I only discovered that normal people did triathlon when I joined the fire service. I thought about doing it many years ago when I was a running with a club, but always got put off for various reasons. It was probably watching the Brownlees at the Olympics that finally inspired me to do it.
I’m a crew manager in the fire service, and the shift work does help with triathlon. It means I do two days, two nights, then have four days off, which gives me time to train and then recover. On the flip side, when I’m doing a night shift, it can throw out sleep and eating patterns.
I think I initially thought triathlon was IronMan. I just thought there was no way I’d be able to do that kind of distance, but when I found out more through my running club’s sister triathlon outfit, I started to find out about the other distances. I’d done virtually no road biking before I started, my swimming was nowhere near competitive but my running was always going to be okay.
Like a lot of people I worried about the kit and the transition. But I started with a novice triathlon and to be honest I was in a complete state of chaos – I didn’t know how to set up transition whatsoever and had no idea if I had the right gear at all. I got through it though and thoroughly enjoyed it.
It is ok to do breaststroke at races. So anyone who thinks that because they can’t do front crawl they shouldn’t do triathlon, you really need not worry. You also don’t have to be supersonic across all the disciplines, or even any of them, triathlon has people of all levels at every race.
I really do think the atmosphere is brilliant at triathlons. The people I compete with and train with are great. Sporting wise I would describe myself as a jack of all trades, but there’s always something to work on and get better at. Triathlon is a very interesting sport and there’s always something to keep you motivated.
I wish I had taken up triathlon much sooner than I did. It’s a sport for all levels of ability and there is always a very friendly encouraging atmosphere at triathlon clubs and races, I really do think the atmosphere is brilliant.
If you’ve even got a little inkling, give tri a shot. Even if you do it on a mountain bike or whatever you’ve got, give it a go. Join a local club and get into training so you can find a little bit more about it. As long as you can swim, have a bike and a pair of running shoes you’re good to go.
The age group system is so good. In triathlon the age groups are small, mine is 40-44, and the age category is very representative. You’re not expected to have the same fitness as somebody much younger than you when it comes to your placing, but at the same time you get to race alongside people of all ages.
I was overwhelmed to get to the Chicago World Champs. It was only when I joined the Jets that I realised that was even a possibility. Joel had told me to raise my goals and aim for the world champs and I had to stop myself laughing when he said that. But I got there.
My life has changed so that I now eat, sleep and breath triathlon. I spend a large part of my week training or competing in triathlon and spend a lot of time thinking about upcoming races, past performances and how to improve. I also now spend a lot of money on training, new equipment, and race entries and travel – but I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
To view Gillian’s top ten training tips, click here.