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The Road to Kona: Training and racing together


Meet Lucy and Reece an "Iron-couple" with a promising future in long-distance triathlon.

Having recently won their age groups at Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire, Reece Barclay (24) and Lucy Charles (21) from Hoddesdon Tri Club have set their sights on coveted spots on the Kona start line. Always keen to hear from members in and around London, we've been speaking to them about their gruelling journey to one of the world's most reverred races.
You both have a strong background in swimming, but what prompted your decision to get into triathlon? 
Reece: Both Lucy and I were racing as elites in open water races as part of the Great Swim series, but I needed something new to motivate me. I had always been keen to enter an Ironman, having been inspired by a good friend who took part in Ironman Lanzarote. I decided that was a good time to enter an Ironman as it was the end of the swimming season, I was fit and ready for a change. 
Lucy: After ten years of competitive swimming, I grew bored of the repetitive training regime; a relentless 20 hours a week in the pool. When I called it a day with swimming, the thought of training like that again didn't appeal. But my competitive nature meant I really missed the racing. Triathlon was always something I was interested in, and an Ironman was certainly on my bucket list. This just seemed like the perfect time to jump in and give it a go!
How did you get the Ironman bug?
Reece: Before my first Ironman I had said that it would just be the one - I would finish the race and be done with it. But then I got really sick with the Ironman bug and have never recovered!
Lucy: An Ironman was always something I had planned to do only once, and later in life. It was a spontaneous move to enter Ironman UK 2014. I had ended my swimming career and needed something big to refocus my goals and give me something to train for. It had to be an outrageous target to make sure I would fully commit myself. The day I completed Ironman UK 2014 I was overwhelmed by emotion, I'd never felt anything like it, I was hooked!
You've already both had a busy season, what has been the highlight? 
Reece: Winning my age group at Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire and qualifying for the World Championships was a huge motivational boost. This race coincided with confirmation that I had passed my degree with a 2:1 classification so it was a particularly positive week. 
Lucy: The whole season has been a highlight as we've both come so far in just over a year. As a couple the highlight has to be Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire. We both won our age groups (18-24). To share the 1st place podium and qualify for the World 70.3 Championships was fantastic. It was proof our hard work was paying off. An even more recent personal highlight, was becoming the overall female national champion at the Triathlon England Middle Distance Championships (The Grafman). This one meant a lot!
You are both aiming to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, which race are you targeting as your qualifying event? How is training going towards this? 
Reece: We chose Ironman UK in Bolton as our qualification race as we've raced the event before and thoroughly enjoyed it. Training has been going well but it's still hard to tell if we have done enough. It was always going to be a long shot as last year we were both over an hour slower than the time required to qualify for our age groups, but progress has been good so fingers crossed all goes well on the big day.
Lucy: The whole season has been leading up to this event, I've been building in confidence as the season has progressed. Training has been consistently going well, the race is fast approaching but I'm feeling ready.
What is a typical week's training schedule for you?
Reece: I typically aim for two training sessions a day and preferably two different disciplines. Coming from a background as a swimmer, two workouts per day is a fairly engrained routine. I always try to plan my training around work commitments a few days in advance so preparation is key. However, whenever the opportunity arises to train with friends I'll scrap whatever was planned for that day and join in the group session - much more fun! 
Lucy: The weekly training schedule itself is varied. I have favourite sessions and ones that I find most effective and I will repeat these every week. I always aim to average at least 15 hours per week. A lot of my bike training is on a Watt Bike, with a long group ride on a Saturday to mix things up. Without fail I run a half marathon every week as well as other shorter run sessions. Three swim sessions is about average for me but I have increased this recently. The warmer weather has drawn me to the local lido.
How do you fit training around work, family, social life etc.?
Reece: Having a partner who is also training just as hard helps, we often try to plan a cycling route where we can meet our friends and family for a lunch stop. We train in a group which often involves coffee stops and the occasional get together, which is great.
Lucy: I'm a self-employed personal trainer so can often fit my training in around my clients. My family are used to me training and racing all the time from my years as a swimmer. They enjoy coming to watch me compete and they're a great support crew! The thing I love about triathlon is how friendly everyone is. Every club session is a social gathering in itself. 
You often race together at the same events. is there an element of rivalry between you? 
Reece: There most certainly is an element of rivalry when it comes to who has the fastest swim split! We are very competitive in training. At our local Aquathlon race it's normally the same story every time, I'll come out the water slightly in front of Lucy, but then she will get her wetsuit off and shoes on in lightning speed and I'm always second out of transition! She does me every time! 
Lucy: I love this question! We're both extremely competitive during training and racing, especially on the swim section of the triathlon. We do a lot of our training together as a couple and always compare our data. This is where the rivalry stems from. If one of us is up early for training the other quickly follows. It works well and can be funny at times. I'm constantly chasing Reece and he's never going to let me catch him. We both strive off the friendly rivalry!
How do you like to recover after a big race?
Reece: I use CurraNZ - New Zealand blackcurrants to help aid my recovery, I find it really helps reduce my fatigue after a race. After a big race I will just swim for a couple of days to let my legs recover. 
Lucy: A curry with family and friends is my guilty pleasure.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone racing their first Ironman? 
Reece: If you haven't already then I would suggest signing up with a triathlon club, there is nothing more motivating than having a team behind you. There will also be so many people willing to offer you advice in a group and it makes training so much more tolerable.
Lucy: Go for it, but give the Ironman distance the respect it deserves. Six months to a year of consistent training should get you to that magical red carpet in one piece!
Interview by Lucy Edwards (from Havering Triathlon Club and part of the London Region Media Team. You can follow Lucy on twitter @paddlepedalpace or her blog at
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