How did it all start?

Back in 2010 I was working on a project in an office and met a lovely lady there, Anne, who was an GB age-grouping athlete. We got talking about biking and running and she suggested that I do a triathlon. Well, I laughed at that ridiculous idea but a seed had been planted in my mind.

At that time I was a busy mum of two primary school-aged boys. I was working as a self-employed designer and project manager from home and when I had any spare time would do a bit of cycling or running but nothing seriously. In my pre-mummy life I had been a horse owner and show-jumped to a reasonable level but since having children that competitive, sporty side of my life had taken a backseat and I thought the time for that had passed.

The following year we had a family holiday in Mallorca and a villa with a small pool. I decided to attempt to teach myself front crawl on this holiday and packed my eldest son's swimming float to help me. I worked through the progressions I had seen him do in ASA swimming lessons and then at the local swimming club. It worked and by the end of the holiday I was doing a basic front crawl. When we returned I went to our local pool and started increasing my front crawl swimming from half a length to 16 lengths in just a few weeks. After that I was motoring - the increase in my ability to swim lengths happened with ease. I asked the head coach at Royston SC, Tricia, to give me some coaching, which she did and then a couple of months later Anne gave me some triathlon-specific coaching too. I was loving the swimming!

The following spring a friend suggested that I join her and some other Royston ladies in a localish triathlon (pool based) and I said yes. Crikey - the panic that set in then. So, my swimming, biking and running was ok - nothing special but survivable but what about transitions? Well, I knew that was a new skill to learn so I trawled Youtube for decent videos showing transitions and practiced how to do this at home. I practiced a lot! It paid off and before I knew it race day arrived. It was a 4am start - kids had been sent to my parents overnight, hubby was prepped to drive me there and support, I was good to go (but very nervous). However, Mother Nature had decided to throw a storm shaped spanner in the works and we woke to gale force winds and driving rain. We all still got ready and started driving to Bedford though but halfway there I received a call from my friend saying that the race was going to be cancelled. I wasn't sure if I was frustrated or relieved - we were going to have to go through all those pre-race nerves again. Which we did a month later at the re-scheduled race. 

So, I can hear you wondering how it went. It actually was ok. I swam 400m in 8:43, T1 in 1:42, biked in 57:14, T2 in 1:32 and an 4.5k in 26:41. I survived - it was tough (the run felt very hard after a swim and a bike) but I did it and after crossing the line was wondering about the next race.

That season I raced three times and was the slowest in the group of ladies racing from Royston but I loved the challenge of it and the feeling when I had crossed the line. I had found something exciting for me - not for my kids or my husband but me. It didn't matter to me if I had people watching me or cheering for me, I just loved the feeling of having achieved something amazing.

I still love triathlon but it's different now to my first couple of years racing, when it didn't matter what I did or didn't achieve in the race - finishing was all that mattered. Now, I have greater expectations placed on my by myself and others and the driving force and ambition is very different. 

From the start of the journey to now I have changed: I feel mentally stronger and physically fitter. My body has changed - I've lost weight, developed muscle, become leaner, my heart is stronger, I've lost two dress sizes but I'm not skinny, I'm strong, fit and the healthiest I've been in my entire life. Whether you choose to do triathlon or hockey, football, cycling, skiing or another pursuit, my advice would always be to have a go, you never know where it might lead.

Alice Barnes