Mel first learnt to swim to help encourage her daughter and before she knew it she was taking on an Ironman! She talks to Sundried about life as a triathlete.
Have you always been into sport?
I was never the "sporty" type and was a bit overweight as a child. I scored quite badly in PE at school, but my parents made us join a sports club of our choice as children. I was not particularly good at any of them, but I didn't mind taking part.
What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?
I didn't actually "decide"! I didn't like water and was extremely anxious every time my daughter got anywhere near water. She wasn't all that keen about water either. I realised that if I didn't do anything, she would develop a proper fear of it like me. So I joined a local swim squad to learn to swim in September 2016. I couldn't swim a single length then! Many of the swimmers were triathletes and somehow I decided that doing an Ironman the following summer would be a good challenge... and it was! I loved it!
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
The Nottingham Tribe Relay in 2018 that I raced with 2 of my squad mates was quite special. The atmosphere was really good. My dad was there and it was the first time he watched a triathlon race and he was blown away. We also watched the Elite Mixed Relay race afterwards and Team France made it to the podium and it was just incredible to have witnessed this moment together with my dad - the girls even gave us their podium bouquets afterwards. It was a special experience!
And your proudest achievement?
Probably getting Silver AG at Outlaw Half in 2018. It was completely unexpected and quite a big deal for me!
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
Oh, yes! Memorably at the Woburn Middle Distance Triathlon in September 2018. I had been on a cycling holiday with the family for a few weeks and I was arrogant enough to think I could do this without training. I was taught a very good lesson that day. I wanted to give up less than 100m into the 1.9km swim... I hated every minute of it. The only reason I kept going was because my daughter was set to do the kids race the next day and I didn't want to give her a reason to bail out! It's a beautiful setting so it should be an enjoyable race if treated with respect. Lesson learnt.
How do you overcome setbacks?
It depends a lot on the type of setbacks but generally, it's about accepting the facts without judgement, understanding the new reality and finding strategies that take you to your goal. It might even involve changing the goal, short-term, to sustain longer-term plans.
What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?
There is so much advice out there which may or may not benefit you as a person or as an athlete that it can feel confusing. It can be reassuring but it sometimes takes the responsibility away from ourselves. So I wish I had been advised to trust myself more.
What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?
I've had to review my 2019 goals quite significantly due to shoulder injury and I have not raced much this year. I am racing at the ITU AG Sprint World Championships on 31st August, which is not my distance of choice, but I am looking forward to it. I hope to be fit enough to race the Middle Distance European Championships in 2020, with a top-10 finish goal. I am considering a return to the Ironman distance, but it's too early to make that call.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
There are many people within the squad who are incredibly dedicated to the sport and the triathlon community which is fantastic to see at roots level. I am currently volunteering as a Career Coach to support refugees into employment in the UK and these people display outstanding qualities of resilience, hope, and work ethics. These qualities are what makes the difference between success and failure. I feel privileged to be learning from them. If I had to pick a name though, Chrissie Wellington would most likely top the list. Her life story is simply courageous and beautiful. I was fortunate enough to meet her at a recent fundraising event, and she has a special aura about her. You can feel the warmth of her presence. Magical yet very human.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
The sustainability story really resonates with me. The kit looks fab too. I am eagerly waiting for my first delivery so will report back when I have tested them. Excited!