Clare Greenwood took part in Ulverston Triathlon on Easter Sunday. It was her first ever solo triathlon and she was celebrating turning 60. If anyone is wondering “can I do this” then have a read of Clare’s story and why not give it a go.
Don’t look at my time, look at my smile!
Just before taking early retirement in 2012, I went to Liverpool to watch 3 of my young nieces taking part in a relay triathlon. They seemed to be having great fun so I remarked to two of my sisters that we ought to have a go; after all, one enjoyed swimming, the other had a bike in her shed so that only left me to learn to run! How could we fail? We laughed at the thought and went home to various parts of England and Wales. But the germ of an idea niggled away at me. How hard could it be to run 5k? Surely a year was enough time to get into shape?
With my husband, John, beside me every step of the way we dug out our trainers and set off up the hill. When I say “up the hill” do bear in mind we live in Cumbria; there’s no such thing as a flat route around here. Euphemisms such as a bump in the road, an undulating course, a slight incline, all attempt to disguise one thing…an uphill struggle!
After a couple of weeks we discovered parkrun. Barrow Park is beautiful with its lake, cenotaph, mature trees and its hills! It is known to be one of the most undulating parkruns in Britain. I turned up for my first run in a cotton T-shirt and flowery shorts. Seeing all the Lycra, I nearly turned round and ran home! But, enjoying coffee and cake after finishing in last place, I discovered the friendliest crowd of people you could ever wish to meet. And I had run 5k without stopping to walk, just 4 weeks after the idea of running first entered my head. I knew then that the triathlon relay could become reality!
In 2014, we did it! The Three Sisters entered the Ulverston Triathlon as a team! We came last! But I had well and truly caught the running bug. Over the next couple of years John and I progressed from 5k to 10k, from 10k to Half Marathon. Wherever we travelled we looked for a run…visiting our daughter we ran Port Sunlight 10k and the Wirral Half Marathon, visiting one son we ran the Barns Green Half Marathon and Horsham parkrun while visits to the other son took in Graves and Rother Valley parkruns. While doing volunteer work in Adis Ababa we ran the Great Ethiopian Run, and a long weekend in Morocco just happened to coincide with the Marrakech Half!
In March 2015, I turned 59 and began thinking of how I could make my 60th birthday one to remember. A cruise, perhaps? A holiday of a lifetime somewhere exotic? A spa weekend of pampering with the girls. Nothing really appealed, until Easter Sunday when I was once again doing the run leg for the triathlon relay, this time with friends from our running group. Crossing the finish line I imagined how I would feel if I’d done the whole thing solo! That was it! My 60th birthday would be celebrated by completing the full Triathlon, all three disciplines!
Excitedly I told John my plan. As always he backed me 100%. The only tiny little issues were, I didn’t own a bike, and …I couldn’t swim!
A few weeks later we went to stay with my sister and her family in Aberystwyth. Their garage was full of bikes of all types and sizes. “You don’t have a spare one, do you?” I asked. The next day we drove back to Cumbria with my hybrid carefully stowed in the back of the car.
You never forget how to ride a bike, they say. After 40 years I was a little wobbly but with the encouragement of friends I began to venture out on short rides up and down the hills. It was a good start! Now for the swim thing! It was 46 years since I had last been in a pool, I hadn’t owned a swimsuit since my teens, and I am so short-sighted, the idea of having to do anything without my glasses on was inconceivably terrifying.
This was when my mad plan could have fallen apart. There were so many reasons for me not to take it any further. Once again John was there to keep me on track. He researched prescription swim-goggles, he found swimsuits I might like on Amazon, he even said he had always wanted to go swimming three or four times a week! Even now I can’t remember him ever going swimming in the 40 years we had been together!
Tentatively, I watched swimmers on YouTube, I lay on the floor or the sofa when no one else was home, kicked my legs and waved my arms. The prescription goggles I ordered were supposed to arrive in 4 days, this stretched to 2 weeks, and finally 3 months. “Are thy coming from China?” I asked, “Yes? Well, I guess they must be swimming all the way!” Secretly, I hoped they would never arrive! But they did. I finally took the plunge, threw myself in the shallow end and splashed my way up and down the pool. 400 metres was my target, 15 minutes the time allowed. Gradually I increased my distance till I could cover 16 lengths. But my style was horrendous and it took me nearly an hour. It was November before I did what I should have done in June… I signed up for swimming lessons!
My lovely instructor, Kate, assured me she would soon have me swimming front crawl and that, if I worked really hard I would be ready for my Easter Sunday target. What neither of us was prepared for was that my body refused to take in the oxygen it needed; no matter what breathing pattern I tried I was left gasping for air at the end of each length, or more worryingly, light-headed and passing out mid-length!
A change of strategy was called for. Front crawl was abandoned and breaststroke attempted. It was going to be much slower, but I immediately felt more in control and confident that I could manage the breathing. There was no stopping me now! Five times a week I was in the pool, practising my drills, increasing my swim stamina and gradually chipping away at my time. On my 60th birthday, just 4 days before the triathlon, I finally swam the 16 lengths in just over 12 minutes. I felt like I’d won a place in the Olympics!
The week up to Easter was beautiful, the sun shone, the temperature rose and the Lakeland daffodils bloomed. We had booked Hawkshead Youth Hostel as over 30 members of the family were coming to celebrate my birthday, my 150th parkrun on the Saturday, and my first Triathlon.
By Saturday the weather had turned, it was barely above zero, the rain hammered down and it was blowing a hooley! My race number was 13, and my age category described me as “vintage”, and to crown it all, the clocks had to go forward making the dawn start ridiculously early! Would the event be cancelled? Could I withdraw with dignity? Could I ‘accidentally’ sleep in and miss my wave?
No! I was prepared: my kit was sorted, breakfast planned, the route from Hawkshead measured and timed, friends and family were ready with cameras.
I did it! I swam with time to spare. I sang out loud as I cycled the 20k hilly route (shortened from the planned 28k because of the fierce winds) and I ran the 5.8k at a faster pace than my recent parkruns. Just 2 hours after climbing into the pool I crossed the finish line with a huge smile, savouring that feeling I had only imagined the year before.
It didn’t matter that the winners took half the time that I did, or that my kit didn’t include a quick drying tri-suit. It didn’t matter that my transition times were slow as I piled on the layers or that I wore trainers rather than cleats.
My family cheered themselves hoarse, hugged me and declared themselves to be so proud.
Did I succeed? Was it worth it? Am I a winner? Don’t look at my time, look at my smile!
The Ride for Michael returns Sunday October 4th 2015. There will be 2 route options, 60 & 30 miles and all proceeds will be donated to the Michael Bonney Fund and Epic Kidz charity, who support children’s sports groups within the North West.
On March 3rd 2013, while taking part in his local Eden Valley sportive, Michael Bonney fell off his bike, just like we all do. Only this time, instead of jumping up and laughing it off, Michael suffered a life changing injury. Attended to by doctors at the scene of the accident, he was then flown by air ambulance to a specialist unit where he was diagnosed with a severed spinal cord at the C3 vertebrae. The result is that Michael is now tetraplegic – paralysed from the neck down, requiring a ventilator to breath.
Come along and support the event, it’s a great day of cycling in the Eden Valley and the opportunity to support 2 great causes. To read more and to enter CLICK HERE.
We’re 2 weeks out from this year’s Bolton Bash Sportive, Sunday September 2oth. This year we’ll have free event photos for all participants, courtesy of our partnership with local solicitors Russell & Russell. You’ll be able to download your photos following the event, read about Russell and Russell below.
As the Bolton Bash is just around the corner, we thought we’d let you know that this year’s event is being sponsored by Russell & Russell Solicitors. With its head office in Bolton, the firm has been providing legal advice since 1887 so it’s a partnership with a local relevance for the Cycle Sportive.
As a cyclist you’ll appreciate you’re one of the most vulnerable road users and if you find yourself involved in a road traffic accident, the consequences could be far reaching. Russell and Russell can advise whether you’re eligible to make a claim for compensation to help you on the road to recovery and to cover the cost of any damage to your bike and, more importantly, you. The firm operates on a no win no fee basis and deals with minor incidents to life changing injuries.
This was the second time me and my team mate Lorraine had entered this event, although last time we did it, it had been at Myerscough so obviously a big change. We came to watch it last year and saw how tough it was, but you know how time dulls those memories!!
Anyway fast forward to just after Christmas with a quiet night ahead, an hour later I’d entered Lorraine and myself for it. Then I thought I’d better confess- she took it well and we forgot about it for a while. We are very local to the area and so know the route, plus we know how hard they like to make these events (Marc Laithwaite that’s you) so no excuses for us not being prepared.
We even had a day of reccying the route and a couple of practice cycles around it. We had watched Parbold the week before, so were praying for nicer conditions than the rain they had. The prayers paid off and the day dawned, well cloudy, but at least not wet as some of those descents needed dry roads that’s for sure.
We got our mountain load of kit out of the car, and along with our bikes trundled to the registration and transition area. It was well organised so we had our bikes sorted quickly. The what to wear question loomed again so we faffed again for a while. Anyway we finally made decisions and went to the start area for the race briefing. A great part of these events are the number of people you know, the friendliness as well of the ones you don’t. Some slightly nervous people in the crowd of starters including us. We went off in the third wave right at the back…..
The first run was tough but we kept it steady and passed quite a few up the hills(thanks to our trail running training). We were massively impressed by the visually impaired runner/guide. Very inspirational. Got to the top of the incline of the first run and then set off down to the end of the first lap via the tooth rattling cobbled section.
Into transition, collect bikes and add clothes ready for the bike leg. Obviously I’d also swopped my legs for someone else’s, as they felt really heavy at first and I found Belmont much more difficult than normal. Fortunately it being a team event gives you the added motivation to keep going. We were steady on the bike and when we reached the dreaded Anglezarke climb I felt better than I did at the start and enjoyed the bike leg. Anyway we were still glad to get back into transition. I have to say there were some choice swear words up those hills and amazement that anyone could manage to fit so many into a bike loop of a duathlon!!!! It’s a skill that’s for sure (written with heavy sarcasm…)
Back to transition and the second run, again another leg swop had happened and it took some will power to keep them going till normal service resumed. It resumed and we felt good for most of the second run. It was great to see the finish and felt good as soon as we crossed the line.
Even though it’s really tough I enjoyed having taken part, the organisation was great, the support near transition was brilliant, and the camaraderie between most teams was very enjoyable.
We’ve already talked about it for next year, think that was mostly delirium but we would recommend anyone who’s pretty fit and tough to have a go as you get a great sense of achievement having done it.
Thanks to everyone at Epic Events and the Endurance store
Amanda Walsh/Lorraine Thompson
The Lakeland Loop Cycle Sportive
Sunday April 26th
One of the original North West classics. The Lakeland Loop starts from the stunning surroundings of Great Langdale and tackles the mighty Hardknott and Wrynose passes. It’s a challenging day out on a bike for any rider.
Don’t miss out, CLICK HERE to join us.
EPIC EVENTS Strava Club
Join the EPIC EVENTS Strava Club. It’s free to register and we’ll be running competitions at all our events in 2015. We’ll also be running special competitions throughout the year, with prizes up for grabs.
The Eden Valley Epic Cycle Sportive
Sunday March 22nd
Classic loop of the Eden Valley. Starting in Penrith with a food stop at Appleby, the roads are quiet and rolling, without any significant climbs found in central Lake District. The Eden Valley is a hidden gem for cyclists and this is a spring classic.
Don’t miss out, CLICK HERE to join us.
Clitheroe Triathlon, Sunday April 19th
400m Swim – 30k Cycle – 7k Run
Clitheroe Triathlon has been a North West event for many years and caters for novices through to elite competitors.The swim is the easy bit and the fun begins on the bike. The 30k route is ‘undulating’ with Jeffrey Hill providing the steepest and stiffest challenge of the day. The run is a 2 lap cross country course, so be prepared for a bit of mud on the route.
It’s a great way to start the year and the perfect ‘leg tester’ before the serious summer racing begins!!
Ulverston Triathlon, Sunday April 5th
400m Swim – 28k Cycle – 5.8k Run
Ulverston Pool Sprint Triathlon is our ‘INSPIRE TO TRI’ event for 2015. We want to see the biggest number of novices at the event and we want you to introduce someone to the sport of triathlon.
We all know someone who hasn’t taken the first step yet, so it’s your job to encourage them, advise them and support them on the day!!
There’s also a free Tri Kidz aquathlon event, for children. Why not ‘Inspire to Tri’ and bring along your kids, bring a novice and let’s see how many we can introduce to the sport!
There’s 500m, 3.8k and 1 mile options. Come along and join us for a great day out and Coniston.
CLICK HERE for more information and to enter