My Tri: why I love triathlon
I am Laura, Director of Try A Tri Guernsey, coach, business owner and Guernsey Mind Ambassador. I wear many hats, including the one of an 'Always Trying Athlete'.
I discovered triathlon in my mid twenties. My relationship with sport until then had been, at best, inconsistent. I hated PE at school and found that being a shy kid meant that the opportunity to take part i.e. get picked, never came my way. I associated sport with competition and exposure; if you competed, everyone would be looking at you, expecting you to perform brilliantly every time. I wasn't particularly good at anything so why on earth would I want people looking at me?? I was active though. I had boundless energy! I just preferred doing things on my own, without parents, kids, coaches watching over me, judging me for being tall and gangly and cheering me to go faster.
At the age of 11 I suffered a back injury. It was timely for me because I had also started my descent into the depths of depression so a back injury gave me the perfect excuse to step out of 'normal' life for a while. I had no words to describe the darkness and emotional pain but I had plenty of words to describe the physical pain, so that's what I did.
A while turned into four years and before I knew it I was 15 years old with muscle wastage and a real chance of gaining no qualifications.
Family and professional help helped me through that period and with a lot of hard work I was able to make it to University and re-join 'normal' life. Sport still remained something that only the 'good' and popular kids did though. At University sport was something for students who liked partying after Hockey, good looking boys who'd won scholarships because they could play rugby, or the tiny, pretty girls who could run really well on a track. Quiet, introverted, really tall types like me didn't 'do sport'. Fortunately my parents had drummed into me the importance of being active so I chose things I could do alone, that helped me focus and channel excess mental energy into something positive; swimming, cycling, jogging (I've never been a 'runner'!).
At the age of 24, living in London, heartbreak gave me a new motivation to keep my mind and body busy. One of my best friends had started doing triathlon, and because he seemed to think I was as hooked on endurance sports as he was, he suggested / dared me to give it a go. With no one but me to judge my performance (Ross lived 200 miles away from me and I knew no triathletes in London), and no one to let down but myself if I missed a training session, I set myself the challenge of completing one.
I was quickly hooked. I had no idea what I was doing but I loved it. Dedicating an hour or so a day, 5 or 6 times a week, to something that took me outside, called on my to be physically and mentally strong and gave me a sense of moving forward, literally, this became my new therapy. Before this I had been anxious of joining clubs or taking part in events because I felt so damn vulnerable; people judging me, people placing expectations on me, the revelation that I was rubbish, people expecting me to be their new best friend (yes, I made a lot of scenarios up in my head!). All of these things stopped me for so many years from joining in. But triathlon was something that offered me the perfect balance of 'just me' and 'joining in'. I could take part in events and not worry about other people because this was MY goal, but yet I could chat to other participants and share the experience with others who had their own challenge to complete.
Over the years, I grew attached to my local triathlon community but I was never part of a club. My community lived all over the country and I would see them on Facebook, talk to them at the same events each year or send emails requesting recommendations for new wetsuits. They knew nothing of my personal life and I didn't need them to. I loved the escape they offered and I valued the ways in which they were helping me build a part of my identity that I was proud of.
At the age of 35, I still have to manage my depression and there are days, sometimes weeks, where I want to hide away from the world. Triathlon understands that; I can train without being seen, I can do something positive for myself without having to put on a brave face, and I can comfort myself in my favourite environments - the water, the bike, the park - without having to look good, feel good, and use energy I don't have to behave like I wish I could all of the time. Even better, thanks to triathlon, I've managed to find a career that helps me put my experiences to good use, and build a community of training buddies that I love with all of my heart.
I am passionate about giving others the opportunity to experience the joy of swimming, cycling and running. I always want others to experience the way in which it can empower, build confidence, help us smile, help us feel connected and help us feel like total heroes. Plus, triathlon means you can eat lots of cake, which I truly believe makes the world a better place.
You can find more information on Guernsey Mind's Team Talk Campaign here.