From Water Phobia to Aquathlon by Richard Mudie

Welcome to the first blog of the “Triathlete Profile Series”! This series is looking to share stories of fellow triathletes of all abilities. From elite athletes, to beginners competing in their first ever triathlon, we will be exploring people’s passion for triathlon, and sharing some inspirational content with you all.

Introducing Richard Mudie, a beginner triathlete who’s determination is getting him where he wants to be. Read his story below, about how he has struggled with a phobia for water and how he is slowly overcoming it through triathlon training…

Please tell us a bit about your background.

In late 2013 I was becoming increasingly fed up of various aches and niggles. Especially with my back, ankles and legs. My eyes were drawn to a Facebook posts from a friend of mine regarding running the Edinburgh half marathon and raising money for Marie Curie. This was quite soon after having lost my grandad to cancer. At the time, I couldn’t have run more than maybe 30 seconds. I gradually built up, from ‘couch to 5k’, parkruns and then I ran a 10K charity run. I was increasing my distance and I was able to compete. Since then, I’ve completed a further 3 half marathons, and a full marathon.

When and how did you first start getting into triathlon? Please summarise your triathlon journey.

Me and triathlon?  With running challenges generally going my way, I fancied the idea of beating a swimming challenge. Therefore, I put myself forward for the 2015 New Years Day Triathlon in Edinburgh. However, on that day my swimming fears and phobia of the water beat me. Even though the swimming leg took place at the Royal Commonwealth Pool, I was unable to complete the swim. It remains the only fitness challenge that I have taken on which I failed to finish, and it does bother me! I worked harder on the swimming, and completed a Guide Dogs fundraising challenge in 2017. This challenge included a half marathon, full marathon, river rat race OCR, and later took on an aquathlon. I was fortunate enough to raise £600 by completing these. I took a step back from triathlon, as I felt I wouldn’t be as ready as I would like for one, and signed up to an aquathlon event in Dundee. The pool swim leg was hard, and I feared I would need to pull out again early on. Luckily, I persevered, and finished.

What is your biggest achievement so far?

Undoubtedly the aquathlon completion. Off the back of a DNF in 2015 at the triathlon, and working through the water phobias I have had most of my life. As well as this, my overall stats were not too “out of place” – my transition and run times were quicker than some of those who finished in front of me.  And I didn’t come last!  To finish and take the medal away means so much to me.

Which is your strongest sport?

Not sure I would class any as my ‘strongest’! But the one I have most confidence in would be my run, parkrun has been amazing for me overall. I certainly wouldn’t have done any of what I have without parkrun as a base.  And now having completed a few halfs and one full marathon, I’ve proved to myself that with hard work, I am capable of doing a lot.

Have you faced any difficulties in your training/sporting journey, and how did you overcome them?

Swimming will always be a challenge for me. My confidence in the water got destroyed by a silly moment when I was young. I could barely swim by 16 and to this day I certainly have nerves and fears when it comes to swimming.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to say that I have totally overcome them, however I’ve been able to get to a point of being functional in the water. I am now able to take part in aquathlons and triathlons by a lot of work in the pool sometimes just by myself, and sometimes in official classes.  I’ve also been fortunate that my local parkrun has an event director who is a triathlete. A few of the regular runner’s and volunteers are also triathletes or starting their own triathlon dreams and we’ve been able to get together as a little group both online and in person to share advice and sometimes swim together. I’ve certainly been fortunate to get advice/tips from the others.

The other aspect I’ve found useful is the mental side. In the past, and to this day, I have had issues around anxiety and stress. I have found yoga really useful for keeping myself calm and focused. I was originally going as a recommendation to help with stretching and recovery, so this was a pleasant bonus. From yoga also found other areas such as meditation have helped address my fears.

Lets talk about injury prevention – have you struggled with injuries before, and how have you recovered from them or prevented them?

Injuries, no. I have issues over last few years with weak ankles, lower back, occasional muscle spasms in legs – what I’ve learnt over the last year especially with yoga and also with TRX exercises in the gym have been invaluable for injury prevention and strengthening.

Tell us about your plans for 2018 – what events are you attending, do you have any goals/targets that you would like to accomplish that you are happy to share with us?

My main target is to complete a triathlon. I am yet to book onto one, but I am looking. I need to consider travel, making sure it is a pool leg swim and whether or not I might be able to compete with friends. It would mean a lot to ‘put right’ the only race that I got a DNF in.

I’m also attending an OCR event called Rough Runner. It’s a lot of fun (and water!) and I’m going with a team from the local parkrun, so it should be huge fun with great company.

Which Zone3 kit do you recommend the most/have found the most useful?

I have enjoyed, and I recommend, the xfinity jammers that I picked up last year. They are great for performance, durability, and give me a bit more confidence with my swim.

What advice would you give for someone training for their first ever triathlon/beginners to the sport?

Preparation is EVERYTHING. Knowing that I can have issues with energy level, migraines and dizzy spells, I got advice from a nutritionist ahead of my Guide Dog challenge in 2017. Knowing my issues regarding the swim, I set myself small challenges to build up to the distance. Then, I swum the distance of the swim leg as often as possible. I even took the opportunity to swim in the venue of the aquathlon a few weeks before the event to get rid of the ‘unknown’. Knowing that I had swum the distance at the venue in advance helped remove those fears that I had!

This could be transferable to other events also – so if it was an open water swim, I would be looking at doing as many open water swim sessions as possible in advance, to build confidence.

I would also definitely suggest getting involved in classes, groups or clubs. Classes have helped my swim and being involved in our (unofficial) parkrun triathlon group has helped me with advice. Having another pair of eyes watching you can pick up things that you are unaware you are doing wrong. Working with a trainer has also been amazing for my gym work also for similar reasons.

Building up to your event with some smaller ‘warm-up’ events can also be a good plan! It can build confidence that you actually will be able to complete your main event. The aquathlon completion has taught me that I can complete a multi-event swim. The fact that my transition and run times were slightly quicker than those who finished overall ahead of me proves to myself that I can and do belong in these types of events. So as a rookie, I would definitely suggest this!

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