I’ve known Steph for many years and it’s been so inspiring to watch her grow and flourish. Steph’s energy and enthusiasm is contagious. She has a knack of making you believe you can do anything you set your mind to. Maybe that’s because she is living proof that you can do anything if you’re prepared to invest your time and energy and do the hard work that’s required. I hope you are as inspired as I am by Steph’s journey from not being able to swim to now competing in a Triathlon World Championship in Austria later this year.
When did you know that you wanted to do 70.3 triathlons – how did it all come about?
In Aug 2011 my son Graham, husband Pete and I did the City to Surf 12K walk.
A couple of months later Graham entered the local Telstra Tri series at Hillarys and I thought, “I would love to be able to do that.” (It was a 750m swim, 20K bike ride and a 5K run). I went home and thought no more of it.
The following year in May 2012 Graham and my very dear friends Phil and Allan completed their first 70.3 Ironman and again I thought, “wow I would love to do that,” but again I did nothing. In December 2012, Graham did an individual Ironman: 3.8K swim, 180K Bike ride and a 42K run. Watching participants run down the finishing chute and hearing the words “You are an Ironman!” over the PA, I thought “I have to do this,” but I really meant it this time. All the hard work they had put into their training all year and bringing all this together on the day was truly inspiring.
We had just moved into our new home and so I started running. I would walk/run around the block (1.5K). Gradually I continued to run without stopping, and in May 2013 I entered my first ever timed 10K run.
In August that year, my wonderful son walked into our house with a beautiful Italian road bike, a Bianchi 928 and said to me, “I’ve bought you a pressie Mum.” Our youngest daughter Faye also purchased a bike the same week and we began riding together. That was the start.
What’s your background?
I am 55 years old and have been married to my best friend Pete for 31 years.
We were blessed with 3 beautiful children Marie, Graham and Faye.
Pete and I run our own building Company (Highgrove Developments) and have always worked together. We moved to Australia just over 15 years ago from the UK. I am one of 8 children with 6 of us all live in the nearby area. Fortunately, my parents live at our home with us too.
How do you find the time to do it all? What’s your secret to ‘making time’?
I get up early! I arrange to meet up with a friend or join a group – I think that‘s the secret to making time. Once you commit to a date, meeting or event it is hard to back out. Exercise makes me feel great so once I’d developed a routine I felt like I was missing out on something if I “took a day off”.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I get up early, have breakfast and take our dog Woody for his walk. During the winter months I go to the Arena Sports Centre for 7.30am, swim 1 to 2K followed by having a coffee, a banana and a good chat with my “Bestie”. We then do a 1 hour spin class and up to a 5K run on the treadmill. In the Spring/Summer we swim, ride our bikes and run more outdoors. Being self-employed is a great help. I can plan my work schedule around my training schedule. I train 5-6 days a week.
You took a leap of faith… how did it feel? Did you ever wonder if you were doing the right thing?
I feel this is a free ticket to good health. It is the best thing I’ve ever done, and I have my family to thank for getting me started, and now more importantly, for keeping me going. At first I thought I’m too old to start learning to swim and ride so maybe I should just run! But I knew I wanted to complete a triathlon so I just had to go out and learn those new skills.
How did you make it happen?
Making the decision is probably the hardest part.
I think you have to have a reason why you want to do something and then the “how” becomes easy. It is all in your mind. You just need to believe you can. Once I got started I was hooked.
As I said earlier: join a group, make a commitment and then stick with it. I try to ride with Bike Force each Saturday at 6.30am. They are a great bunch of people who have really helped me gain confidence on the road, pushed me beyond my limits and mostly taught me that riding is fun. My new motto is NEGU. (Never Ever Give Up) taken from the Jessie Rees Foundation. (The fight against childhood Cancer)
What’s your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge is open water swimming. Coming from the UK, I didn’t swim much. When I was eleven and on holiday in Spain I got well and truly dunked in the waves with my Dad. I thought I was going to die as it took forever for me to resurface.
I have to be brave to overcome the fear each time I step into the ocean. When I did the Mandurah 70.3 it was 39 degrees and very windy. By the time I got to the run I cramped up so bad I had to walk the 21K. That was so tough; I really had to dig deep to keep going.
I get so nervous swimming in the ocean but I get through this fear by telling myself that it is the shortest part of the race and it will be over in no time. As my daughter Faye always tells me, “just keep swimming!” She always says, “if you panic just put your hand up and someone will come and get you.” Also, having all the wonderful volunteers helping on the day is incredible. They make you feel so much more at ease.
What’s the toughest aspect of doing a 70.3 triathlon?
If you haven’t put in the training and your mind is not in the right place, then all of it will be tough. The biggest hurdle is believing you can do it.
I believe that thoughts become things and if you think you can do it you are 90% there. Obviously there are certain things beyond your control, such as your bike breaking down, or not feeling too well on the day, etc. Also nutrition and not enough liquids can play a big part on how you perform on the day. Get that wrong and you are in big trouble. Heat exhaustion is one of the toughest things to get through.
Who is your role model and why?
My kids are my role models. They work and play hard and enjoy every minute.
They have achieved so much in their short lives. I am in awe of them.
What is the best advice you have received?
The best advice I received during the start of my training for a 70.3 IM was to slow it down and learn how to pace myself. The speed and distance will
happen gradually. To me, triathlons are mainly about endurance, not speed.
Why do you do what you do?
Because I can – it’s my free ticket to good health. I am fit and healthy and I feel it would be a sin to sit and do nothing when I am able bodied. I would dread the thought of saying one day “I wish I had done that when I was younger”.
For many years I only ever worked and rarely went out. Since training I have become a lot more active, and far healthier, which makes me happier. I socialize a lot more and enjoy the company of friends and family who share the same passion of cycling, running and swimming.
What lessons have you learnt along the way?
You can learn something new every day and you are never too old to learn.
Being a newcomer to triathlons I take advice from family and friends. I also read when I can. My favourite book at present is Your Best Triathlon by Joel Friel.
“I can do this” has been my biggest discovery.
What keeps you awake at night?
Thinking about triathlons, bikes, and training. All good things!
What gets you up in the morning?
The Same! Thinking about triathlons, bikes, and training.
What’s the secret of your success?
With regards to triathlons, I don’t feel I am successful. I just do what I enjoy and what lots of other like-minded people do. There is no secret.
With life itself I have a beautiful loving family. I live in the most beautiful part of the world and I get to work with my best friend every day, my husband Pete.
What’s next for you? What does the future hold?
I’ve just completed my second year of the Telstra Tri Series and I’m doing another 70.3 Iron man on 2 May 2015 – that’s just a week away! I was also lucky enough to get 2nd place in Mandurah 70.3 last year, which qualified me to enter the World Championships this August 2015 in Austria.
Finally, if I can get through this year’s hard training I will compete in my first Iron Man in Busso this December 2015. Just maybe, I will get to hear “You are an Ironman!” above the applause of the crowd. Now that would be nice.
What advice would you give anyone who dreams of pursuing triathlons?
Just do it. Get up and give it a go. You have nothing to lose.
Seriously, if I can do it then anyone can.
What advice would you give anyone who isn’t doing what they love?
Life is too short, do what you love.
How do you think each of us can live the fullest life possible?
Do as much as you can, work, play, love.
But, everything in moderation.
People who inspire you:
My Mum and Dad. They have brought up 8 children, worked hard all their life and have never asked for anything. They are truly amazing.
At home with my family.
Biggest passion in life:
Redefining where I thought my limits were. I took part in the last Rove ride to Bunbury, with the Bike Force Joondalup crowd. It was tough, and the weather was lousy, but we did it! It’s a great feeling of achievement. It’s something that until only quite recently, I never thought was possible.
Best bits of advice you have ever received:
When I was young Mum always said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” That has always stayed with me.
Later in life a very special friend of mine said, “You know what? Stress: It doesn’t help.” That was the best advice I have ever received from a young girl in her late teens. (We say that to ourselves a lot when we think things are getting on top of us).
Most inspiring film you’ve seen:
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE –
“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”
Most inspiring book you’ve read:
I don’t read books a lot, but two books that will always stay with me are The Secret and We are their Heaven.
Best light-bulb moment:
Would be 1986 in the living room at home. I gave Pete his dinner on a serving platter with a lid on. As he opened it up there was a pair of baby booties. One of the best moments ever – apart from the fact that he was so stunned he couldn’t breathe.
Shortly after our precious daughter Marie was born.
Anything is possible… what’s your wish?
For my daughter and I to complete the Full Iron Man in December 2015: 3.8K swim, 180K Bike ride and 42K run.
Philosophy you live by:
To thine own self be true.
(William Shakespeare, I believe.)
Quote you live by: