Partners including East Suffolk Council and Visit Felixstowe teamed up to offer a number of exciting opportunities for local people, and visitors to be active and celebrate the end of the Women's Tour earlier this month. One of which was the first Felixstowe Triathlon which saw over 200 participants take part following the excitement of stage 6 of the Women's Tour on Saturday, where professional rider, Demi Vollering was crowned the overall winner on the podium at Felixstowe pier!
East Suffolk Council kindly donated one team relay place to This Girl Can Suffolk and the lucky competition winners, Emma, Louise and Damilola proved that team work really does make the dream work!
After meeting for the first time just two days ahead of the event, the three women reunited as the sun started to rise on a beautiful autumnal morning down at Felixstowe on Sunday 10th October.
The nerves and excitement started to build after the ladies got themselves registered for the event! Not only had they only just met, but none of them had taken part in an event like this before so they worked out their approach to guarantee a smooth transition between the swim, cycle and run.
It was as if the ladies had known each other for years as they shared words of encouragement and support ahead of the start, and this just highlighted the forgotten benefits of engaging in sport and physical activity - connection, community and camaraderie!
First up on the day, was Emma who introduced herself as the bag lady...
Emma completed the 800m sea swim before handing the baton over to Damilola who took on the cycle stage of the triathlon. Most of the spectators were wincing at the thought of entering the cold sea at 8:30am but this had recently become a new found love of Emma's after discovering the local open water swim group otherwise known as the Bluetits who meet each week at Shingle Street.
It would be easy to presume that Emma had always been active given her excitement and passion on the day, however in reality, physical activity only became a pivotal part of her life following life saving surgery just 3 and a half years ago! This is where "bag lady" comes in, as Emma had to undergo emergency surgery to have her entire colon, part of her small intestine and rectum removed all of which was replaced with a stoma bag!
"I left the hospital with a body I didn't recognise, no colon, no rectum…and a bag! It's a different life and I have had to find a new normal."
It was shortly after her recovery in 2018 that Emma first got into physical activity, starting out with a coach to 5km programme. This soon saw Emma entering and participating in events including half marathons and marathons! Although Emma had participated in similar events since finding her love for running post-surgery, sea swimming is still a new hobby and she was over the moon when she realised it was her quickest ever time on Sunday.
"Since my surgery it's been a different life and I have had to find a new normal. I do feel that this has made me a fitter person, a better person and a more understanding person. I took responsibility to live life the best way I can. It was lovely to do this event with people I had not met before, we came together for a common goal and made a fabulous team...completing the swim was tough but I loved it."
Damilola took the second stage of the event...on her husband’s bike!
Damilola is a working mother who is also studying and recently started cycling...just 2.5 months ago in fact! Before cycling Damilola would workout at home using YouTube but found it was just not fitting in around her busy schedule. She needed to find a way of being active that would slot into her busy days without feeling like an additional job or chore!
" I was keen for my son to learn to cycle and once I had taught him, he became too fast for me to run after him. I basically forced myself into cycling by teaching my son to cycle. It was lower impact so I just kept going. This was in July, and I then decided to ride to raise money for a Nigerian Charity that focused on helping re-school out-of-school Nigerian children. This again, was inspired by my son as I had the realisation that he had this incredible opportunity to start school in England and there were still so many back home without the privilege."
After regularly cycling the school run and getting out when she could to explore the county, Damilola built up her confidence on the bike, entered the This Girl Can Triathlon competition and won!
To her surprise, she also recorded her fastest ever time on her (husbands) bike at Sundays event. The event has inspired her and just two days later decided she would sign up for local adult swimming lessons so she could explore other ways to be active.
"It was so comforting completing this event with others, if I had entered this alone I would have been panicking but the other girls helped calm my nerves. I want to do it again but challenge myself to the full distance!"
And last but by no means least...Louise completed the 5km run!
Although Louise was not completely new to running, taking part in a local event like this one is something she had never done before due to the fear that she would not be good enough.
"I entered the competition because I liked the idea of it being a team of like minded women there to support each other. When I got the place I thought there was no going back now and I am so so glad I did it!"
Although Louise has been running for three years, she told us that being part of an event meant that she was more committed to running each week, where as before she would go through phases of picking it up and quitting when things got busy.
"Sometimes it's difficult to find the time to be active especially when you're a mum. Juggling the kids, work and usual household chores but I have always tried prioritised it because If you don't look after yourself how are you supposed to look after everyone else?"
A big well done to Emma, Damilola and Louise for completing their first ever team event, they are already planning their next!!