An inspirational work-life balance
We caught up with her to find out more - firstly asking about her recently-completed 2015 campaign and then discovering how she manages to fit in the required 20+ hours of training each week. Here's what she told us...
In January 2015 I decided to take the plunge and turn "professional".
After 10 years in triathlon I probably left it a bit late - but it was the right time. After stepping up to Ironman distance racing in 2010 I had some success (eighth overall in Ironman Austria 2012) but after a year out of the sport in 2013 I returned to training and racing in 2014 with no real expectations.
Things came together really well for me in 2014 - I won the Ironman All World Athlete world rankings for my age group following great results in three different Ironman races, including the Ironman World Championships.
But it took some convincing for me to request a pro licence from British Triathlon.
Racing PRO is a big step up from Age Group (amateur), both in terms of race experience and external expectations. Personally, I had little belief that I could perform at the top level in my first season - I just wanted to give a good account of myself and enjoy the racing. My husband (and coach) Mark had more confidence than me and often told me I should be aiming for a podium place in the Ironman events. I don’t think I ever thought it was possible until it happened.
My first race as a PRO was Ironman South Africa in March 2015. While I had an amazing experience and loved the race, I had a mediocre performance. It was a stacked field and I managed only a 12th place finish.
Looking back I was a bit overwhelmed by my first event as a professional. But I learnt so much from that experience and took all those lessons with me to Ironman Lanzarote a couple of months later.
Lanzarote was a breakthrough event for me. The windy and hilly bike course suited me perfectly and I finished on the podium in third place. The result was totally unexpected and I think it was at that point that I started to believe in my ability.
Ironman UK quickly followed just eight weeks later and this time I went there with podium intentions. It was strong field and anything can happen during the long hours of an Ironman race, so it was a surprise to me to come off the bike and onto the marathon in second place.
With some fast runners not far behind I knew I had to work hard on the marathon. The support on the route was brilliant and my husband Mark was able to give me regular splits to the other ladies. I drew from the energy of my excited supporters and stormed through with a marathon PB into second place. I was absolutely over the moon and again really surprised. To have been able to race to that result with family and friends on the course was fantastic.
I also fitted two Ironman 70.3 races into my schedule, the first in Norway just before Ironman UK and the second the European Championships in Germany just three weeks later. Both were incredible races, but neither were outstanding performances for me.
An 11th place finish at the European Championships was not quite enough to rank me highly enough for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii this year. Having been so close in 2015, I am firmly focussed on obtaining that place in 2016.
Balancing full-time work and training
I work as a Geotechnical Engineer at Coffey Geotechnics in Harrogate and people often ask how on earth I fit all my training around a full time job. The fact is that I love being an engineer and I have worked hard to get to the level I am at now in my career.
I would not give it up for triathlon - even if I could make a living out of the sport. So I just have to make it work. I think the fact that I love both engineering and triathlon helps as I'm motivated to do both well.
But there is no secret to it. I just have to be up early, fit in sessions before and after work, and make sacrifices in other aspects of my life. I train about 20-25 hours a week when I am in pre-race training blocks, and with about 40 hours a week in the office there is not much time for anything else. If you ask me what I am doing at the weekend, it’s usually just training!
But I am also lucky as Coffey allow me to be flexible with my hours and sneak in the odd long training session before getting to my desk (for breakfast) in the morning. My colleagues are supportive, if a little perplexed by it all.
The other thing that I think is key is to have a plan. Long term and interim goals are essential for motivation, especially when staying in bed for an extra two hours seems like a good idea EVERY time you wake up in the morning.
If you have a session already programmed for that morning then it is far easier to get out and do it. I use the Xhale training diary
to log all my training which helps me to keep track of progress. I am always careful to listen to my body though and rest when I feel that it is needed.
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