8 Reasons to Tri in the UK
I was introduced to Sue Faulkner through her story in BBC’s Get Inspired. Her story, titled “Grandmother of six completes first triathlon at 63”, reported how she decided to get involved in triathlon through a classic, “I will, if you will” agreement. The article also described Sue’s training for her first triathlon and her race day experience.
Inspired by her, I contacted Sue by email and began a conversation that has continued up to this day. Following is what I learned about Sue’s experience.
Inspiration for My First Triathlon
Truth be told, Sue’s decision was not as impulsive as the BBC article suggested. Sue told me that the motivation for triathlon came even before watching her son compete in a triathlon. “I had been with my family on the beach and had watched the grandchildren running about and having a wonderful time and I wanted to be part of that. Sitting back and waiting for old age to catch me up was not for me.”
I had been with my family on the beach and had watched the grandchildren running about and having a wonderful time and I wanted to be part of that.”
There was also an element of wanting to inspire her children and now eight grandchildren to explore new activities (Reason #3 of “15 Reasons for Those 50 and Older to Do Triathlons”) – “I wanted to let my grandchildren realise that even though I will seem old to them, age should not be a barrier to trying new things.”
From the preparation up to the first triathlon, Sue learned a number of lessons. Most importantly, she learned that “I can still swim/bike/run. Four years ago I would not have believed it, especially since my previous memory of running was 25 years earlier at the mother’s race at my children’s primary school sports day.”
I love being on my bike – it feels so free and as if I am 12 years old again.”
From the experience in preparing for her first triathlon, Sue shared several valuable insights for seniors. By the way, her advice is also relevant to first-time triathletes of any age.
Advice for training
Following is a summary of the main lessons learned from this experience.
- “Start small, and increase by small steps. Pay attention to not overdo things and hurt yourself.”
- For running, ‘starting small’ can mean “running just a few paces then walking until you are ready to run a few more.” Sue said “I used to work with children with special needs. They were able to make progress through small steps that they could achieve.” (Click here to read another article about starting running as a senior triathlete.)
- Listen to your body and adjust your training as needed. “If something hurt one day, I would train in a different discipline for a couple of days. The variety is one of the great things about triathlon.”
- Set achievable goals. “Far better to set achievable goals than set the bar too high and become disheartened.” Note that as a beginner, knowing what are ‘reasonable goals’ can sometimes be difficult to determine. Revert to the first bullet above (‘Start small’) if there is any question.
Advice for the triathlon ‘gear’
There is also the matter of having proper clothing and equipment.
- “Treat yourself to some nice running and cycling clothes. Don’t worry if the clothes show bulges in all the wrong places. After a few weeks, you might have dropped a dress size and those muscles will be more toned.” Not only will proper clothing provide comfort and safety during training, but having invested money in the clothes and equipment could be the extra incentive needed for you to continue when you may be inclined to stop.
- “Get trainers (running shoes) from a proper running shop who can advise you on the best ones for your running style.”
- Even if you borrow a bike, make sure you use one that fits and one on which you are safe. “Get padded shorts and a comfortable saddle, in addition to a helmet.”
Sue’s training schedule involved two days of swimming, two days of running, and two days of cycling per week, typically outdoors (rather than in a gym/fitness center) and before breakfast when the sky was clear and crisp. She also started riding her bike shopping. “I was surprised how quickly my fitness improved by doing a little and often.”
As her fitness increased, Sue started training in two of the three disciplines each day. However, she purposely avoided training in the same discipline two days in a row.
“I also maintained time in one day each week for walking with some friends on our wonderful Lake District fells, something I had been doing for the last 25 years.”
Sue’s first triathlon left her with a sense of accomplishment. “Although it is nice to beat people, just crossing the finish line is a real achievement. There is fulfillment in just taking part.”
Following the experience with her first triathlon, results of on-going training, and the “very supportive people around me”, Sue decided to participate in a second triathlon. This one, the Winchester Triathlon, is held in the historic medieval city of Winchester in Hampshire County on May 2nd. Sue’s daughter, son-in-law, and 8-year-old grandson joined her in this triathlon, albeit on different courses.
Continuing to Inspire
I am quite sure that Sue’s children and grandchildren are watching her closely and benefiting from her commitment to fitness. She is also gaining inspiration from others, including older friends, who have remained active well into their senior years. “People who have inspired me are 80+ and still going strong.”
No doubt, Sue will continue to be among those who also inspire other ‘60-somethings’, both today and as she continues in her fitness journey in years to come.
Send your questions and comments, including those for Sue Faulkner, to email@example.com.