Emily Varley became European duathlon champion just two years after taking up the sport for fun over lockdown.
The 28-year-old from Bedfordshire swam competitively as a child but had never competed in cycling and running until her twenties, harbouring talent that granted her a place in the Great Britain Age-Group Team.
And after just two years of training, Varley took the title at the Europe Triathlon Duathlon Championships in Spain last September, running and cycling her way to a scintillating success.
"It was crazy, I only started doing triathlon in 2020 during lockdown because I needed something to do," said Varley, who took gold in the F25-29 age group in the sprint event. “I dabbled in cycling, swimming and running all separately before and then during lockdown I decided to do triathlon a bit more seriously.
"So to have won the Europe duathlon overall in just a few years is a bit crazy. I just wanted to do well in my age group and feel like I had done a good job, so to have won was mental. I'm stronger on the bike so I knew that I had to put myself in the bin if I was going to do well and stay at the front for the second run.
"It was a very successful holiday. You felt like you were in the Olympics or something, there were so many people watching and cheering."
Bilbao-Bizkaia became a sporting holiday to remember for Varley and the cherry on top came with a third-place finish at the Europe Aquathon Championships a week later.
On the key to her success, Varley preached the importance of joining a club to set up regular training sessions and to meet new people while having fun.
"Competition is a really great way to get to know people, being in hotels and abroad, you make a lot of new friends," said Varley, who competes alongside her full-time job at David Lloyd. “It's a really nice community and everyone likes sharing the success.
"I'm very lucky. I work in the digital sector so it's very agile and flexible and I normally try to fit my sessions in at lunchtime or after work. It's all about making a habit of training."
The GB Age-Group Team provide British Triathlon members with the opportunity to represent Great Britain internationally at World and European Championships in a variety of swim, bike, run disciplines and distances.
Championship racing opportunities are available in triathlon (swim, bike, run), duathlon (run, bike, run), aquathlon (swim, run), aquabike (swim, bike), cross duathlon (cross country run, mountain bike, cross country run) and triathlon (swim, mountain bike, cross country run) and winter duathlon (cross country run, ski, cross country run) and triathlon (cross country ski, mountain bike, run).
With two podium finishes at international competitions in 2022 and fifth at the World Duathlon Championships in 2021, Varley does all she can to enjoy the experiences she gets.
And she revealed that this year will be a stepping stone into longer distances, with her eyes firmly fixed on the long-term ambition of the IRONMAN World Championships.
She said: "I feel like now I've got a gold, the only way is down, so I know that I need to keep hitting my training. But as long as I have a good race, that's what's important otherwise it can be really easy to get upset.
"The most important thing I have to work on is my mindset, not to let myself get all consumed by the numbers because I do this for fun.
"Next year I'm going to dabble in some longer distances, with the ultimate dream to do the Bolton IRONMAN one day."
Find out more about representing the Great Britain Age-Group Team and competing in British Age Group Championships on the link below: https://www.britishtriathlon.org/events/championships-and-qualifiers.