight of 2019 was Holkham Half, this was going to be the biggest race of my life, my nerves were in overdrive. I had to rack my bike the day before and go to the race briefing . I was really concerned with the cut off time as for me it's getting over the line and time is not important. Race day was here, I had so much encouragement from my fellow Havering Tri friends. I was in the last wave. The water was like thick gravy and I panicked, I can’t do this , Spencer had messaged me to say if you panic in the water just do breast stroke. It must have been seconds that the thought goes through your mind and then I was off. Around the race I had encouragement from other members, my husband and spectators. I had worked so hard to get here that I was going to enjoy every moment .The biggest memory will be coming round the corner to the finish line and hearing all Havering Tri shouting my name, priceless. Afterwards I had something to eat, a massage but still did not know my time. I had truly smashed my time 6 hours 39 minutes and 54 seconds.
Race plans for 2020
I have planned quite a few events but the big one is Long Course Wales in July.
You're a member of the London Brompton Club, what is the most craziest thing/place you have been to with your bike?
My husband and I both have Brompton bikes, we have had some great rides. Every Easter we go on an adventure for four days with the club. We have cycled from Bruggee to Amsterdam, carrying all our luggage on the bike as well. This year we are off to France, with a lot more riding involved but it is great fun. Part of the ethos is stopping for tea breaks , lunch breaks and afternoon tea!!
If you could give one piece of valuable advice to a new member of Havering Triathlon Club, what would that be?
My advice is listen to what experienced members tell you. Join as many club rides, runs and join the mentoring scheme. Brett Thake was my mentor and he was a great support all season. Make sure that you have the support from your family, I have been really lucky that Guy my husband has given me so much support. When I had a long bike ride to do, he would come out for some of it to encourage me.
What has changed the most in your life since you took up triathlon and joined HTC?
The biggest turning point for me, was when Mark Birrell had asked all members what their own goals were going to be for the next year. I replied saying that I would like to try and do an Olympic distance. He said why wait I have a place for you, it was that week!!! So feeling that I could not say no, I was in. All the way round on all three disciplines I had club members shouting encouragement. I crossed the line in 3 hours and 34 minutes and felt like superwoman. I realised with the support and the training I could do anything.
Havering Tri has given me the confidence to try and it does not matter if you don’t succeed. I have inspired other people to change their lives, it might be giving up smoking or leaning to swim. As in Harry Potter, help will come when you need it, and this club has not let me down yet.