We Are WONDERWOMEN: Alice’s Story

Welcome to WE ARE WONDERWOMEN, a series of short stories from inspirational women who swim, run and cycle amongst us. Ahead of International Women’s Day on Monday 8 March 2021, I’ll be celebrating the achievements, talking about the challenges and sharing tips from a variety of women across our sporting community.

Alice is a GB Age Group Athlete, accomplished triathlete, Mother and Liv Cycling Ambassador. She uses positive mantras to help herself through tough sessions and will herself to succeed. From finding swimming as a child to trying triathlon as an adult, hear Alice’s story and top tips for swimming, cycling, running and triathlon.

Alice taught me how to cycle in London and brave the traffic, plus the ins and outs of changing a tyre, so read on as she shares some of her top tips

Hello Wonderwoman! Tell us a little bit about yourself….

I’m Alice Thomas and my main sport is triathlon. I also love individual events too -running marathons, swimming marathons (14km swims in the Thames) Aquabike and hopefully Swim Run and Ultra in the near future.

How did you get into swimming, cycling and running? And how did you transition to combining the three?

I grew up swimming competitively throughout my childhood/teens. I changed swim clubs when I was 15 and went from training twice a week, to training 7 times a week. I discovered positive changes across the rest of my life, I became more motivated and worked harder at school, I felt more confident in myself, I became more mindful in everyday life and I stopped worrying about little things.  

I began cycling to work across London in my 20’s, it was my favourite part of each day, I found it so therapeutic. Throughout my 20’s I ran to keep fit, entering 10km events whilst still swimming in London Fields Lido recreationally. I really fell in love with road cycling after doing the London to Brighton bike ride in 2008. I always wanted to do a triathlon and my goal was to start doing them closer to my 30’s. It took me so many years to pluck up the courage to finally enter a triathlon I just wish I didn’t waste so long waiting until I thought I was “fit enough” to do a triathlon. I’ve since done a couple of marathons, half ironmans and a full ironman event.

What is your biggest achievement?

Aquabike is my biggest achievement (swim then cycle). In 2018, after qualifying to represent Great Britain as an age grouper in the Multisport World Championships, I fell pregnant, and soon after lost the baby through an Ectopic pregnancy. Training helped to process the grief and 2 months later I competed in the Aquabike event coming 4th (and 2nd brit). To take the pressure off I wasn’t sure if I would 100% do it but trained as if I was, so I didn’t have a support crew this time. I flew out there on my own, almost missed the flight it was so stressful, I was so nervous and it was the first event in all my years of competing where I didn’t have a member of family there to support. But, I was out there to do it for my little one that never was. There were tears on the bike on the course but I enjoyed the event and it was surreal to get off the bike and not have to run! I felt proud to see my cycling improve through a short space of time, I mainly trained on the wattbike.

What inspires you?

Going to triathlon events and seeing the older age groups 60+ compete. It inspires me to continue doing triathlon until I’m older and a Grandma. Additionally, for all social media’s faults, I get a lot of inspiration from Instagram, seeing beautiful places where people swim, cycle or run. Lakes, rivers, mountains, central London! Seeing people on their turbos in lockdown motivated me to get on mine.

What motivates you to get through a challenging session or tough point in a race?

Visualisation and positive mantras helps me to focus on anything other than the pain. Visualising the end of a race, or that treat at the end of the race (often a Mars bar), visualising hard or great training sessions that have gone well. Positive mantras that resonate with me, and just repeating them over and over really helps me keep going.

What do you think the biggest challenges for women getting into triathlon are, and what tips or advice might you have to overcome these?

Intimidation is a big challenge, it is easy to think you aren’t ‘good’ enough, or ‘fit’ enough to do a triathlon event. I always say to- just go for it, triathlons are a huge mix of levels of competitors. Often triathlons have a staggered start, so you don’t know where majority of people are on the course so you can’t compare yourself. I’ve done triathlons where people are riding a bike with a basket on the front! It’s a real mix of abilities- you can do it!

Cost is also a barrier- bikes are expensive and it’s a big investment for a hobby you aren’t necessarily sure if you’ll definitely keep up. There are companies where you can rent road bikes, or see if you can borrow a bike from a friend, or even buy one second hand. You don’t need a super expensive bike either, it’s worth going for an entry level one to see if you enjoy triathlon/cycling.

What are your top three tips for women getting into running/cycling/swimming/triathlon?

  • Join a club or get a coach to help answer all your questions and guide you around what training you need to do. Even if you aren’t looking for PB’s, you can really improve by getting the guidance from a coach. Joining a club will open you up to a very supportive community.
  • Try and follow a progressive training plan so you don’t overload your body too much, and rest days are always planned in. Compliment your training with strength and conditioning sessions to strengthen muscles to take the impact of the repetitive movements of running, cycling, swimming.
  • Rest is the 4th most important discipline of triathlon training. Rest days are just as important as the training itself, they allow for your body to repair and adapt to the stresses of training.

Do you have any final words of wisdom?

Our health is a gift and training/sport is a luxury. Nothing like a global pandemic to emphasise this even more. Everyday be grateful that you have a body in working in order so you can run, cycle and swim J

Thank you for sharing your story and tips! You can catch up with Alice on her Instagram account or for more triathlon tips including pre and post natal training tips for mum’s and mum’s to be check out her blog: www.aliceclarefitness.com

Don’t  forget to check out tomorrow when I’ll be talking with Shuhena Islam, Lawyer and self confessed Lycra girl, encouraging Muslim women and people of colour to get on a bike.

And if you missed previous instalments, check out Sarada’s story and Hadeel’s story.

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