From the age of 14 I was a rower, with my local town club (Stratford-upon-Avon), racing at local and national events. My decision of what university to go to after I finished my A-levels was based on two criteria; whether they offered a Marine Biology course, and whether they had an active (and successful) rowing club. The University of Southampton ticked both the boxes, so off I went.
I spent 4 years at University racing in our top women’s boat, and as a small club, we did pretty well. I was very fortunate to be able to race with the same crew members for several years running (pretty rare in a university club), and we (mostly) worked very well as a crew. The long and the short of this was a few years of very successful competitive competition, with lots of bling to show for it (including my favourite practical trophy of all time – a very large hip flask!).
After I finished my undergraduate and master’s degree, I returned to Southampton to start a PhD. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to return to rowing, as all the members of my crew had now left, and I didn’t know how the time constraints of a full-time research degree would impact on my training and availability. During the first year of my PhD I was introduced to triathlon by a housemate of mine. She had completed a couple of local sprint triathlons, and being even more competitive than me, I think was keen for someone to train and race against. So, I found myself racing my first triathlon (Beaulieu Sprint Triathlon), and ended up very unexpectedly winning my age group!
Fast forward another year or so, and I was back competing with the rowing club, training for another stab at a European universities medal, and fitting in the odd triathlon here and there. One of my old crewmates had taken up triathlon in a big way since leaving university, and was desperately trying to encourage me to do an Ironman with her. Not this year I thought, I’m too busy with rowing. Another year on, my old housemate Hannah was racing her first Ironman, at IMUK, and my crewmate Alex was racing her second Ironman, this time in Nice. I happened to be on holiday there with friends at the time (the current crewmates from that year), and the atmosphere was absolutely incredible. They’d both been trying to convince me to join them that year, and again I’d used the rowing excuse. This was about to change. I’d decided that I would be leaving Southampton to write up my PhD – my PhD grant funds were running low, so I was going to move back to Stratford-upon-Avon to my parent’s house. This meant no more university rowing. The Stratford club no longer had an active senior women’s squad, so I made the decision that it was time to move away from rowing for a while, and try something new. I put my entry in for the 2012 Ironman UK race. I had never even run a half marathon. But, I thought, if they can do it, so can I.
And so it began…..