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Annie's First Tri Report: "I won MY race"

Annie finished her first triathlon sponsored by Fund Her Tri UK on 27/08/2023 at Dorney Triathlon.

When I think about how this journey started, it still baffles me. In the summer of 2022, I met Bianca, co-founder of Fund Her Tri UK, at Love Trails Festival - and here I am today! How did that happen, Bianca? I do believe we were destined to meet and this journey was destined to happen!

But, honestly, triathlons have never been on my radar. I have never had the urge or the desire to complete one. So the fact that I am here AMAZES me!

When I moved to London in 1999 to study to be a teacher, my bike was a mode of transport and a form of exercise I truly loved taking part in. I had no awareness of clubs as such, just loved the ability to be able to move through traffic with ease but keep up my fitness in an enjoyable way.

2021 saw me want to destroy barriers to running that I had formed in my mind during my mid-teens when I had told myself that I couldn’t run. Coming second to last in a race I’d been literally plonked into last minute destroyed my confidence and desire to run - well, run long distances.

I joined the Couch to 5K programme, smashed it and booked my first race - London Landmarks Half, followed by The Big Half and subsequently London Marathon! Running had become my superpower and I absolutely loved it!

Swimming, however, posed a massive challenge. Statistics share that 95% of black adults and 80% of black children do not swim in England. My vivid memory was being awarded my 5-metre badge at school, and then that’s where my swim journey ended. The effect of water on my skin and hair had a HUGE part to play in this decision.

So, 40 years later, I wanted to learn to swim, with confidence and freedom. So, after learning about Fund Her Tri UK, I signed up to complete the Dorney Lake Triathlon, sprint distance (750m swim, 20k cycle, 5k run). I wanted to swim so I had to hold myself accountable - and here it was.

So, in January this year, determined to boss my triathlon, I set out to find a teacher to make me ready to hit this challenge head-on. Finding the right person posed so much difficulty, and it was only when I spoke to my mentor @mamaisarunner about this that she helped me find my swim teacher, Lucy, who propelled me on my swimming journey. My starting point: I was barely capable of swimming across the pool width way, never mind length way - it was hard!

Time to shine

The race day began with an unexpected hiccup which shattered my confidence. Luckily, I had an amazing friend who got me to the start line. I dug deep, and remembered my "why", which I set at the beginning of this journey: “glory comes from daring to begin!”. I also recalled the investment I had made into learning to swim. I was hungry for this, I was excited for this. I was ready!

As I registered and set up my transition area, I felt so calm. I truly can’t explain it. Then excitement, love, desire, achievement, all parcelled together, followed.

This being new to me, I looked around to know what exactly to do. I properly equipped myself, donning the wetsuit and securing my bald head beneath the lime green swim cap. I felt victorious just getting my wetsuit on! After all, that was a small victory in itself.

I made my way to the edge of the water, standing there surrounded by a massive entourage of women. That moment felt real and felt right! I felt safe. Some of them wanted affirmation to know if others were scared too, and they received it. Some were confident, others were frightened and some had to chat about how they were feeling. But, within that vulnerability, there was strength!

We lined up, entered the water, familiarised ourselves with the temp and, as the countdown commenced, we were off.

Race on!

I had carved out my space on the edge, so there was no chaos in the swim. I focused on the buoy line and concentrated on my breathing. I knew I was making progress and the halfway point was coming nearer and nearer, closer and closer!

The halfway mark seemed so far away, but the return leg felt swift, and the lady in the dingy beside me kept commenting on the calmness I radiated until I had conquered over half the distance and, ultimately, the end - which arrived quicker than I had expected.

Although I was the last swimmer out of the water, I smiled from ear to ear! I cried tears of joy within and congratulated myself on swimming without panic, without stopping, and within my time. My personal triumph was in that moment. I did it!!

The cycling leg I felt was extremely hard! I thought it would gift me an opportunity to make up lost ground, but it didn’t appear to. Despite that, I steadily cycled, lap after lap, maintaining a consistent speed. The four laps around the course flew by, whilst the headwinds tested my bike-ability and presented a new challenge. I just kept visualising my "why", knowing that, once I completed the cycle, the end of the race was within my reach.

Transitioning to the run, I remembered the advice given by staff members in Giant Camden. I eased into the run and my legs felt so heavy, but I kept pushing forward, setting myself mini-goals as I progressed.

It was so difficult, as there were masses of people on the path, but I kept focused and overtook runners directly ahead of me. After reaching the 4km mark, I could see a lady struggling, so I slowed my pace to support, encourage and remind her that she was nearly at the finish line!

As I crossed the finish line, I could hear cheers from my friends and, in that moment, I knew I did it - we did it! I said "we" as there have been some special people who have been part of this incredible journey. Running propelled me into this field and I felt so much joy finishing this challenge with one of my favourite disciplines!

Completing a triathlon truly offers such an immense sense of accomplishment, and honestly, it felt different from my previous races. Being able to swim has given me a new lease of life. I knew that, if I set a goal for myself and I was able to achieve it, I would have won my race!

I didn’t care that I was not a pole finisher because I had won MY race.

Advice for triathlon beginners

The art of the breath played a dominant role in all the disciplines of my race. I struggled initially with my breath control and was honest with my coaches to get their support in mastering it. I realised it is the greatest asset I possess! Then, I began to treat myself with kindness, compassion and empathy and believed that I could master it too.

Remember: your breathing both reflects and amplifies your emotions. I opted for "a virtuous cycle”, as described by Dr Danny Penman, during my race. I mindfully submitted to my breathing's natural rhythm and allowed my body to relax. I felt solid, whole and in control! I avoided rushing and began enjoying it! It was the best thing I did for myself - invest in your breath control!

Also, don’t be afraid to chat to those around you, especially before the swim. It settled me and it’s incredibly reassuring.

I loved this whole journey - learning to swim, connecting with other women on a similar path, gaining advice from those women of worth. The diversity and intensity of the training was mammoth but kept the experience alive avoiding boredom - if that’s even possible!

Next tri

I’m not hesitant in saying that I’m looking into my next tri - I have the bug! So, I’m continuing to invest in my swimming progress and I’m glad that my running coaching knowledge is having a massive impact on my ability to be the best triathlete I can be.

I can’t wait to feel that same finish line feeling once again! I know I can finish a sprint distance triathlon, so now the next question is: how quickly can I do it - and what distance will I do? You'll find out VERY soon! 👌🏾

Support more women to cross the finish line and close the gender gap in sports. Click here and donate to Fund Her Tri UK!



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