As a former World Champion and Olympic Games medallist and rowing, and the reigning Olympic track cyclist champion, Rebecca Romero has established herself as one of Britain’s versatile sports stars.
But, with the individual pursuit absent from the London Olympic calendar, the 32-year-old has turned her attention to another sport… triathlon. Here she talks to 220 about her targets for Ironman UK this summer…
220: Why did you decide to take on an Ironman?
Rebecca Romero: Having been through a disappointing last three years and not really achieved anything big like I’d been hoping, I want to finish this year having achieved something sporting wise. The extreme nature and huge athletic challenge of the Ironman would be perfect to round this year off – even if it means crawling over the line in 17hrs!
The lure of taking on a challenge that’ll force me to confront my weaknesses is something I have a habit of doing. I love getting stuck into new sports, figuring out how to get better. Particularly if it’s something I struggle with – like swimming front crawl or running!
I chose Ironman because it’s one of the most iconic endurance events there is and I want to be part of an epic event. Also, aside from the professionals and the age-group qualifiers, Ironman is not so much a race but a personal challenge. I’d always written it off as something impossible but then I’ve achieved sporting challenges that I initially deemed impossible, so I’m not adverse to setting targets beyond what I think I’m capable of.
What are you least looking forward to?
I’ve pretty much started swim training from scratch, only being able to swim two lengths front crawl. I’m progressing well in the pool but that’s completely different to open-water swimming. The biggest problem for me will be not having that option every 25m of grabbing the side of the pool.
I’m fearful of the mass start, too. The mayhem of 1,500 people dashing into the water is something I’ll have to prepare myself for. And, of course, there’s the darkness of the water, the issue of navigating and choppy conditions.
What have you been working on in training?
Something that’s new to me is training effectively with a radically reduced number of training hours per week. I’m not a funded full time athlete anymore so I’m having to integrate training in and around a busy life, managing work, studying for an MSc and training. I admire people who take on training for the Ironman around full-time jobs and families!
In my first 10-week block of training I really focused hard on the swimming and running disciplines. I made good progress but when I turned my attention back to bike sessions I found I’d slipped back a lot on the cycling. Since then I’ve realised that it’s really important to get a good balance of training between all three disciplines but it seems there’ll always be one discipline that you’re playing catch up with!
Are you planning on doing any reconnaissance at Bolton?
I’ve been to Pennington Flash to see where the swim is and I’ve also ridden the bike course. I was told it was a tough, hilly one but I wasn’t quite expecting climbs as steep as they are. The climb on Sheep House Lane involves an out of the saddle grunt and wipes your legs out at the end. The course takes that climb in three times so it’s definitely going to require a good pacing strategy and maybe a bigger rear sprocket than I currently use. I’ve not checked out the run course yet but I think it’s fairly flat, so I’ll be grateful for that!
Have you got a finish time that you’d like to achieve?
I’ve set myself three target levels.
1. Get across the finish line and within the cut off time. This is my minimal target and I’m sure I can do this.
2. Around 12hrs and under. Knowing I have strong underlying athletic capabilities, and with the limited amount of training time I’ve got, this is a tough but achievable marker.
3. 11hrs and under. I always have to have an eye on something that’s beyond what I think I’m capable of and this would be a dream achievement.
Finally, given your proven versatility and prowess in multiple sports, is a pro tri career a possibility?
I never say never but, in this instance, I don’t think having a pro tri career is a possibility. Being a bigger and heavier athlete my strengths lay within shorter power based events. It would take a lot of years of full time hard work to adapt and change for this kind of sport. Since the age of 18 I’ve prioritised my whole life to being an elite athlete, so I now have other areas of life and a career to develop. Triathlon is a great sport that I’m sure I’ll maintain as my recreational sport.
Rebecca Romero is brand ambassador for Science in Sport (SiS), advanced sports nutrition for professional and serious sport participants. The SiS range includes SiS GO Isotonic Gels – the world’s first isotonic gels to deliver fast energy without the need for water. For more information, visit www.scienceinsport.com.