Glasgow Triathlon Club

Swimming, Cycling, Running. We do it best!

GTC athlete of the month: Nicola Dawson

Nicola Dawson has been with GTC for two years and during lockdown she has been a huge motivator as a coach, especially among younger members of the club and their families.

Nic has organised several club challenges, including the most recent Act Your Age challenge, which raised almost £450 for Children in Need. She has also created many strength and conditioning sessions on-line during lockdown for both juniors and seniors.

A sporty background

Nic, who has two young daughters, came to  triathlon after enjoying a variety of other sports. She says: “I have always been sporty and in particular I liked tennis, judo and running. 

“Judo ended after a bad injury when I was squashed by a much bigger girl during a competition. 

“I played tennis from the age of seven until an accident last year. I had a bike-versus-car accident and broke both wrists. I am on my third operation on my dominant arm. 

“I was a keen junior tennis coach and I was also a team captain. Unfortunately, I can’t hold a racket anymore.

“I have always run. Despite being subjected to school cross-country races in cold, driving rain over sand-dunes in Ayrshire, I still completed my first half marathon at 17 and the London Marathon at 21.” 

Nic training after her latest operation.

Joining GTC

Nic had always been keen to try triathlon. She said: “I liked the idea of triathlon but I didn’t think my swimming was good enough. My 11-year-old daughter Emily  is a swimmer and she joined GTC first. She started doing aquathlons and asked why I didn’t. What could I say? My motto is that ‘you can do anything you put your mind to’ so I had no excuse.”

Nic most enjoys the multi-discipline aspect of triathlon. She says: “While I’m not the best at swimming, I love running and cycling so triathlon allows me to do them all at once. There is also an amazing team camaraderie and encouragement in the club and I’ve made so many new friends.”

Running remains Nic’s favourite sport and she describes it as her “me time”.

Swimming is the sport that she has seen the biggest improvements since joining GTC. She says: “Although I could already swim, I struggled with my breathing and was pretty useless, as Emily liked to tell me.

“At my first aquathlon, I was last out the pool. I’d had to revert to backstroke. I started at the club’s development sessions and it worked wonders. I’m now okay at it, although Emily says otherwise!”

Training and racing

When it comes to training, Nic says that it’s thanks to her willpower that she can get through tough sessions. She says: “I don’t give up and I am a bit like a dog with a bone. I used to get referred to as a terrier on the tennis court because I would chase down every ball.”

This strength and determination took Nic to what she describes as her best sporting achievement, the 53-mile Highland Fling race in 2018. It was her first ultra distance running event and despite being told she would not be able to run long-distance due to a previous foot injury, Nic was keen.

She says: “Living in Milngavie I saw so many people running the West Highland Way and doing the Fling. I wanted to try it. My PT and I had a long chat and we decided that my fitness was strong. I had endurance from cycling and I could run although at that point I’d only gone up to 16km. 

“I used my marathon time from 15 years earlier to qualify. Training went well until two weeks before when I went over on my ankle on a flat bit of pavement. Lots of tape later and I was on the start line. 

“Sheer grit and determination got me along the 53 miles and I ran the red carpet at the end with my girls either side of me.”

Nic, who races in the V40 category, prefers sprint or standard-distance triathlon, although due to her wrist injury and operations, she has had to compete in the novice for the swim distance.

Nic has faced a number of race disappoints recently. She says: “I had to withdraw from many races in 2019 after my accident and I was looking forward to completing them in 2020. This included the full 96-mile West Highland Way Race and I’d also built back up to sprint-distance swim ability.

“I felt like 2020 was a repeat of 2019 and it was a total blow after all my rehabilitation. 

“I did manage to sneak in two ultras in September, which was amazing, and I now have eight deferred races in my diary for 2021.”

Lockdown motivation

This year has been tough for many with lockdown restrictions cancelling group sessions, as well as races. Nic has played an important part in GTC, creating strength and conditioning classes for the juniors and seniors.

She says: “This gave me a focus each week and it tested my ingenuity.”

In addition, she organises a work-based running group and she set them a challenge at the start of the pandemic. Nic works for Scot rail.

She says: “There are eight of us and I challenged them to run/cycle the length of Scotland’s Railway twice – that’s 5638km – over 12 weeks for charity. This kept me going as we had a target and we motivated each other. We completed it a week early and raised £1860.”

Nic is also an enthusiastic coach. She says: “I love coaching and helping others to progress to reach their goals. I’d always coached tennis but when that abruptly ended, I looked at other coaching opportunities. 

“Given my running/cycling experience requalifying as a triathlon coach seemed a natural progression. I really enjoy creating fun and interactive sessions that everyone can enjoy and that help them to develop.” 

Nic on a training run with Graham Milne.

Aims and aspirations

Nic’s main aims for the coming season are to complete the WHW race and rehabilitate, following her most recent operation, so she can complete a couple of sprint triathlons.

She also has aspirations of qualifying for an age group ETU event in duathlon and completing an Ironman.

Nic’s tips for triathlon 

Enjoy it.

You can do anything you set your mind to, but sometimes it takes time.

Ask questions – no matter how silly you think they might be. We have all thought those same questions and we are happy to share our experiences.