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My name is Abi, I'm 25 and a special needs teacher, however my life outside of the school gates devoted to sport and being an inspiration to those around me.
As a youngster I did not enjoy sport, my parents encouraged me to try most sports and were keen for me to swim. I hated swimming until I was introduced to races when I joined my local swimming club. The bug of racing, training and progression was therefore caught and I learnt to love the sport, it became my life, and I reached National level by the age of 16, I trained up to 4 hours a day, with my club Lincoln Vulcans, many of which were my best friends. This was the time where important life decisions were made about my future career and education and so I chose to pursue my goal to become a teacher by reducing swimming training and focusing on getting a-levels to go to university. I eventually quit swimming competitively as I found the reduction in my performance too difficult to bare!
With the lack of training and close knit friends I became ill at university, the absence of a sport and many other factors I developed a high level of anxiety and depression which furthered progressed into eating disorders. I had panic attacks daily, and my health was seriously in danger, I developed osteoporosis and risked losing my life. A huge stroke of luck saved me, I was asked to do a 10 km running race, for charity. I trained daily and it gave me a new focus, I joined a new club and when the race day came, I loved it! I even entered another the next month, not for charity, but myself, and I won it, the Stevington 12km race. From there I have run three marathons, many half marathons, three ultra-marathons and broken two British records and a world record on the treadmill, raised thousands of pounds for charity and am in full health and fully recovered mentally too. This is not to say running is the only thing that helped me recover, I had months of CBT, and I moved home to be supported by my parents.
In 2014 I decided to get back in the pool after 5 years of fearing the overly familiar smell of chlorine. I did a sprint triathlon, just to mix up my training for Edinburgh marathon. I had a second hand cyclo-cross bike, far too big for me, as it was a male frame! It was horrendous, the weather was terrible, and I cried through the bike, but yet again, the bug was caught and five months later I entered an open-water triathlon (wetsuit off eBay!) and had a triathlon coach. To my shock and surprise I qualified for the age-group GB squad for the European championships in Geneva. I was amazed, as during that race I felt like a complete novice, with no alien looking aero-helmet, and certainly no tri-bars, how on earth could I represent the country? I was a runner, not a triathlete!!!
But I did, July 2015 I had done more triathlon races, another marathon under my belt (London, 3.07) and had completed months of mixed running and triathlon training. I was beginning to understand cycling, and even had sponsorship for a new, carbon, FEMALE, fitting race bike from Terry Wright cycles. The race was surreal, I remember looking out into Lake Geneva as I stood on the start line feeling so proud yet so incredibly nervous. The swim was brutal, hence I got out into a lead, the brutality of it sure makes you swim fast! Then a mistake highlighting my lack of experience got me, my goggles completely fogged with the difference in temperatures in and out the water. I stopped to de-fog and carried on still near the front. In transition I was relieved to be on dry-land only to be crashed into at the mount line. It’s funny how time stands still when you realise you’re stood in a GB suit and your chain is hanging off and there are hordes of people shouting your surname. I put the chain back on, completed the bike and then ran the fastest 5km I ever have, the second fastest out of all females there on the day. I scraped a 12th position. Not bad for a novice, for someone a year earlier considered a 10 mile ride a long one!
Since then my distances and experience had increased, with more races completed, some won, I'm ready for the 2016 season, as a triathlete, no longer a runner. A new coach, a new focus and living with my best friend, training buddy, and fellow Sealskinz ambassador I feel I am ready to give triathlon my best this season. I am now competing in half-ironman distance triathlons and will be competing in the years World Standard distance triathlon in Mexico this September. Longer distances are what I have always been designed for in swimming and running and I hope to take this to the next level in triathlon by doing an iron-man in the next few years. I feel my story is an example of inspiration to others that you should never underestimate how far you can go, and even when you reach your darkest place, eventually you will rise above it.