Debi joined Glasgow Triathlon Club about eight months ago and while she had entered a few races this summer, Covid-19 means she is still to take part in her first event. She is keen, though…
Debi, 34, describes her background in sport as “a mixed bag”. She says: “There have been sizeable chunks of inactivity over the years although I was very physically active at school and would turn my hand to most activities.”
Debi swam with a club in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, for a few years from around the age of 10. She was also a member of the junior section at Hamilton Harriers for many years.
At high school, she was the female sports champion for three years in a row in a heptathlon-style competition.
She says: “Around that time, I was first in my age category in a 5k road race I think I was about 12-ish and I won a bag of caramel wafers! It has stuck with me as one of the best prizes!
“In the race, I remember an older guy telling me I had gone too fast at about 1.5k and I stubbornly ran in front of him for the remainder of the race just to prove him wrong.”
In her mid-teens, Debi’s enthusiasm for sport dwindled and she reports that she hardly thought about exercise while she was at university years.
“I ended up spectacularly unfit,” she confesses.
A bid for greater fitness
It wasn’t until Debi, who is now a police sergeant, wanted to join the police that she decided to become fitter.
She says: “I needed to get fitter so I could tackle the dreaded mile-and a-half run entrance test. It’s funny to look back now at how monumental a task that seemed.”
Debi went on to join a Roller Derby group in her mid-20s and she continued to run to keep fit for this sport. She adds: “The running for fitness steadily turned into just running and I then plucked up the courage to join Giffnock North AC. I have been a member of this club for about eight years now.”
She was delighted to win a few team prizes at road and cross country races and she won a couple of medals in the police track and field championships in Cardiff in 2015.
She adds: “I was also quite proud to run London Marathon in 2015, but I was slightly disappointed with my time. That might be unfinished business!”
Debi joins GTC
Debi’s introduction to triathlon came about thanks to a friend who had just joined GTC. She says: “I have always enjoyed watching triathlon on TV and it had been on my mind to give it a go, but I was never really brave enough.
“But then I had a persistent hip injury after I had my son and I was struggling with consistent training, so I was encouraged to join GTC by a friend who was also joining.
“He actually guilted me into coming along to a Sunday night swim session at the Western Baths and I loved every painful, gasping second of it!”
Debi discovered that she enjoyed being part of the club. She says: “I find that being amongst likeminded people in sport is a huge benefit.
“You always train harder and get more from the sessions if you are with others, especially if you regularly train with the same people.
“I have made some really good friends at the club, too, and I enjoy the social side of training. I’ve found the club members more than welcoming and I always look forward to meeting up with the group, even if I don’t feel like doing the sessions.
“As for triathlon as a sport, I love the challenge just now. I am obviously very new to the sport and I haven’t actually done an event yet. I had hoped to do Bishopbriggs, Lochore and Irvine but due to current circumstances these have not been possible.
“I like the variety of triathlon and the fact that this sport will allow me to do amazing things that I never thought I could.”
New-found love of different sports
While Debi had imagined that running would remain her favourite discipline, she says she now really enjoys swimming. She says: “I fell in love with swimming around the turn of the year and having recently taken a dive – excuse the pun! – into open water swimming, I don’t think anything will beat that feeling.”
Meanwhile, it is cycling, that Debi feels has been the sport where she has made the greatest gains. She says: “I hadn’t been on a bike in more than 20 years and I spent a few months avoiding it because I was a bit intimidated by it. I absolutely love my bike now and hopefully my enthusiasm will eventually pay dividends in terms of ability.”
Debi is keen to try a triathlon race and feels that the shorter distances will be what she will try first. She says: “Given my lack of experience and lack of endurance, I’ll try a few sprints and maybe aim for a standard in the next year or so. I had only planned to do a few sprints this year.”
Lockdown has meant that Debi has had to find new ways to stay motivated. She says: “I have found that trying to stay connected to friends and other club members has been really important.
“I have taken a lot of inspiration from seeing people’s training on Strava, Zwift and on the club Facebook page.
“I haven’t been able to join in with the online classes because of juggling work, training and childcare, but I have enjoyed the connection to sport we have maintained through the podcasts and interviews.”
Debi has focused on various goals, too. She says: “I have tried to set myself some short term, mid term and long-term goals to try to keep me motivated along the way.
“I wanted to reduce my 5k time and increase my average cycling sped so I have been trying to focus on little things like that. I signed up for some of the Scottish Athletics’ virtual road races as well.
“If I’m honest, I have found some solace in training throughout the lockdown period, which has kept me logging the miles. I find that running and cycling have been almost cathartic and they have really helped to bolster my mental health.”
As soon as she can, Debi hopes to get a triathlon under her belt. She says: “I was keen to do my first one this season but that has not been possible. It is also important to me to just enjoy my first year and see how I get on in the sport.
“I have a lot of work still to do on the bike and I would like to continue to improve in that area. I’m sure many people reading this will agree, but I am slightly concerned that I may need to learn to swim again as well.”
Looking to the future, Debi hopes to stay active in sport throughout her life and to compete for many years to come.
She says: ”I hope that my interest in sport will take me to some interesting places around the world and it will continue to allow me to meet new people.
“I have a few friends who have been selected to represent the West District and Scotland in cross country running and other running events and I would love to be fortunate enough to be in a similar position at some point in my life. I am not sure this will ever be achievable for me though.
“As for triathlon, I am not sure where to set my lifetime aspirations as I am so new to it.”
Debi’s triathlon tips
Enjoy it! It’s easy to get frustrated after a bad race, when you aren’t training well, or are miles behind where you think you should be. That’s only natural. But performance is only a small part of sport… think of the friends you’ve made, the experiences you’ve had through your interest sport and the amazing places that you can go on your own steam. A shift of perspective can be liberating and very motivational at times.
Consistency is key. Talent is all fine and well, but the real improvement will be the rewards of consistent practice, persistence in training and building your endurance over time.
The N +1 thing isn’t only about bikes! There is always a ‘+1’ item in triathlon that will make your life complete. Have a contingency fund!