Claire spent 30 years working in law enforcement and upon retirement set herself the goal of completing a triathlon. She talks to Sundried about the highs and lows of racing.
Have you always been into sport?
I first became interested in sport at school, playing hockey at County level and England U18s. My home team was Polo Farm, Canterbury where I played weekly until work commitments took over.
My triathlon journey has been sporadic, fitting in work and home commitments but in 2018, I was due to retire after serving 30 years with law enforcement. I also was due to turn 50 and had one of those ‘now or never’ moments. As I was just about to move into a new age group, I set myself a 5 year goal to try and qualify for a GB Age Group triathlon place. Training and hard work has paid off and in 2019 I represented GB in both the sprint duathlon and triathlon championships. The fun has only just begun!
What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?
Whilst working in the police I was involved in a car accident, injuring my back which finished my hockey playing days. Determined to get back into fitness, I looked at other sports. After watching the Lanzarote Volcano triathlon, I decided that triathlon was going to be my next goal. I really like how the three different disciplines spread the training load and impact across my body. I also like the fact you have to be very organised, packing the right kit, laying it all out for a smooth transition and ensuring nutrition is adequate to get you through the race.
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
This has to be my first GB Age Group race, competing in the World Championships in Spain this year (2019) and winning the bronze medal. Not only was it my first race for GB, but also my first international duathlon. The camaraderie and new friends I made being part of the GB team, the atmosphere throughout the race village and the support and cheering of the crowd on race day will be a memory I will treasure forever.
And your proudest achievement?
Winning a bronze medal at the World Championships in Spain. I had the race of my life – both runs went well and my bike was very strong, despite the hill climbs! Standing on the podium in my GB kit, receiving my bronze medal amongst such great athletes, was the proudest day of my life.
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
To date, I think I have been very lucky with my races, although have I just jinxed myself here? My toughest race to date was the European Championships in Russia this year (2019), which was my first GB Age Group triathlon; it was tough both mentally and physically.
The challenging logistics of getting myself and all my kit to the venue in time for race day was tough – my bike only arrived 18 hours before I was due to race. Also the swim, which was a very green, algae-filled open water swim where for the first time, I had to compete with no wetsuit as they were banned. I was very relieved to get out of the water!
Once I was out on my bike, I felt ready to push hard, finishing with the second fastest run. Coming in 5th overall and 3rd GB lady has gained me automatic qualification for the ETU championships in Malmo, Sweden next year so there's still plenty of work to do.
How do you overcome setbacks?
This is a great question! With positive mindset, self belief and picking myself up and dusting myself off are the things I try to live by. Things happen for a reason, it’s how you deal with these moments in life that make you stronger and better equipped for next time. There are no mistakes in racing/life, just lessons learnt and room to improve for next time; but always make sure there is a next time.
What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?
Triathlon and duathlon are addictive but it's important to get the right training/life balance. I wouldn’t be able to train as hard and enjoy what I do without the support of friends and family. Don’t take them, or your health, for granted. Don’t put pressure on yourself all the time – training is the time to make mistakes and push the boundaries, race day is time to enjoy and revel in all the hard work you have put in to get you to the start line.
What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?
My goals for 2019 were to give the best of myself in all my GB races. This has paid off and now the work begins to get stronger and faster for next year's races in Spain, Sweden and Holland. Aside from my AG races, I have entered the 2020 Lanzarote Volcano triathlon for the first time, upping my distance from Sprint to Standard.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I will never forget going to watch the Para Olympic Games in London 2012 and having nothing but respect and admiration for all those athletes, competing at such a high level, despite their disabilities. Seeing the pure grit and determination of these athletes makes you put things into perspective and is proof that if you want something bad enough, train hard, work hard and success will come.
I also take inspiration from my local Parkrun in Whitstable, Kent. Pacing and encouraging new runners and the great Speedy Pluckers, a local running group which I set up. These fantastic runners that had not run 100 metres before, let alone a 5k. Seeing them push themselves out of their comfort zones and finishing with huge smiles of achievement and satisfaction – that's what inspires me.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
First and foremost, the ethos of the company. High quality kit made from 100% recycled materials, which helps to save the environment from plastic pollution is a ‘win win’ for me. It looks and feels great and fits well – no bulkiness or uncomfortable seams in places you don’t want!
My favourite pieces of kit currently are the Sundried Padded jacket which is light and soft – perfect to put on post-race, to keep warm and the Escape Half Zip top which is great for my early morning runs to keep the dawn chill off.