Q&A with Rachel Hepburn

We caught up with first-timer Rachel Hepburn to get the low down on her thoughts of the day and how it felt to become an official triathlete!

Q: A belated congratulations on becoming an official triathlete! How did you find the race?

A: I loved every minute of it. From the moment I checked in on Saturday afternoon, through to running across the finish line on Sunday, I vowed to myself that this was my first triathlon, but certainly not my last.

I could have taken a bit more of a competitive approach to the whole thing, however I was really excited about just doing it. The swim was simply perfect in flat waters and mild conditions. I even found myself chatting to another competitor and the life-guards whilst passing the buoys as we commented to each other ‘what a fantastic day’ and ‘isn’t this swim just so refreshing’. The thought of racing through the water and speeding through the ‘moment’ was not on my mind; I wanted to savour every second of the experience. Nothing can quite prepare you for the cheering crowds as you stumble, ungraciously out of the waves and on to the pebbly beach, before re-balancing yourself back on land. Running to the transition area, whilst unzipping your wetsuit and removing your brightly coloured swim-hat was hilarious. I found the cycle part frustrating because I realised how rubbish my rusty mountain bike was and how much it slowed me down. My competitive spirit decided to kick in and I peddled for dear life, making a mental note to invest in a good racer for my next event. The final part of the event where you feel closest to the crowd is quite incredible - people I had never met were shouting words of encouragement and cheering me on – it was quite moving and exhilarating all in one.

Q: Now tell us a bit about your training style; did you have a structured plan or prefer to freestyle it?

A: Being quite active anyway, I made a decision to have my own training plan. HIT (High Intensity) training with weights once a week to build strength, cycling as often as I could (mainly with the children/family at the weekends), swimming once a week and a 5k run once a week was my aim.

Unfortunately my hip was playing up during training so the running routine had to be dropped and I had to rely on the other training to carry me through. This was the moment I decided to up my swimming and teach myself to swim front-crawl. This took some time! Having always been a breast-stroke swimmer (didn’t pay enough attention at school in swimming lessons), the biggest thing for me was getting the breathing right along with the co-ordination. It took several weeks to get there, with some handy hints from some extremely proficient swimming friends and co-triathletes, and eventually I did it. The only thing I didn’t get enough practice of beforehand was open water or sea swimming front crawl. I did end up on the day swimming breast-stroke and was much slower than my fellow competitors, but I didn’t care too much; I wasn’t doing it to finish first, just to finish felt like I had won for myself.

The final part to my training was to do the entire course the weekend before the actual event. My training partner/friend and I headed out on the Saturday afternoon to swim in quite rough sea and windy conditions. It was hard work, but at least we knew what effort would be required for the day itself. I certainly felt satisfied with my level of fitness and mentally ready by the time the day arrived.

Rachel before her 'test run'

Q: What surprised you most about competing in a triathlon?

A: It really does take all-sorts to compete. From teenagers to greying seniors, beginners to competitive athletes, there was a real mix of people taking part. I felt very reassured as there were lots of mums like me who just like to have an active lifestyle and decided to compete in the first closed-road triathlon in the city.

Q: Tell our readers one thing you wish you’d known before your first tri.

A: Swimming front crawl in a swimming pool is a totally different experience to open water, which I think needs plenty of practice to build confidence and proficiency. I had never really swum properly in the sea before and I now realise it’s just one of the best things in life.

Q: And finally, please sum up the Brighton and Hove Triathlon in 3 words.

A: Exhilarating. Fun. Achievement.

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