Emma got into triathlon after university and has since qualified to compete at a world level. She talks to Sundried about her favourite races and what she's learned along the way.
Have you always been into sport?
Yes, I’ve loved sport for as long as I can remember. From the age 4 I’ve always been excited by the prospect of doing an activity or something new that I’ve not tried before. I loved swimming as a child and swam competitively from the age of 9 up to about 16/17. Throughout school I was always involved in sport from cross country to athletics, football and dance.
At university I joined the Swimming & Waterpolo Club and competed in both sports, as well as doing the occasional Parkrun and a game of rounders. I was never strong at running but I loved being outside, being around people and the atmosphere on any event day was too good to miss. I think sport massively helps to develop our character and can teach us life lessons that education doesn’t necessarily do.
How did you first get into triathlon?
Back in primary school, my PE teacher suggested that I do the local triathlon, Sefton Triathlon, as I was known as the sporty kid, or the mad one! So I did my first triathlon at the age of 10/11 but I didn't really take it up back then and stuck to competitive swimming. It was only after university that I wanted a new challenge and was motivated to get better at running that I joined my local gym and went to the Go Tri sessions. From that point I've never looked back. 4 years on from Go Tri and I'm racing for the GB Age Group Team. My lifestyle now revolves around the three sports and I still wonder how I've found myself in this position!
What’s been your best race to date?
I consider my best race to be the one I most enjoyed and that has to be Liverpool Triathlon in 2016. Being from the city itself, it was an amazing experience to race in the Albert Docks and on the world-famous waterfront with my family and friends watching. The sun was shining all day, the crowds were brilliant and I managed to finish 2nd in my age group!
I'd say this was the turning point for me in my triathlon journey, where my competitive nature and motivation were fuelled to see how far I could push myself in each discipline. My eyes became fixed on targeting the GB Age Group Team from that point.
And your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement definitely has to be qualifying for the 2019 World Sprint Triathlon Age Group Championships in Lausanne. Over the years I've reduced my 5 km running time down by 7 minutes which has meant that I can now compete with the rest of the field. Redcar Triathlon was the qualifying race in 2018 and the weather conditions were so awful that it was almost turned into a duathlon. Thankfully I was pleased we were able to keep the swim part but the bike and run elements were tough in such bad conditions too. I had no idea of my position mid-race as it’s a matter of going as fast as you can to the finish line. I ran a 5 km PB on the day and when I got the confirmation email through
of my qualification, I could not have been more overwhelmed. This was something that I’d worked so hard for and was now becoming a reality. I honestly can’t wait for the Grand Final in August this year!
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
I wouldn’t say that any race has been easy but the toughest I’ve completed usually involve extreme weather conditions. At the 2017 Barcelona Triathlon, the midday sun reached temperatures well over 30 degrees which definitely made the run a challenge. Likewise, at the 2018 Wirral Triathlon, the bitter cold wind and rain were not pleasant to face when running around in a trisuit after swimming in a cold marina.
I’ve not had any particular racing disasters (yet!) but I do remember really struggling to get my wetsuit off after the swim in the Redcar qualifier after being so cold. I then realised that I’d not put any oil on my ankles to help it slide off which meant I ended up practically lying down in transition, rubbing my hands together to get some warmth and trying to work it’s way off my legs, which felt like forever! Eventually it came off and I then had to get back up and get some feeling in my feet to run off with my bike. I went into panic mode trying to catch up with as many athletes as I could with it being the World Champs qualifier! Not ideal.
How do you overcome setbacks?
I’ve been lucky enough to not have suffered from any major injuries, and no I don’t have any secrets, but I do know when my body is crying out for a rest. So up until now, I’ve been relatively fit enough to compete in every race that I’ve entered.
For me, the main setback was my running ability. Simply put, I just wasn’t good enough and this was a huge mental and physical barrier that I had to break down if I wanted to compete at GB Age Group level.
When racing, I was tired of being in a decent position after the swim and bike and then getting to the run and watching so many people fly past me; it was pretty demoralising. I would beat myself up a lot afterwards too, asking why I couldn’t do it and ask a lot of what ifs? And so, I decided that the only way to change that was to change my approach to running, and that’s what I did. I didn’t consider myself a runner, but now I had to believe that I was one. This mentally has without doubt allowed me to become fitter, faster and more motivated.
I would say that you will definitely surprise yourself at what you can achieve. The body is relentless, and I’ve learnt that it’s the mind that decides when we’ve had enough.
It’s important to value your progress too. If you can, I’d keep a diary of races or events you do and note down race day feelings and end result/times. Keeping track of this can be great motivation for improving but also seeing how far you’ve come.
What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?
Finally, there are so many choices for types of kit and events nowadays that when starting out it can be quite daunting. I would say go with what feels comfortable for you and what excites you! This doesn’t have to be the highest priced item in the magazine or the race of the year that everyone else is talking about. Set your own targets and goals in the budget that you have and believe in it.
What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?
My goals for 2019 are to race competitively at the World Aquathlon Championships in Pontevedra and the World Triathlon Championships in Lausanne. My aim is to go to both races in the best shape possible and give everything I can on the day. There’s no pressure for me to finish Top 10 or Podium; I’m going with the outlook to enjoy the whole experience and finish as high up as I can in my age group.
I’ll be racing at Southport and Bala Triathlon too, as well as some qualifying races for 2020. I’ve already qualified for the 2020 European Standard Triathlon Championships in Estonia so this will be my main goal for next year.
Along the way I want to try to encourage more people, especially women, to take up the sport of triathlon, particularly in Liverpool.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
As much as I enjoy following sports stars and female athletes online, it’s the people around me that I take most of my inspiration from. Being competitive with friends and family is great fun and they’re always the people who spur you on to get better. Dockside Runners is an incredible club in Liverpool that provides the perfect environment for anyone wanting to get into running or push their limits. There are so many people in the club, pacers and participants, that I am inspired by to take on all kinds of crazy running and triathlon challenges, and thanks to them this is why I’m where I am!
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
I’ll get back to you when I have tested out the sports bra and brand new cycling kit but it looks great!