I’m on my way back from Lanzarote where I spent just over a week temporarily back in the ‘triathlon bubble’ on the Erdinger training camp. It’s been fun. Fully immersing myself into the triathlon world for 9 days was what I needed. A chance to switch off mentally, exhaust myself physically and catch up with friends that I would never have made without triathlon. I was emotionally exhausted from work the week previously and I’ve learnt that when that happens, particularly in oncology, it’s time for a holiday.
5 years ago, when I went out to Fuerteventura for my first camp with the team I was so nervous and intimidated. I was going to be training with people I’d only ever read about in magazines; the best in the world. There was no way I would fit in. My housemates at the time didn’t help by winding me up about how famous they all were. The first time I met Andy Raelert I was too shell shocked to say hi. But I know now that ‘celebrities’ really are just normal people. In terms of triathlon they just swim, bike and run more quickly than the rest. Take Lucy Charles. 3 years ago she and her partner Reece were (I think/hope!) excited to meet me when I rode over to Hoddesdon tri club for a Q+A. Now she’s number 2 in the world and everyone wants a bit of her. She’s still the same person she was 3 years ago – she’s just learnt to ride a bike and run quickly.
Team Erdinger is one of the best triathlon teams in the world right now and I’m humbled to have been a part of it since 2013. It all started with a cup of coffee in St Neots in February 2013; a chance encounter that I thought would go nowhere. It just goes to show you rarely lose anything by meeting someone for a coffee. I think that’s one of the lessons I have taken from triathlon that will stay with me forever. Never turn down an opportunity before you’ve worked out what it entails.
I wondered whether I would be envious of all the other pros training and racing full time. In all honesty, I’m not. I love triathlon and I love training. And I loved these 9 days pretending to be a full time athlete again. But actually, I think I’m happier with oncology back in my life. The sense of purpose and satisfaction I get from my day job balances out the lack of sleep. And it keeps it fun. I’m looking forward to going back to work and doing something useful again, although the inadequacies of a failing NHS are less appealing. Honestly, I don’t think I’d be happy as a full time athlete any more, though in all honesty I’d prefer to be working the 24 hours a week I’m contracted to rather than the 30+ I actually do.
My triathlon career has always been different to most. I’ve carved my own way in terms of coaching and sponsors and I sometimes ask myself if I should have done it differently. Would I have been better if I’d sought more advice and got myself a ‘big-name’ coach? There is no doubt I could have trained smarter as a full time athlete. Sharing with Laura Phillip this trip has been a real eye-opener. She is super smart with her training and thinks about every little aspect of each session; technique, nutrition, timing, intensity. Despite this, she still loves the sport and her lifestyle. But on reflection, I knew from the start that I only had 2 years as a full time athlete (it turned into 2.5). Doing it more ‘professionally’ would have been a gamble. It would have meant throwing my trust into someone I didn’t know, potentially leaving my Cambridge base and friends and there would have been high odds I might have wasted one of my 2 years with a coach that I didn’t gel with, or worse, falling out of love with the sport. Making it up as I go along has always kept it fun for me and whenever I’ve taken it too seriously I’ve ended up getting slower or injured. So, given where I was in terms of life plans starting my full-time professional career, I think I made the right decision for me at the time. And I have no regrets, other than not finding a decent swim coach right from the start.
So now I’ve got a bit of fitness banked I can start thinking about my goals for 2018. I’m not going to lie. I want at least one more Ironman win. I want some adventures. And I want some #smashfests. Where these will be I haven’t yet decided. I’ll keep you posted!