Our very own GRI UK agency auditor and GB Team age-group triathlete, Claire Grimmer, is facing a very different challenge to her season this year. Lockdown.
Flying high from a top 20 place in last year’s ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships, it’s proving hard to know when her next competitive race will be. We caught up with Claire to talk motivation, exercise, advice and keeping going whilst the UK’s restrictions continue.
GRI: What would the sporting season normally look like for you in April?
CG: For me, race season usually starts in April with the Hereford Duathlon (a run, bike, run - because it’s too cold to swim) then the pool-based Wilmslow Sprint Triathlon. In order to prepare for race season, you transition from what we call base training (steady training and preparation throughout the winter) to race pace training in the spring and summer. So, a normal week would be swimming three mornings before work, running two evenings in the week, with longer runs at the weekend. Plus, two turbo sessions in the garage on my static bike, and a longer bike ride outside at the weekend. But, of course, all the April races have been postponed and restrictions mean multiple outside activities a day are not allowed. As athletes we also need to be extremely mindful of the advice to take care of our immune system. Intense training is known to put extra pressure on your body, which can mean you become susceptible to bugs going around. That would obviously be far from ideal currently. So, I have gone back to my base training schedule. My aim is to keep ticking over and come out of lockdown fit and healthy in body and mind.
GRI: Do you have a feel for when your racing might resume?
CG: Like everyone else affected across the world, it’s hard to know exactly when things will start again. All races have been cancelled to the end of June, and some have been postponed until later in the year. The ETU European Championships in Tartu, Estonia which showcase the European Olympic Distance were supposed to be in July. I’d qualified to take part but some sixth sense told me to hold off on planning travel logistics, so I hadn’t actually booked. The consensus is that there may be no racing at all this year. I had also qualified for the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships in Almere, Holland in September but the Dutch government have banned organised events until 1st September.
GRI: Is it hard to keep motivated without the goal and challenge of a race calendar?
CG: I am a very motivated person, but that motivation is usually fuelled by having a race to aim for. So, it has been difficult. Being in the house is obviously hard.
You have to be creative about how you go about things. My local club is running lots of activities virtually – so for example spin (bike) sessions that used to take place at the leisure centre are now done virtually on Zoom, as are strength and conditioning sessions. We are also creating run challenges between all the club members that can be done within the daily exercise allowed. It’s also a good time to support local businesses who are running Pilates and Yoga online.
I’m really missing swimming. Some people in the tri-community have resorted to buying inflatable pools and tethers so they can get some resistance in the water to strengthen their arms and replicate the movement pattern, despite the fact they can’t create the room to swim. I’m not quite at that stage yet - but come back to me in a few weeks! Funnily enough it’s the biking that’s been the most challenging as it’s the discipline I love to hate. I don’t mind being on my bike outside, but I struggle being on the turbo in the garage. But that’s the only option now.
GRI: Do you have any advice you can share on how to approach lockdown?
CG: My advice to anyone is you need to create a structure in your day. I am using my usual commute time to stretch and condition before work and ensuring I go outside to get fresh air every day.
Obviously, you have good and bad days and this is very similar to my experiences as a triathlete. Exercise is so important. Fresh air will always clear your head. Even walking in your garden, if you have one, will make a difference. When I am outside I don’t run to music – I never have. Instead, I like to listen to the world around me. At the moment everything seems calmer. I live near the buzz of the M6, and it’s been so much more peaceful. I feel like I can hear myself better. I even saw my first swallow on a run the other day.
I also find having a tick list of things to do really works for me. Set yourself small goals or set yourself a challenge. I have always been bad at press ups - so I’ve focused on those and I’m feeling better for the progress I have made.
I have also re-found my love of baking and I’m reading more. I would really recommend Martine Wright’s Unbroken, about her experiences in the 7/7 terror attack and representing Great Britain in the Paralympics. It’s helping me keep everything in perspective; that we can get back to some sort of normal and that we must focus on what we can do, not what we can’t.
Last week we started a virtual group club challenge/event as part of Knutsford Tri Club. There are 19 teams of approximately 25 people racing from Corona to Kona (Manchester to Kona, Hawaii where the annual Ironman World Triathlon championship takes place every October). We are aiming to undertake 2,311km of running and 13,000km of cycling to complete the challenge in the next few weeks as a team. It’s a challenge that’s extremely welcome - until the day we can race again and people can cheer us on.