"This was an interesting thread to read. I love hearing other people's stories and what drives them. Maybe this thread shouldn't be limited to the stories of just "fairly handy elite type triathletes" - I am sure there are plenty of people out there with a good story to tell. I hope mine is interesting to some of you.
I got into the sport in early 1992, when Brett Sutton saw me at the National T&F Champs. I had just run the 10,000m and as I remember it, he said to me, "You are overweight and unfit, but you are one of the gutsiest runners I have ever seen. I know you can ride a bike. I can make you a champion triathlete.”!! I had done some Duathlons in the late ‘80s and had won them all, but I wasn’t a swimmer. Part of me thought Brett was a crazy man, but another part of me was flattered and I had always wanted someone to tell me they thought I could be decent. As a kid I’d been good at everything BUT sport, so that is what I wanted to be good at! I had become a reasonable middle-distance runner in high school and had dabbled quite successfully in bike racing at Uni, but thought of myself more as someone who tried hard than someone who was talented. It took me three months to make the decision to move to the Gold Coast (from Brisbane) to train with Brett. I had just finished my second post-graduate degree in exercise physiology and back then, giving it all away to become a full-time athlete wasn’t too common (or wise!?!). Plus I had no money. It was a big risk to take. A respected colleague finally convinced me when he said, “You are 23. You have 40 years ahead of you to work. If you don’t go for it now you will never know what you can do. Give it 6-12 months and if it doesn’t work out, you have your education to fall back on”. So I took the risk. I had a couple of safety nets though – one was my education; and I also took a part time job (which Brett wasn’t happy about) and worked 2 days/week for the first two years. On 11th May 1992, I moved to the Coast with Rina Bradshaw (now Hill) and her now husband, Alistair…
Once I committed I was determined to make it work. I also quickly learnt to really train under Brett. In six months my 10k PB (track – where it counts!) went from 35:21 to 33:14. It still took me years to realise that I was actually quite talented and it was just that I had never trained enough as a runner – that is quantity, not quality. I never had a problem pushing myself hard! Brett very accurately described me as having an aerobic body with an anaerobic head!! I loved to go hard, but even though I went better as the distance got longer, I just never had the patience or attention span to go long. Even now I need to have 5 things going on at once – too long on any one task bores me. In recent years, running marathons (and beyond) has been a great challenge for me mentally – but my body likes it!
Anyway, I won the National Series in my first season (edging Rina out in the last race) and the rest is history… I only had eight years in Triathlon, retiring in 2000 at age 32. I was driven to achieve and I really did everything I set out to do and more (1G, 3S at TWC; 2G, 1B at DWC). I retired when I didn’t think I could do any more/ any better (after missing the 2000 Olympic team). On looking back and after reading the rest of this thread, it was probably all a bit too serious. I kind of wish I’d done more ‘fun races’. I probably should have gone long too. But no regrets – I am doing some of the fun (and long) things now with my running and also some other things. I also wanted to have another career and I love my work (and my husband – I have to mention him!!). I did have a great time in Triathlon – I have heaps of good memories of people, races and places. It really gave me a lot. You really don’t appreciate it fully until it is over.
So what drove me…? I used to not want to know the answer to that question as I thought I might lose ‘my edge’ if I knew why I was so driven. The answer though was that I just had this burning desire to be BETTER. In lots of ways I was ‘not good enough’, but most of the time I took the positive slant to this and was just driven to find ways to be better. I think this still drives me and I have a healthy life ethos of trying to be the best I can be… and then find a way to be better.
Another thing is that, as in the story of how I got into the sport, I was willing to take calculated risks and then I very much took responsibility for my own destiny. I need to be challenged and love to go after my goals and make them happen for myself. I had to learn (sometimes the hard way) to let other people support me and I could not have done what I did without the help of others – especially other people believing in me. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do what I did without the belief others had in me. You need other people to both challenge you and believe in you in order to get the most out of yourself. But you ultimately need to find the drive within yourself to fully realise your potential. My greatest strength was my greatest weakness – I was very self-motivated, determined and independent, but (like most people I guess) I needed support and reassurance.
Early on in my running and Triathlon career I was always looking for the ‘perfect’ race and I’d often try too hard and fall in a heap. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was that if you can look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and say, “I did the very best I could today with what I knew and what I had on the day”, then you have to be satisfied. You can learn from it and improve upon it, but all you have to do is your best in the moment – every moment. That thought drove and still drives me and I gain great satisfaction even now from knowing I am very good at getting the most out of myself.
This might all have been too long winded and not enough of a ‘story’ – but you’ll have to buy the book for the full story!!!!??!
The journey continues. I’m doing a bit of coaching which I love. I still run every day, and ride and swim when it moves me to do so. I turned 40 late last year and am challenged by W40 running records and by trying to find the patience to run longer. Actually I am trying to be fit enough to run longer but do it fast enough that I don’t have to take too long over it!!
Jackie G/F "
R.I.P Jackie, the sports you loved and all involved in them will miss you greatly.
Text by Jackie Fairweather, Images courtesy ITU.