We caught up with one of our long time members Janet Taplin of Andover, who at 61 years of age is currently competing in triathlons around the world for Team GB. After gaining 1st place for her age range at the World Championships in Milton Keynes in July, and 3rd place at the European qualifier, Janet is now preparing to compete at the European Championships in Geneva as part of Team GB.
What inspired you to do triathlon?
I have always liked to keep fit and have been a member of Andover Leisure Centre for several years. Having a sedentary day job, I always look forward to doing some form of exercise in the evenings. At school I played lacrosse for the Hampshire team, competed in swimming galas and at the age of 18 reached 1st Dan status (black belt) in judo. I dabbled at squash and aerobics whilst bringing up a family, but it has only been in the last three years that I thought I would try something different.
In 2012 I acquired a second hand treadmill at home and started running just a mile before going to work each day. I then heard about the Andover Park Run, organised by a group of enthusiastic volunteers that takes place at 9am every Saturday morning around Charlton Lakes, so one Saturday I decided to go along and give it a try. It was there that I met a couple of members of the Andover Triathlon Club who suggested that I go along to their track training sessions held every Monday evening at Charlton Athletics track.
After my first Monday evening session there I was hooked and joined the club! I entered my first triathlon in June 2012 which was the A2C Sprint distance triathlon, starting with a 400m pool swim in Andover Leisure Centre, followed by a 21K cycle ride around Andover and ending with a 5k run around Charlton Lakes. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and had no idea then where it would lead just two years later!
How does it feel travelling around the world competing for Great Britain?
In a nutshell – awesome! I had no idea that I would feel so proud competing as a member of the GB Age Group team at such a major event with about 3,000 other triathletes/para-triathletes. The team spirit in Canada was great, the organisation of the World Championships held in Hawrelak Park, Edmonton, was excellent and all the Canadians were so friendly and helpful.
Do you have any advice for anyone who is thinking about competing or attempting a triathlon?
Push your boundaries a little – the results can be so rewarding if you are willing to come out of your comfort zone – something that a lot of people find rather daunting as they get older. If you do, you will be amazed at what is achievable – and if you are fortunate enough to have the support, advice and encouragement from an excellent local club – as I did, who knows where you could be in 2 years from now!
“Just give it a go – it’s never too late to try something different”
What is your training routine?
I currently train up to 6 out of 7 days a week with normally an hour class/session each week day evening, and from 2 to 4 hours at the weekend, depending on my work. My winter schedule is based indoors because of the dark evenings, but in the summer, I am out on my bike on a Tuesday and Wednesday evening and out running on a Friday evening. This year, because my races now include a 750m lake swim I also started going to the T20 Lake at Reading on a Thursday evening. Winter training is as follows, and takes advantage of ALC classes and facilities:
Throughout my training, I try and listen to my body and not push it too hard. Like everyone else, I have lots of days when I get up in the morning with aches and pains and stiff muscles and joints. I have also found that training becomes much harder as you get older and for women in their 50s and 60s it is definitely much more difficult to maintain muscle mass, so a regular exercise regime (at whatever level is comfortable) and a good diet is the best way to keep in shape.
How many hours of training do you spend in a week before an event?
The week before a race is normally a ‘taper’ week, although this isn’t quite so important for the shorter sprint distance triathlons. However, it is better to try and avoid any unnecessary injuries or torn muscles, so I only exercise moderately at the beginning of the week then ease off towards the end of the week, resting the day prior to a race.
You have competed around the world – what is your favourite competition?
I only started competing in Sprint Distance Triathlons at international level this year – Canada was my first event and an absolutely amazing experience – and by coming 2nd Brit in my age category there has meant that I have automatically pre-qualifield for next year’s World Championships in Chicago! However I am really looking forward to competing in the European Age Group Championships in Geneva next July. This event is much closer to home and the competition there will be pretty fierce!
What do your family think of you doing this?
My two daughters (aged 28 and 30) are absolutely amazed that I have achieved so much in such a short time – they are very proud of their mum!