EIC Lorraine getting ready to head into transition!
Six metres before I was about to cross the finish line of the Woburn Abbey Tri For Life, a voice inside my head said: ‘I can¹t do this.’ My legs wobbled and tears prickled in my eyes. I felt unexpectedly nauseous.
This was mad, surely I wasn’t about to give up just seconds before I was due to finish the medium-distance race (800m swim, 32k bike and 7.5k run), my second triathlon this summer?
Thank god that running beside me was a woman who has been there for me through many of the most important moments in my life, my friend Victoria White. ‘Move,’ she shouted, grabbing my hand and pulling me forward. ‘Let’s finish this.’ And with her encouragement, I swept over that yellow line into the welcoming arms of the rest of the #ELLEfit team, who had finished some time before us.
And suddenly our adventure was over. All that intense training, all those laps of the pool, the miles on the bike and the hours running the roads had paid off.
Oh, wait a minute, that’s not what happened at all. I’d love to tell you we had a fitness frenzy of a summer with some hardcore abstinence but the reality is, we didn’t.
We’re tri-athletes with a difference, you see. We want to take part, rather than win. We want to do it as a team, as friends. We want to enjoy not endure. We’re not tracking times, or ‘splits’, as they call them. We’re tracking the fun quota and we had A LOT of fun going from couch to lake. I suspect you were expecting me to say our ‘tri-triumph’ was the result of a regime so strict we would rival Paula Radcliffe in the motivational stakes, but that wouldn’t be true.
Clockwise from top: 1.Annie, Victoria, Lorraine and Lisa heading to the start 2. Gemma, Annie, Lorraine, Victoria, Lisa and Aimee having a team snap before the start. 3. Victoria, Lisa, Lorraine and Annie waling their bikes to the start of the bike lap. 4. Gemma and Victoria excited about the day in general
What I can say, without taking anything away from all those amazing recreational athletes who cycled, ran and swam at speed past us on Sunday 6 September, is that actually we had a summer of laughs. We had a new adventure that was about making us healthier, happier women. Sure we’re fitter, but that was sort of a bonus.
There was of course a reduction in alcohol, cake and fast food intake, but certainly no abstinence. There were also some early-morning swims in cold, muddy lakes alongside more fiercely committed triathlon teams, and some serious front-crawl skills acquired, plus a few long evenings cursing my way up and down ‘steeper than it looks’ Primrose Hill, but really what we did is proof that you can if you think you can.
As a time-poor 47-year-old woman with a full-time job and four children – and a history of avoiding PE – I am quite proud of that. For each of these events, I relied on the amazing expertise of the trainers who advised us, my friends, my family and the women of ELLE (those competing alongside me and those who cheered us on with love and good wishes from the offices).
Every time I put my trainers on to get ‘race ready’, I steadied my nerves and fears by telling myself I was simply off to do a workout with some of the most fun women I know. I learned a lot along the way and made some new friends. So if you too are contemplating a triathlon, or any kind of sporty challenge, and there's a tiny doubt in your mind about doing it, then the following may be useful to know.
Clockwise from top: 1. Lisa enjoying the bike laps 2. Lorraine heading from the lake to transition 3. Lorraine and Victoria crossing the finish line
Life Lessons From My Summer of Sport
1) Write yourself a ‘Dear body’ letter in your head. What has it already done for you and what could it do? Mine’s given me the kids I love more than anything in the world, so there was no reason it couldn’t step up to the plate for a swim, ride, run. This letter that a jogger wrote to a man who shouted at her as she ran inspired my ‘Dear body’. So now every time I am in a high-street changing room bemoaning the size of my thighs, pinching my cellulite critically, I think, ‘Hold on a minute, my body has done some great things this summer, I am going to stop judging it negatively.’ It’s a good feeling, so fill in that entry form and press send right now.
2) Winning is not the point unless you want it to be. In retrospect, to move from the sprint distance of our first triathlon to the medium distance of our second was possibly a mistake. I didn’t have the time to train for that. I hadn’t had a chance to go on my bike for six weeks before Sunday. But I finished because Vic and I did it together, waiting for each other in turns. Our motto was ‘We start together, we finish together.’ Work out what you want to get out of the day and stick to that plan. We finished last out of 30 women competitors on the bike part of the race but it was a lovely ride through the Berkshire countryside on a sunny day. I refuse to view our placing as anything but heroic, or epic, as my teenage daughter would say.
3) Training is not punishment. It’s about being stronger and fitter – you DO have to do it and commit to it properly to avoid injury, but it doesn’t have to take over your life. And don’t bore the pants of people who aren’t working towards a sporty first with your progress (sorry Team ELLE). It’s probably true that no one cares about it as much as you do.
4) You can always dig deeper. Just when you think, ‘I can't run anymore,’ or 'This lake is colder than my freezer – I must stop,’ you can always find that last bit of energy to get it done. Knowing you have that in you is ever so useful in many other areas of life.
5) Saturdays are unusual when there is no wine involved. You can have a glass or two before a triathlon but no more. So we opted to have none and it was the dullest Saturday of my life. Just warning you.
6) Every day should feel like an adventure and when you take on a sport like this, you do try something new all the time. But failure is also part of this journey, and that's OK too.
7) There will be setbacks but turn them into positives. My favourite part of the summer was taking part in Cornwall’s one-mile Big Swim around the headline at Port Isaac. I would never have signed up for that if I hadn’t had to pull out of the Paris half-marathon due to a stress fracture in my calf. I took up swimming, learning the front crawl from scratch, to stay fit when I was advised to stop running for 10 weeks. I was disappointed at the time but it meant I was able to do something so jolly, I will do it every year of my life! And swimming brought me Eddie Brocklesby – the 72-year-old Iron Man competitor. If you have any doubts about signing up for anything, just imagine Eddie telling you to get on with.
8) You don't have to win. This was a huge learning curve for a competitive person like me. But fear of failure is the worst block trying something new. And I am glad I am over that now!
9) Karma is kind to those who are kind. The Woburn tri was in aid of the wonderful charity Rays Of Sunshine, which grants wishes to seriously ill children. Those women at Rays Of Sunshine made the day for us on Sunday, and we felt privileged to making a small difference to their amazing work. Just seeing them cheering us on at various points along the way was a real morale booster. If you do want to take on a new sporty challenge, I would highly recommend doing it for a charity like the Rays of Sunshine Children's Charity.
Lisa happy to have finished!
Finally, a big thank you to these lovely people:
Sarah Spires at the Rays of Sunshine Children's Charity.
Speedo for the swim sessions and swimming kit and wetsuits.
Lucas Hugh for the most glamouros to suits ever.
Blue Seventy for the Editor-in-Chief's wetsuit.
Jonathan O'Connor at Halfords PR for the brilliant bikes.
Team #ELLEFit for the Tri for Life included:
Lorraine Candy - Editor-in-Chief of ELLE @Lorraine ELLE
Victoria White - Commercial Content Director @vicawhite
Annie Rice - Digital Editor, Hearst Empowering Women, Yoga instructor
Gemma Cairney - BBC Radio 1 Dj @gemcairn
Jim Biddulph - Designer, artist, maker and Gemma's boyfriend @jimbidd
Lisa Potter-Dixon - Head Make up & Trend Artist (& Brow expert) for Benefit Cosmetics @Lisa_Benefit