I’ve never been requested to write a blog before, especially one on ‘being awesome, having fun and being able to laugh at yourself’. But before I let those compliments get to my head, I must remember that it was close friend Sam Anderson who requested I write a piece for her. Friends have to describe you as funny and awesome, right? But I went on to write so much that this piece of writing became a blog of its own, so I decided to post it on here too.
So anyway, I was chosen to write a few words on how to keep smiling when it often feels like it is all going wrong. In all honesty, I’m touched that I have been recognised to write on this subject as this is pretty much my mantra for life, so its great that somebody outside has acknowledged this. I’ve never been one to take myself seriously, even on race morning when competitors are locking themselves inside portaloos (sorry Claire, your secret is out), I’ll be the one laughing and joking around, all the way up to the start line. My mum is always so nervous on race morning that she can’t eat (and will not eat until I’ve finished the race. Good job I don’t race Ironman, hey mum!) whereas I am next to her biting the heads/arms/legs off jellybabies in the line up to the swim start. In my opinion, you will perform best - not just in triathlon but in other aspects of life too, such as work, home and relationships – when you are able to laugh at yourself. So here goes my 10-step guide on how to be an easygoing triathlete:
1. Make an entrance
It’s a deep water start and everyone is gliding gracefully into the water from the bank. Some of the more brave ones are diving off a ledge. Some nervous triathletes are dipping their toes in at the shore. My advice to you? Bomb in.
2. Always pose when exiting the water
Be it Baywatch, Mo-bot or the iconic hands-in-the-air YAY-I-DIDN’T-DROWN pose, one must always be ready for snap-happy spectators at the swim exit. Here’s Lauren perfecting her Baywatch pose in the showers at Alanya. Stunning.
3. In transition, follow the rules
If you’re stupid enough not to know which is the front and back of your helmet, I’m surprised you lasted the evolutionary pool that is the mass swim start. As much as it is entertaining for us spectators and marshals to see you looking like a unicorn, save your comedy for a time when you’re not on two wheels descending at 40mph. It might not be so funny the next morning when you wake up with the headache worse than after your stag do.
4. Mount your bike with guts
If you are looking for some giggles on triathlon race day, spectators, I’ll give you one tip: stand at the bike mount line…
…And if I am racing, stand as far away from the mount line as possible! I am very talented at sending my bike in all directions.
5. Give the photographer something to smile about
We have very few race photos of me up in our house despite the many races I have competed in over the last few years. This is because, according to my mum, I have ‘spoiled’ each one by pulling a funny face or sticking my tongue out.
I was lucky enough to be able to race in the British Elite Super Series this year, and kept my relaxed attitude at these races too. I was in the lead swim pack in London when I noticed the kayaker next taking footage of the swim using a GoPro that was positioned right above my head. So on my next breath I lifted my head and stuck my tongue out at the camera. I could see the kayaker laughing and hoped I would make it onto the edited Channel4 footage. Unfortunately not, but at least I proved that, even at the elite level, we all need to have a laugh and giggle at ourselves and remember that racing IS fun!
6. Make every day a fancy dress day.
When wearing one of the following: compression gear/GB trisuit/sperm helmet/2XU kit/fluoro jacket, always complement it with all of the above items (under a friend’s instruction) to look like the biggest chopper on earth. Said friend will then snap you when you’re unawares and upload the photo to all social media sites.
7. Take a support crew worth their weight in gold
You never know when you are going to need your supporters. They come in useful for holding your bags/bike whilst you’re in the portaloo, they go searching for last minute bits of kit/nutrition you’ve forgotten, they drive you to the race so you don’t have to, and treat you to a beer afterwards. Oh, and they do a fair bit of cheerleading on the course too. If you ever lose your supporters, they can be found in the nearest café.
8. Use triathlon as an excuse to see the world
When I say ‘see the world’, what I really mean is travel around the world and see the local swimming pools, gyms and running tracks. And if you’re me, you’ll also get to whizz down a few local lanes in an ambulance and a view of a hospital ceiling for a few hours. You’ll be stung in the arse by the BTF’s Age Group policy to hop around the most expensive cities in the world. But you will have an incredible time partaking in an international Chopper Watch (like people watching but so much better).
9. Embrace the freebies
It doesn’t matter whether you don’t even like peanut butter (surely that’s impossible, EVERY triathlete loves peanut butter), take stock of any freebies on offer. One of the best things about racing in the elite circuit this year has been the free race entries, red carpet-ed transition zone and of course, the ‘elite athlete lounge’ at Liverpool, which really was just a few sofas pushed together, but this shelter from the hurricane, combined with the fact that you significantly increased your chances of bumping into Gwen Jorgensen, meant that the lounge was heaven.
10. Smile at every opportunity
I’ve been inspired by a smiley Chrissie Wellington, as well as a couple of friends who always seem to have a smile on their faces, even when enduring the toughest hill reps or at the end of a marathon; Fiona Hunter-Johnston and Marie McHugh. Smiling whilst racing convinces the spectators and your fellow athletes that you are having fun, and if you smile for long enough you may even convince yourself that you are having a good time!
So next time you’re down in the dumps because you’re commuting to work in the rain, haven’t performed well in the XC series or have a niggling injury remind yourself of the above 10 guidelines. This sport called triathlon that we so often dedicate our lives to is, for the most of us, a bit of fun and games. Don’t let it ruin your confidence, relationships or bank balance! Now keep calm and…