The ATW events team organised a magnificent Grafman Triathlon for many athletes back in early June. This was the first time we’d hosted this event, but we couldn’t be happier, so many smiling athletes told us it had been a success. We thought that rather than doing a classic race report, we’d tell the story of Claire Carlin, Grafman finisher who completed her first middle distance race.
Claire was diagnosed with development dyspraxia which is a coordination and balance condition. This meant that her sporting interests were often disregarded throughout her school age years, because it wasn’t something that came naturally to her. Along with her dyspraxia, Claire was also overweight largely down to an awful diet which consisted of sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and fizzy drink. Neither of these factors hindered her passion for sport, she left school to attend Brockenhurst College and complete a BTEC National diploma in sport.
“It was amazing, I loved it. I got a triple distinction in my BTEC”, explained Claire. However, her fitness and weight never changed and were a big issue. Whilst studying Go Ju Ryu karate, Claire had obtained her first Kyu brown belt but was told that she would really struggle to obtain her black belt unless she “sorted herself out”. These words were encouragement enough, and whilst Claire didn’t like her instructor’s honesty at the time, reflecting back, she realised it was the best thing anyone could have said or done. She set herself the goal of losing a stone to help her gain her black belt qualification. “I have actually lost 12 stone in weight – more than 50% of my initial body weight! Things dramatically changed. I adjusted my diet overnight, throwing the junk food out the house and increasing my training.”
Achieve her goal
Claire achieved her black belt in Belgium, in July 2019. It was one of the hottest weeks, at 44 degrees. “If I hadn’t lost the weight there is no way I would have been able to do that. I was so happy in how I performed at my grading”, she tells me. On returning from Belgium, Claire began wondering what the next goal was and within just two weeks she completed her first 5k ParkRun. Like many individuals with the goal of losing weight, Claire initially avoided running at all costs… until she actually realised that she really enjoyed it. Two weeks later, she joined the Dorchester RIOT Running Club.
From here, Claire took her passion for sport in a new direction, not only actively participating, but helping other too as well, in the role of a Personal Trainer/Gym Instructor. It wasn’t an easy career path, struggling with a lack of experience, despite having the qualifications, many gyms turned Claire away. “I eventually found a gym though, at 3D Health and Fitness Weymouth, offering to volunteer initially and then ended up getting taken on as a paid gym instructor and personal trainer”. Another huge turning point for Claire was during her role of Feed Station Aid at the Weymouth 70.3 event. Helping at the event made her realise “this was something I really wanted”, despite her very young running career and the huge bike-shaped and wetsuit-shaped gaps in her kit bag.
Breaking it down into manageable stages, Claire decided to sign up and train for her first half marathon which should have been March 2020 but resulted in her doing a virtual Weymouth HM instead. To date, Claire has run 4 full marathons including winning a 50k ultra marathon in April 2021. “Now I am part of Goal Specific triathlon team and following a very structured training plan through training peaks, I couldn’t be more focused or happier”, she tells me.
Completing the Grafman Triathlon
Having come across Grafman in the 220 Triathlon magazine, Claire completed the ATW event on the first weekend of June, three years to the day since losing 12 stone in weight; “it was more than a dream” Claire explains. When we asked her, what she thought of the event, Claire said this: “I loved the whole event! I was nervous of the open water swimming because it’s still my weakness and something I’m so determined to improve on. My overall swimming technique needs to improve, and I’ve limited sighting experience, so I was pleased to complete this pretty successfully. The whole support during the event was incredible and crossing the finishing line was very special, but my favourite aspect has to be the bike leg. Having only started cycling the year before I was really pleased with my performance – I felt really strong, and I was delighted with how strong I ran off my bike. It really felt like my training had paid off. Even despite the current COVID climate, the event felt really safe, and the marshals were amazing.”
Claire’s main focus now is the Ironman 70.3 at Weymouth in September, also soon to be her new hometown. Claire will return to do Grafman next year in preparation for Outlaw Triathlon in 2022.
Well done, and thank you, to all the athletes that competed at Grafman Triathlon, and to all our athletes in the ATW community chasing their goals. Entries for Grafman middle distance triathlon 2022 are open here.
Find out what you can achieve at the Grafham Swim, Cycle, Run Festival on the 25th July – choose from Aquathlon, Duathlon, Aquabike, Triathlon or Swim event.
By Bronwyn Tagg