What is 'Progression'?

Wendy Drake

Having spent all of my time since leaving school actively avoiding any sport, when I hit 40 I decided to “get fit”. I explored various different paths that ultimately led me to discover triathlon.

After a couple of years of thoroughly enjoying taking part, I was starting to get a little bit frustrated with a lack of progress. I wasn’t quite sure what “progress” was at that point, I had challenged myself by completing longer distances, culminating with completing the Outlaw iron distance race in July 2012.

I had already signed up for 2013 Ironman Switzerland when I came across Racepace Triathlon Coaching, and after mulling it over for a few days I decided to contact Rodge to find out what it was all about.

Initially I was a bit apprehensive, thinking that only people who were “really good” had coaches, and that I would be completely out of my depth. Fortunately my fears turned out to be completely unfounded.

I worked with Rodge for about six months getting ready for Switzerland. It was a big goal and proved useful as a means of getting to know each other, and putting some structure into my training. However, I was quite pleased to get it done and dusted. I had come to the conclusion that, for me, although completing an iron distance race is an amazing achievement, it didn’t satisfy my competitive nature.

I felt that although I had completed a fair few triathlons, with obviously some good endurance and a streak of stubbornness, I really didn’t know what I was doing; that I had a lot to learn about training, and I needed to learn how to race smartly to get the best out of myself.

For me, the two years since summer 2013, after Switzerland, have been the most rewarding, and also at times, the most frustrating.

In 2014, I concentrated on standard distance and sprint races. The highlight of the year was travelling to Lisbon and taking part in the “Olympic Plus” event which was basically a standard distance with a slightly longer bike, but shorter swim.  The fast bike course on closed roads suited me perfectly, as did the shorter swim. I also had some low moments in 2014, Chester comes to mind, as does injuring my calf in the run leg at Salford.

By the end of 2014, I felt that I’d learnt a lot about myself in terms of my strengths and weaknesses, and that I was starting to understand what I was supposed to do, even if I didn’t always get it right.

I have always assumed that if you work really hard at something, then your efforts will be rewarded, and although I still believe this to be true, I also think that sometimes you need to accept the reality of a situation, especially when you have limited time available.

This is how I felt in the spring this year. I have never particularly enjoyed the swimming element to triathlon, and if I’m honest a big part of that is because I’m not very good at it. I have found it incredibly frustrating that despite giving it my best efforts, I have only made marginal improvements.

Rodge suggested that I give duathlon a go to see what I thought of it, so I entered Oulton Park Standard Distance Duathlon in March 2015. It was a qualifier for the World and European Age Group Championships, so, with no expectations at all, I thought I’d see how I got on. I really enjoyed it, and amazingly I finished 2nd in my age group which qualified me for the World AG Championships in Adelaide in October 2015 and the 2016 AG European Championships.

I had already committed to some sprint triathlons and the Outlaw Half Iron Distance for the first half of 2015, and I decided to still take part in them. I am really glad that I did, as it re-confirmed the progress I have made over the last two years.

Despite putting myself at a disadvantage by being a slower swimmer, I still managed to pick up a couple of trophies for 2nd and 3rd placed VET at some local events, and I was very pleased to finish 6th in my Age Group at the Outlaw half.

I am now concentrating my efforts on duathlon in preparation for going to Australia for the World AG Championships. I still find it hard to believe that I’m actually going, but I will do my best and I will be immensely proud to wear the GB kit, something I never imagined would happen.

Wendy Drake