GTC athlete of the month: Rachel Hunt

Rachel takes part in Ironman Edinburgh.

Rachel Hunt tells an inspiring story of weight loss and discovering sport in her thirties.

Rachel has been doing triathlon events for three years and races in the senior category. She joined GTC about a year ago. 

While Rachel has achieved some great successes in sport in recent years, she confesses she was the “the school kid who forgot their gym kit on purpose to get out of PE”.

She aded: “Three years ago I was 32 and six stone heavier. A gym opened opposite my work and I thought that if I don’t go to a gym that is so convenient there’s no hope for me.

“As an occasional hill walker my aim was to be able to do longer walks. In fact I  discovered endurance sports through that gym and I haven’t had time to get to the hills.”

Rachel had always wanted to do a triathlon. Her dad was a keen triathlete and he won a European Champs as a super vet eight years ago.

Rachel added: “Even at high school it was in my head to do a triathlon because I liked swimming but I didn’t think I’d manage the run because I thought I was too heavy.

“Also when I mentioned my desire to do a triathlon to the guy who did my gym induction there was raised eyebrows.

“However, he started me on a run-walk programme on a treadmill and the I progressed to the gym’s running club.”

The following year started being coached by Kevin Henderson (Blackzone Coaching).

Rachel said: “The first year I did my own thing – and then I started on Kevin’s training programme for the second year.”

Over the first year of Rachel’s new fitness campaign the weight came off and by the end of her first season her weight was the same as it is today.

Rachel finishes the Highland Fling.

Rachel’s favourite sport

Rachel says she has been surprised to discover she likes running more than cycling and swimming these days.

She said: “I always thought I would just survive the run when doing a triathlon but once I got over the first hurdles I loved it. I wouldn’t want to be a beginner runner again though because starting to run is so hard.

“Now I’ve really taken to running especially the longer distances, hills and trails.

“When I joined the gym’s running club I had just done my first 5k race and over the next year I did my first 10k, then a half marathon and then a  marathon, the Glen Coe Marathon in the September.

“I did my first ultra marathon last October, the Glen Ogle 33, and then the Highland Fling this April.”

GTC swimming benefits

Like many people who jin GTC, Rachel believes it is her swimming that has  seen the most improvements.

She said: “When I started with GTC, swimming was my weakest link. I had plenty of fitness but no technique. I didn’t know any drills and my arm turnover was very fast.

“The swim coaches have been amazing and very patient in helping me to work on my swim technique and efficiency.

“The Pinkston swims are great, too, as I have been known to have wobbly moments in open water and weekly wetsuit swims with other people help me to get used to racing.”

Rachel in the Glencoe Marathon.

‘Longer races suit me’

Rachel is a fan of longer triathlon races. She said: “I did two half Ironman distances last year and would like to do an Iron distance race or maybe even longer multi day events.

“I’m not comfortable with superfast speedwork and short races such as 3km up to 10km races, but my endurance is good. Half marathon and above suits me better.”

Rachel’s list of successes

Last year, she did two half ironman triathlons. She said: “I was thrilled to get under six hours on my first attempt, especially as it was Edinburgh Ironman 70.3 and the swim was so choppy I was ready to give up then and there.

“I then got sixth senior female (seventh female) at Aberfeldy middle distance triathlon with a big chunk off my bike leg time, which I was thrilled about as I’m not a natural cyclist and I have a love/hate relationship with the bike.

“My coach knows his cycling though and between his spin classes and fiendish Wattbike workouts I’ve improved a lot.”

Rachel is also proud of her two ultra marathons, especially the Highland Fling where she was sixth female.

She was first female in the Antonine Trail Race (Half Marathon) and the Loch Katrine Marathon in March.

How I get through training

Despite all her great achievements, Rachel still struggles with some of there training sessions. She said: “I’ve a booklist about the mental side of racing that I’m working through. There are lots of interesting books I’m reading, including The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*** Down and Rise to the Occasion.

“I use music for indoor bike or treadmill sessions. I have a growing playlist of music for cycling workouts with the right fast cadence.

“If it’s a particularly hard cycle workout or a CP20 test then fast and noisy rock music like Metallica or Slayer, which I wouldn’t often listen to otherwise, work well for me.

“I don’t use music when training outside as in triathlons you can’t use headphones so I think I need to get used to my own thoughts and practice countering the negative thought that come into my head during hard races.

“I sometimes sing songs to myself to get me through hard sections and recently I started singing silly songs on hard uphills, such as Monty Python.”

Rachel’s goals to come

She is taking part in the Aberfeldy middle distance again and then the Half X in the Lake District, which bills itself as the hardest half Ironman in the world.

She is also competing in the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultramarathon at the end of October.

A lifetime aim is to race the Celtman! and maybe the Swissman, too.

She added: “If money was no barrier then the new Patagonman or Kiwiman would be absolutely amazing.

“Extreme triathlons appeal because they combine a usually hilly road bike cycle with a hilly run on trails or up hills.

“ I want to do a branded Ironman one day but I haven’t picked the one yet, although Wales is tempting.

“I also have many more ultra marathons on my bucket list, including the West Highland Way Race, and I’d love to do a race run over more than one day, such as the Cape Wrath Ultra.”

Rachel’s tips for novice triathletes

Start today

Don’t wait until you’ve lost weight or saved money etc. I wasted  over 10 years with, “I’ll run once I’ve lost the weight” and then failing to.

I’m still not quite at the weight I want to be, I have tree trunk legs and I’ll never be tall and skinny but I get by and I have strength and endurance on my side.

Wear the right clothes

Embrace shorts and vest tops, lycra trisuits and proper cycling clothes.

I avoided cycle shorts, running shorts and vest tops for too long because I felt uncomfortable in tight clothes and showing my legs and arms. Life is much more comfortable in the right clothes.

Feel the fear and sign up anyway

Then  figure out how you’ll get there afterwards. When I signed up for most of my races I didn’t believe I could finish them but bit by bit I added the training blocks. It helped having a coach to figure out the details, especially when juggling ultras and long distance triathlons.

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