Meet Gem! Everyday Mum - Extraordinary Athlete.
Hey! My name's Gemma, I'm 32, mum of two boys (8 and 14), wifey to a triathlete husband, and a hot mess. I live in Western Sydney which is the perfect location for my races at the Regatta and my gym, Atmosphere, is literally 2 mins down the road so I am quite spoilt! I work full time and train anywhere between 7-18 hrs a week.
The 2017/2018 season will be my third year racing, but I am hoping it'll be my first full season racing at least once a month. My first tri was in March 2015. Tri a Try at Wollongong. It was probably the worst experience I've ever had but it had me hooked. I hadn't swum in open water since I was a little kid nor did I know HOW to swim and here I was attempting to swim 200m in the harbour. I dog paddled the whole way and was swum over by everyone bar 5 girls. I didn't know how to use the gears on my bike and the run was full of tears, but I put on a big smile crossing that finish line. It was 42 minutes of adrenaline which had me wanting more.
So I started training for the 2015/2016 season. The first thing I had to do was learn how to swim. I have a huge fear of water after nearly drowning when I was younger. Every time my face went into the water I'd have a panic attack. I slowly learnt breathing and technique and I'm improving in this discipline and learning to not fear the water. So add in rides, runs, strength, yoga and that's pretty much most of my spare time dedicated to this sport.
I'm going to admit it. I can't say that I have ever been completely satisfied with any of my races. I'm always picking them to pieces and working out what I could of done better. But I look at this from a positive perspective and see it as there always being room for improvement.
I haven't always been a swimmer. Or a cyclist. Or a runner. I've had to teach myself how to train for these disciplines and then put them all together in a race and hope for the best! It's tough. It's time consuming. You lose a lot of friends during the process, but you find amazing friends along the way. You'll have your highs, but then you'll also have the lowest of lows.
At the beginning of 2016 I was having issues with my heart and lungs. Through numerous tests and scans, clots were found on my lungs and I was diagnosed with sports induced asthma. I have never been able to breathe through my nose and thought it was normal to be a mouth breather. An appointment with my ENT added another spanner to the works. My septum was deviated almost completely to the left side of my nose. So I was put on the 12 month waiting list to have Septoplasty to correct it. In November of last year a surgery spot became available and I had 2 days notice for my life changing surgery. I wasn't prepared mentally for the toll it was going to take on me. So this wrote off the 2016/2017 season for me. I raced a club race and Nepean the month before and then the women's tri in May this year. I underestimated how hard it would be to come back from this and how much fitness I'd lose.
Starting my training all over again messed with my head space but I'm working hard with my psychologist to turn that around and see it as being able to rebuild myself and come back stronger than I was before. Despite the rocky start I've had in this sport, I love it! I love pushing my body and my mind far beyond the boundaries I am comfortable with. I curse and cry through the tough sessions but know that these are the ones making me a better triathlete. My husband has learnt a lot of patience training with me, but he is my biggest support and my rock.
My goals for this year are to keep ticking off the training sessions each day, listen to my body, keep working on my head space, learn to drink on the bike, show up to each race knowing I've worked hard to get to the swim start, and last but not least I want to actually ENJOY my races.
Triathlon has really tested my confidence and my strength but it has made me a better person. The opportunities are endless and this sport has THE most positive community and awesome people I've ever met. I am proud to call myself a triathlete and to motivate and inspire others to join this sport we all love. If I can do, anyone can do it.