Wow! I have suddenly realised that it was 12 months ago that I was packing up and ready to start my new life as a professional triathlete. Bonkers! What a difference a year makes! I looked back at the first blog that I wrote as a fresh faced, naive novice, and saw these words staring back at me……
“Had I fulfilled my potential, or did I have more to give? Had I pushed my mind and body to the limit? If not, what were those limits? What stars was I capable of grabbing? Without giving it a shot I would never know……”
“But it is not only about physical prowess, about skill or about times or distances, it is about the special something that the athlete has inside, the drive, the ambition, the determination to succeed, the ability to bounce back when faced with adversity – as Mohammed Ali says ‘the will must be stronger than the skill’. There will be good and bad sessions: good and bad races – the key is to learn from both and move on. Physically, yes, I am getting better. Mentally, too I am learning. But there is a long way to go. I need to learn to relax, to switch off, to focus my mind when surrounded by chaos. I can only watch the others, the masters of their art, follow orders and trust in my coach and believe in myself. Hopefully then I will be able to realise my dream”.
I start this new season as World Iron Man Champion (still CANNOT believe I am writing that!) and, yes, in many ways so much has changed for me. The dream has begun.
I have met some amazing people since winning Hawaii, and have had a whole heap of fun doing interviews and talks to the media and to other triathletes. Life has been totally hectic, and I do feel pulled in lots of different directions – but it hasn’t changed me as a person (or at least I hope it hasn’t!). I have spent the past two months in deepest, darkest London, training hard – and enjoying my intimate relationship with the turbo, gloves and woolly jumpers. It has been superb to spend some quality time with my family and friends – who are helping to keep my size 8s firmly on the ground. Unfortunately my wonderful granddad, Harry Wellington, died peacefully in his sleep last week, at the ripe old age of 101. I will carry his memory with me, and I know that that will make me stronger.
So what’s in store for this year?! Because size matters (or so I’m told!), my focus is on ‘going long’. I am going down under for IronMan Australia on 6 April, next comes IronMan Frankfurt on 6 July and of course I will be back to Kona for shaved ice and fun in the lava fields! I am really excited about Iron Man Frankfurt as it will be the first time my family has seen me race, so I am looking forward to giving them something to shout about (and believe me, they have a good set of lungs!).
But the words from my first blog are still just as relevant now as they were a year ago. There is always room for improvement and I will not stop striving to be a better athlete, mentally and physically. I will make sure I am in the best possible shape when I toe the start line at all three races – and give it absolutely everything I’ve got: and more. But it’s going to be tough. There are some strong, strong girls racing, who are going to relish the chance to hit the target that’s now on my back. Last year I was totally invisible – and could go into races safe in the knowledge that nobody would know who I am. This year will be a whole different kettle of fish. I have so many great new opportunities, but these come with challenges too. As Ali said – a mental as well as physical contest – but this is the test of a true professional, and I look forward to rising to the challenge!
In addition to my own sporting goals, as I said at Kona, I want to continue to play my part in inspiring people to take up sport, have self belief and challenge themselves to do that little bit more. This is something that TeamTBB is also trying to do and it’s great to be part of a Team that has this wider objective. I am so excited about the opportunity to continue the social projects that we have started in the Philippines, especially because this is the new location for our warm (yeah!!!! Bring on the tan lines!) weather camp and we will be able to see tangible, positive change happening on the ground.
There are a couple of other, smaller charities that I am closely involved with. One is called Girls Education Nepal – www.girlseducationnepal.org.np, which was founded by my close friend Nonna Lamponen while we were both working in Nepal. And I am an Ambassador to a UK based organisation called Envision – www.envision.org.uk, which provides young people with the opportunity to make a difference in their local communities, including through sports related social projects. I have also been talking at length with both Scott Rigsby and Kate Bolling, whose strength, passion and warmth are a shining light and inspiration to all those involved in the sport.
I want to finish by saying a HUGE, ginormous THANK YOU to everyone who has emailed me – I hope I have managed to reply to you all! And also for those who have taken the time to vote and/or nominate me for the various Awards. I was particularly flattered, proud and slightly stunned to win the inaugural Ian Wooldridge Award for Sporting Achievement, and I hope that I can emulate the characteristics that he valued and espoused.
I am determined to make 2008 even better than 2007 was – so watch this space and I know I, and the Team, will give the supporters something to cheer and smile about! Bring it on!