This week we’re getting a whole load of Monday Motivation from Charlotte Perry. Charlotte went from triathlon newbie to 70.3 finisher in just 9 months! Hiccups and difficulties along the way did not stop this girl, she meant business and seeing her cross the finish line is one of my personal highlights as a coach. What a fantastic journey she has been on! Pull up a seat, grab a brew, and enjoy this read:
A whole 9 months I won’t ever forget.
I pestered and pestered a lovely lady called Sami via email in November 2019 asking tonnes of questions. Wondering if I was being daft joining a triathlon club, the thought of it used to make me laugh at myself because I don’t look like a triathlete, I can hardly run and I certainly can’t swim a length in a pool without being knackered but I enjoyed pootling around on my bike.
I met Sam for the first time and if I were to say we instantly clicked I would be correct. I have never felt so confident in front of someone for the first time but Sam’s positive if a bit nutty attitude towards life was just infectious. We spoke about what I have done or had a go at and more importantly what I would like to have a go at and go from there.
Training started straight away the addiction to turning my boxes green on Training Peaks was there and the fire in my belly was roaring away inside for what was to become. I got better and better at running and swimming and I was just in love with this new sport of triathlon. I did an aquathlon in December and a 10k trail run which I gained a shiny PB. Ok I’m still not the fastest and I probably won’t ever be but I’m certainly loving this new me.
In January Coach Sam and I went for an early morning swim and spoke about goals after. Sam said what would you like to do. Now this question was playing on my mind a lot as I didn’t want to say the words for someone to go ‘no absolutely not you cant do that’. The question was ‘can I enter a half ironman’ and the response I literally got was ‘oh my god yes lets enter you now’.
I have never had someone have my back as much as Sam had mine she was so confident in my own ability to do this that I just had to take her word for it. We sat and planned a couple of sprint distances, Olympic distance and then the 70.3 as this was my first year in triathlon. Training had taken off I went to swim squad religiously on a Friday evening I travelled an hour but it felt like nothing and totally worth it when you have such fantastic guidance for an hour. My running was improving and I was getting stronger and stronger on the bike.
Then COVID happened. Suddenly swimming pools were closed, swim squad was cancelled. Oh and did I mention all my races bar one was also cancelled. The only race to still be going ahead was the Cotswolds Half Ironman. Brilliant in one way but terrifying in another way.
I spoke to Sam and we discussed it was ok we can do this and work around this. But actually it made my life so much harder. All the hard work I put in the pool felt like it was pointless by now I hadn’t swam for a month but I ordered some resistance bands so I could do some swim cord exercises which was oddly hard. Using those muscles again was such a strange feeling. Sam never spoke negatively of the situation and I was certainly never on my own. Every doubt I had Sam always replied ‘don’t worry WE have got this’. I was never on my own.
I trained everyday even when sometimes I really didn’t want to. I have such a lack of confidence and self-belief and unfortunately it was starting to take over my training. I wouldn’t train, I couldn’t be bothered and those all-important green boxes on training peaks were turning a horrible red colour. Disaster. What was the point anymore. I can’t do this. Who me a half ironman? Laughable.
I had a horrible voice in my head who told me all these negative things, and this voice now named Sue (no offence to anyone called Sue, it was just a spur of the moment name I chose). Sue really started to get me down. One morning I received a beautiful hand written letter and a gift which was a notch bracelet and a book. These were a surprise off coach Sam. A letter I will never forget. The first line was ‘how cool is this paper its made from elephant poo so it just shows no matter how rubbish the situation you can always turn it around and make something good from it’. The letter was music to my ears it was something I really needed but I just didn’t know it. Sam brought me a notch bracelet where you put a notch on with each achievement you have conquered. And also the book called ‘The Chimp Paradox’ which I think has helped me throughout my entire training and daily life.
Sue who? Sue was gone. Back into training we go and the news of open water swimming being open was brilliant. I had never been open water swimming before but Sam said that as soon as its open we NEED to get me in the lake because time was running out before the 70.3 and with me not having swam since late February I needed to get it done. Due to COVID restrictions Sam couldn’t swim with me, she couldn’t wait in the water for me. Sam was brutally honest with me before hand and told me I’m basically going to just have to get on with it. And that I did. We were off and we were swimming in a lake!!
During lockdown a fantastic new adventure begun – trisolation. The Tri Energy family came together and did some really amazing things in a lot of fancy dress. I was in the most supportive team going with the most amazing team captain Graham checking in on us daily with his morning motivational message to all of his gladiators. I hadn’t actually met Graham before but he was a very big contributor to me completing the half ironman. He drove all the way to my house to go for a bike ride which we had to abandon due to the storms, but he also brought me a gift too. The generosity this chap has and shows is just incredible. Graham volunteered to be a Marshall at the 70.3 just to support me.. I mean who does that?
Trisolation helped so much with training and it felt amazing to be full steam ahead again and loving it all again. We had a race one weekend to do. If I remember the distances were 5k 10k and a half marathon. I spoke to Sam and said do you think I should give the half marathon a whirl and she said ‘errrm probably not just do the 10k we still have plenty of time and need to work up to that distance’ ok no probs I said.
The morning of the race, off I went to do the 10k around the quiet lanes, I wasn’t impressed with how I was running so I decided to continue. 13.1 miles later I was home and Sam and I couldn’t believe it. Right there I knew I could do this and I was mentally strong enough to see this through.
I do feel very proud of myself for my training. I think I had the worst lead up to the half ironman with the pandemic and living an hour away from the Tri Energy family, but mostly because all of my training is 9 times out of 10 on my own but I still got it done (well most of the time).
I also feel proud of myself as myself and my lovely boyfriend Freddie moved into our very first house last august, never the pair to waste money nor have money to waste but I have put everything into Triathlon so it was only fair on myself and most importantly Freddie that I gave it my best shot and got to that start line, even for whatever reason I didn’t get to the finish line, I would have tried.
Our alarm goes off religiously at 5:30am each morning 6 times a week. I own horses which are at my dad’s which takes me 30 mins to travel to, I go straight there in the morning, feed, muck out walk the dogs and come home to work or usually I would then travel 40 miles to work in a boring office, finish work at 4 and arrive back at dads at 5pm to do the animals all over again, ride the horses by this time it would be 7pm, usually I would then whizz to Stafford leisure centre and do the 8-9 swim or a turbo session I would use lunch breaks at work to do my runs. Freddie is ridiculously patient with me, he is a farmer and works his absolute socks off and doesn’t understand what a day off is, yet he has tea ready for me when I appear back from swim squad after 9pm or when I’ve done a horrible turbo session. He would also follow me in the truck with the lights if I had to run that evening. He is a star and has always had compete faith and confidence in me. I am very lucky.
I met up with Sam several times, we found a lovely river and went for a swim and then would then go out on the bikes and I would pick up several tips which I will always remember. This was a brilliant chance to really discuss how everything was going and any worries. A day with Sam left you feeling like you could seriously achieve anything you put your mind to. I left feeling like a mini Sam full of positivity and determination.
Race day was getting closer and closer and I had been out on my bike up to 50 miles, I had swam the distance and ran the distance. I am sure every day for probably 2-3 weeks leading up to the event I was messaging Sam asking if this is really a good idea because I still wasn’t convinced. But in Sam’s words ‘oh my god hun you’ve totally got this’. I probably cried everyday again for 2 weeks leading up to the event. Not because I was scared but more because I kept envisioning me running over the finish line. My emotions were all over the place which also meant I wasn’t training I couldn’t run I just felt I couldn’t do it. I think I ran 5k before the race and did that terribly.
Swim squad started up a couple of weeks before race day and I felt full of confidence due to the other athletes telling me I can do it. I will never forget that.
Tomorrow was race day! Freddie and I packed the car with kettle and toaster in tow for what was to be the day before the best day of my life.
We settled into the hotel and went out for a small bite for tea. Luckily the hotel and the pub were very close to the race venue. As we left I noticed some 113 event signs, I thought that’s the bike route. So Freddie being Freddie said ‘brilliant let’s do a recce in the truck’. I had been so nervous but we did a recce and I was SO EXCITED it was flat and fast – brilliant. I wasn’t sure on some things so I was messaging Sam back and forth and she was equally excited if a bit more than me!
Race day and the alarm went off very early. I managed to eat some porridge and a jam bagel, I don’t think I spoke all the way to the venue. My tummy was in absolute bits! We parked up and my best friend Amy appeared in the car park. She left at 4am to come and support me, how lucky am i!! Temperature checked and I was in transition. I couldn’t believe it I was in the transition for a half ironman!! Still giggling to myself that this was about to happen and even better my swim cap was bright pink yipeee! I went to line up with all of the other athletes, we had our own individual start time with 15 seconds in-between. I was watching everyone in front of me begin I felt sick im sure I was white until I saw 2 of the best marshals – it was Graham and Andy! The most supportive guys and I was so lucky to see them, they made me smile and made me feel that I CAN do this!
I watched the first competitor go in and they basically ran and dived into the water I thought, oh my goodness I’ve never done that I was hoping for a slow walk in and then dip my head under to check my goggles weren’t leaking but nope!
I was next being counted down, I slowly ran down and I even did one of those dives I felt very professional. The swim was an absolute dream, so clear and I did a huge PB so I was so proud of myself. I got to where you run out and the brilliant Marshall Dave was shouting me cheering me on, I thought how does he know it’s me! I must know someone there, I got to the edge and coach charlotte grabbed my hand and pulled me out the water literally screamed ‘you have got this, lets go’. 48 mins in the lake done and that was it I was raring to go, I ran to my bike and off I went. 56 miles of absolute fun awaited me. I spoke to Sam a few days before and said as soon as I see you I will then be ok I will settle. But I couldn’t see Sam but I knew she was here somewhere and that’s what kept me going I’ve got to get to Sam so keep going! The bike was an absolute dream, the roads were mint and the marshals were fabulous. The other athletes were just amazing they were so supportive and seeing Tri Energy’s very own Mark fly past me cheering me on nearly made me cry – everyone had my back.
The support on route from random people was phenomenal. I soon figured the more I went woohoo the supporters went mental and this was what I loved, an epic experience. 3hours 56mins and I was back ready for the worst discipline running!!
Another member of the Tri Energy family was marshalling too. Jo. I have never met Jo before, never even spoken to her. But do you know what she did, she heard through the grape vine that I hated running so she asked permission brought her trainers along with her and ran the whole half marathon with me. What a woman. What a super woman! Jo is an experienced triathlete and has competed here before so she knew what to expect. Jo kept me going, chatted to me all the way round, held water for me. I felt like I made a friend forever on that day. Some people are just pure kindness and that was Jo.
Half way around the first lap and there she was coach Sam screaming from her lungs ‘saying you’re doing it hun you’re doing it!!!’ now I was settled any worries I had left had disappeared. I was in my element. Roxy and her boyfriend Alex also came to support me and had driven from Bath. Again I have never met either of them but they screamed so loud for me I couldn’t be any more thankful for what the tri energy family did for me that day.
We were near to the last 2 marshals on the course and I thought I hadn’t seen Andy or Graham, ran down the hill and Andy was there videoing me cheering me on which was amazing and he said ‘don’t worry he’s the next one’ and I knew what he meant, coming up to the last Marshall on course and there he was Graham, I nearly burst into tears he was jumping up and down screaming my name, I ran passed him after doing an overly excited scream at him and he shouted ‘charlotte I am so proud of you’ – that still gets me now. Isn’t it funny someone you haven’t known for very long at all can have such a huge impact on you.
Skip a lap or 2 and I was on my final lap and the lovely Lisa joined me for the run as well who was also marshalling that day. Lisa put a wrist band on my wrist which basically meant ‘commit don’t be sh*t’. Again I had only spoken to Lisa maybe once leading up to the event at swim squad. But there she was right by my side doing the last lap with me. We managed to convince Andy to run the last part with us, we went round party corner where the marshals went mad and this was it the finish line, Jo, Lisa and Andy left my side and I ran down the red carpet on my own proud as punch, coach Sam screaming, Freddie screaming, Graham screaming and Amy videoing me from the end for me to stop my watch at 3hrs 15mins.
I had done it I was a half ironman I crossed the finish line. That was it the last 9 months were all for that moment, to cross the finish line with new amazing friends around me. For once I was proud of myself. I couldn’t believe what I had just done but I had just done it. The entire day I never had a single inch of doubt or any negative thoughts, ok I hate the running part but I genuinely couldn’t stop smiling all day. A fantastic experience which anyone is capable of doing if you put in the hard work.
Thank you so much to Sam for never giving up on me for even one second. I will forever be in your debt for what you have done for me. I feel incredibly lucky to of been coached by you and you have without a doubt changed my life. The skills and life lessons you have taught me are unforgettable. To have you on this journey with me 100% is nothing short of a dream. I will never forget when Sam told me that I reminded her very much of a younger version of herself. So my aim in life is to be the next Samantha Anderson conquering the world.
Thank you to everyone in Tri Energy for all your incredible support and lovely messages before and after the event. A club I am so SO proud to be a member of. I will never look back only forward.
Four things I have taken away from this experience
- Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work very hard.
- I am enough, and I can do whatever I set my mind to
- I am stronger than I think
- I am actually a half ironman – saaay whaaaat!!!!
Thank you for reading xxx
P.S Sue who?