I am 55 years old. I thought I had seemingly done it all. I started a family. Raised two beautiful kids, and have a cosy home in Windsor. But, as such things happen, a new life of mine would begin in 2015, when my youngest was preparing to leave home and head off to university.
Like so many mothers before me, I was facing the dreaded ‘empty nest’ syndrome. Before then, I was kept wholly-busy running around after two daughters and a husband while working as a (elementary school/high school/ etc.) teacher. My old life had left little time for fancies besides the common hobby or two and your typical outing with the family. I had always managed to stay fit and healthy, but I had certainly never dreamed of becoming an athlete well into my fifties. Then again, who does!
Living in Windsor, I often watched the Windsor triathlon and admired people of all ages and walks of life participating in the events. The excitement, the energy and the joy was palpable — you could see it in the faces of the athletes as they passed you by on their way to the finish line. One particular club was always very vocal and cheered noisily for each of their athletes as they came huffing and puffing through; a jolt in their step as they were inspired by the reassurance and support of their teammates.
“I want to be a part of that,” I would think to myself, but nagging doubt at the impracticality of me (me!) suddenly becoming a triathlete would prevail — at least for the time being.
The First Step May Come as a Surprise
…But you may find that it comes with a decision!
This whole athletic business began to mull around in my head as I would sit idly at home, anxious about my kids at university (who probably forgot about my existence for longer than they would like to admit). Then one day, I saw an advertisement for a swim at Dorney Lake, a local lake which was famous for its role as a rowing venue during the 2012 Olympics. On a whim, and with all reluctance cast aside, I signed up for a 5k swim.
Before doubt even had a chance to creep into my thoughts, there I was, already training at a local lake for my scheduled competition. I was carried away. I trained as if my whole life had led up to this moment. I didn’t know what I was doing, only that I was excited and looking forward to the future.
Then finally, race day arrived. During preparation, I stared hopelessly at hundreds of confident swimmers, all ready in their swimsuits and up to the challenge, with looks of excitement and self-assurance on their faces. I, on the other hand, was so nervous I had to stop myself from turning for home several times before the race had even started.
Looking back on it, it’s all a bit of a blur. But I do remember getting into the water and thinking this is it, I’m here, I’m ready, and it’s time to swim.
“I’ll just try to have some fun,” I thought to myself.
And that was it. In that moment, my life changed. I began swimming, and halfway through the race, I was overcome by absolute euphoria. Forget about being in my 50’s — I felt like I was in my 20’s again. I was in my own world, swimming in a beautiful lake on a perfect July day. When I climbed out of the water, I felt like I could achieve anything. My confidence was beaming and I was ready to take on bigger and more exciting challenges.
Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain
My experience at Dorney Lake gave me a newfound clarity on life. Why hold back? What is there to lose?
So I decided to join the triathlon club, and after just a few phone calls, I was taking part in the taster month, my evenings busy again and full of purpose. I was swimming, running, and cycling, all while discovering a far greater range of ability and energy in an exciting new lifestyle founded on exercise. By September of 2016, I was taking part in a sprint triathlon. The last remnants of doubt in my mind would tell me that I was getting ahead of myself, but the photos taken during the race, with me smiling ear-to-ear, my family passionately supporting me during every moment — all these things would tell me otherwise. During the race, I found myself feeling the sought-after runner’s high over and over again — best experienced in your 50’s and onward in my opinion!
By now, I was a fully-fledged member of the EVO triathlon club, and felt like my whole life was ahead of me. What followed after was an upward trajectory of confidence and achievement. I trained for the next season throughout the winter, with cold and wet winter evenings kindled by warm friendships with amazing people sharing a common interest. Looking back on it all, I feel so fortunate to have discovered this new calling in life. I’ve met people of all ages, like-mind and poles apart, with which I have been able to share this wonderful and exhilarating experience.
A New Horizon
In 2016, I entered a total of 5 triathlons and found myself moving swiftly up the rankings. I was even able to win 2 local races in the 50-54 age band, which inspired me to speak to a coach in my EVO group about qualifying for an international competition. Thanks to his encouragement, I spent the better part of 2017 training for the European Championship in Estonia. By now, I had my own personal coach, Seb, who was invaluable in supporting me throughout the season, during which I found myself at the front of several qualifying races over and over again.
As a result, there was a Q by my name on the British Triathlon Website — I had qualified to represent GB in my age group at the European Standard Distance Triathlon Championships!
A birthday would take me into the 55-59 age band, from where I got an inspired look at even higher tiers — all the way up to the 80-85 age group!
I truly had nothing to lose and everything to gain, and by putting my heart and soul into every race, I managed to qualify for the European Sprint Triathlon Championships in Glasgow and the European Aquabike Championships in Ibiza, Spain! Needless to say, 2018 has been my most exciting year yet, and I’ve never been more eager to see what’s in store for me on the horizon.
…because you never know where they may lead.
Live the journey!