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Athlete of the month ~ Claire

It was a real delight to let Claire Stannett know that she had won our Tri Energy October Athlete of the Month! After major knee surgery, Claire has had an amazing year, working hard at everything she sets her mind to and we couldn’t wait to catch up with her to find out more about her triathlon journey this year!

Have you always been sporty growing up?

Yes I have always loved playing sport. P.E was the one lesson I looked forward to! I played for my primary school netball team and then at high school I found my love for hockey. I played in the right back position for many years for my school, county and my local hockey club at the time – Stafford ladies. I played for various hockey clubs from 1994-2010. My last team was West Bromwich ladies and it was here I finally hung up my hockey stick due to injuries.

I’m very lucky to have supportive (and patient) parents! Whatever sport or activity I fancied trying they gave me their full backing and went along with my whims and wants. I tried my hand at karate until I got to my purple belt, kick boxing (I’m sure my mum would be happy to tell you about the hours she spent on a Sunday afternoon in a sweaty sports hall), gymnastics (I think that lasted a week or 2 at a push), badminton, the list goes on!

My mum had both my brother and I swimming from an early age and this is something I’m really grateful for as I absolutely love it.

How did you get involved with Tri Energy?

I met Katrina (another Tri Energy member) on a course last September. Katrina had told me she ran marathons (I always knew there was something not quite right with her!). For some reason, and still do this day I can’t tell you why, but I really fancied doing a triathlon so I thought “who could I rope in to do this with me?? I know I’ll ask Katrina!” Thankfully she said she would love to join me and so from that day forth triathlons have been our main topic of conversation!

Katrina mentioned that her fiancé (now husband) Bod, was training with a local triathlon club (Tri Energy) and that they do various training sessions and events. Katrina said I should speak with Tri Energy’s founder Sam for advice on what kind of training I should be doing. Sam was a great help! Despite the fact she had never met me I was sent an e-mail full of help and advice. I guess this is where my journey with Tri Energy began!

How did it feel to cross the finish line of the Go Tri Duathlon as part of the Tri Energy summer series?
I really didn’t realize what I’d let myself in for when I agreed to do the Go Tri duathlon! I had been doing an amount of strength training and indoor cycling but shall we say next to no running! I got caught up in the middle of a quick group so when the whistle blew at the start of the 2.5k run I was amongst a group of sprinters! I lasted about 100m and gradually got further and further behind. I wanted to stop and kept asking myself why I had signed up for this and kept telling myself to stop! It was a real mental battle to keep going!

The marshals around the course were so supportive! Every one of them was cheering me on. I jogged and walked my way around the first 2.5k then gained a little on my bike during the 10k then jogged/walked the last 600m. I felt like someone was standing on my chest and I sounded like the cartoon character Mutley, wheezing and spluttering everywhere! What a state I was in! I got over the finish line with the help of Katrina by my side for the last 300m. I was overwhelmed by the support and encouragement from all the other Tri Energy members that were stood on the finish line.

The first Go Tri duathlon I did was a huge wake up call because if I was going to complete a sprint triathlon I needed to do some serious training! It took me some time to sign up for my second Go Tri duathlon; the first one physically hurt and I guess knocked me back slightly…but I was determined it wasn’t going to beat me! This time I knew what to expect so I made sure I stood at the back of the group on the starting line. I ran with Katie (another Tri Energy member) who was brilliant throughout the whole of the first 2.5k because there were times when I wanted to stop and walk because my calves felt like they were on fire. Katie said just slow your jogging pace which was great advice. She stuck with me all the way to the bike transition area. I had just run 2.5k without stopping and it felt amazing! I finished the 10k bike and managed to run the final 600m without stopping and I was on top of the world getting over that finish line!

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Then onto your first sprint triathlon at Stratford! How did your debut go?

The Stratford tri came round so quickly! I was really nervous on the day. I’d registered the previous day and my partner Lou had driven me around the bike course. I would recommend this as it really helped to calm me down! I think the fear of not knowing can be worse sometimes. My start time was 09.24am which was great as I got to support Katrina who was due to start hers at 08.14am. I was so grateful to everyone that came to support us. I have to say having the seasoned triathletes of Bod, Bambi and Sam there to answer all my questions was a massive help!

The swim felt amazing! I had put 15 minutes as my estimated 400m swim time because I really didn’t know how long it was going to take me when I signed up. I got in to the water and I was really surprised at how great I felt. I completed my swim in 9 minutes 11 seconds! My first transition from swim to bike was OK (2 minutes 36 seconds) although I did nearly get on my bike before the yellow line. I was still processing my swim in the first couple of miles on the bike ride but I felt OK. There were a couple of gradual inclines where I felt my legs tire. Marshals told me one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt since joining Tri Energy is not to compare yourselves to others. You have to remind yourself of how far you’ve come to get to this point. This lesson came into play when I had a lady overtake me but it encouraged me to keep digging deep and I found myself overtaking a couple of riders myself throughout the ride.

I completed the 18k ride in 42 minutes 16 seconds. My last transition went smoothly (1 minute 11 seconds) but now I had to face my demons and start the 5km run. My first mistake was staying in my cycling waterproof – within minutes it was sticking to me so I had to take it off and tied it around my waist. My legs were tiring pretty much straight away and I knew I hadn’t done enough training but there was no way I was going to let that beat me! Sam had said to me don’t worry if you have to jog and walk….as long as you’re moving forward!!! So I jogged and walked my way around the course and as I write this I’m still annoyed with myself for not running it all, but it’s allowed me to set the next goal for myself!

I have found that this sport is full of supportive and encouraging people. There were people that I saw on my run that would tap me on the back and say “well done, keep going”. I had one lady that every time I saw her she would high 5 me and one lady even stopped and asked if I’d like some water. What a great bunch of people!
I finished the run in 44 minutes 43 seconds and this put me 116th out of 136 competitors with a time of 1:39:57. I was SO pleased when I crossed that finish line!

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You also recently captained a team at our Interclub Event with Teme Leisure Tri ‘Legends in Lycra’. How was that?

Legends in Lycra was great fun! I have to say I was a little surprised when I was asked to be a captain as I’m perhaps more of a follower than a leader but I feel like I stepped up on this occasion. It was a really friendly event and great for both newcomers and seasoned triathletes.

Was it scary racing in a team of club members that you didn’t know?

I was really nervous about meeting my other team members. I’d had some dialogue with them on Facebook but hadn’t met them face to face. Our team were awesome; I couldn’t have asked for better team members Bonnie, Pauline, Fran and Steve! We were complete strangers but within a short space of time we had come together as a team encouraging each other on the pool side and through each transition. The best part was when it came to the run. I wasn’t feeling great after the bike section and as per usual I was dreading the run section. I completed the first lap and as I came back through the transition area the rest of my team joined me on the last lap. I was overwhelmed by their support. We crossed the line as one and it was fab! I’d like to say a massive thank you to the members that made our team!

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You’ve recently been smashing the sessions at SwimFit and you’re also doing really well at RunFit. What is it you like about the Tri Energy group training sessions?

SwimFit has been brilliant! I feel like I’ve really improved over the 10 week course. When I first started training in the pool my first 400m was 12 minutes 57 seconds but by the end of the course I’ve reduced it to 9 minutes! The group sessions are really good because you are grouped with people of a similar ability and because of this you are all constantly pushing each other to improve. There are days when you haven’t quite got the energy or enthusiasm but I’ve found at Tri Energy in a very short space of time you become a part of a big family and I keep using the words encourage and support but everyone does exactly that.

The group sessions are always well structured and even though you are in a group the coaches will take their time to chat with you to see how you are getting on so it feels like you’re getting a one to one but with the benefit of training with others.

And finally, what’s next?

I’ve not signed up to anything yet but I would like to do the Warwickshire Sprint Triathlon again as I would really like to get my time under 1 hour 30 minutes –  that 10 minute time reduction will be coming off my run hence why I’ve joined the RunFit group! My main aim this year is to improve my fitness across all three disciplines. I’m going to do the All-out 2km swim for Team Macmillan next year. I’d also like to get more open water swim training under my belt – I’ve done 2 lake swim now but I need to overcome my fear of the dark water and the fish! I have been looking at the UK triathlon events and I quite fancy the South Coast sprint or relay if I can rope a couple of willing participants in! As some people will know I’ve had a lot of knee surgery so looking at what I’ve achieved so far in a relatively short space of time with Tri Energy, well……who knows what I’ll sign up to next!

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