Running Rugby

The Iron Lady

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She was 50,
between jobs, feeling down, and weighing more than ever. And her family had
started calling her Madame Dough due to her love of pastries. Sarah Jane
Horscroft knew it was time to make a plan. Then she received the
Modern Athlete newsletter and read about
the Dare To Tri Challenge, calling for novice triathletes to apply for a slot
on the magazine’s Ironman 70.3 training squad. She had wanted to compete in
triathlons since her student days, so she entered, even though she didn’t
expect to make the squad.

 

When she discovered
that she had been selected, alongside 10 other novices, she admits she actually
had to go Google the Ironman. “I was not quite sure what I had set myself up
for, and was terribly shocked when I saw the distances involved, but to my relief,
I put two and two together and realised it was only a Half Ironman I was signed
up for!”

 

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TRAINING TIME

And so Sarah
began following Dare to Tri Coach Derick Marcisz’s training programme, joining
group training sessions and attending the Dare to Tri Workshops, but being a
full-time wife and mother made it difficult to fit in training for all three
disciplines. In the end, she would ‘steal’ time, such as going for a run when
she had dropped off one of her daughters at an extramural activity, and she did
most of her training at 5am while juggling her family duties. “The hardest part
of doing Ironman 70.3, or any other triathlon, is finding the time to train,”
she says.

 

Sarah had
always been an avid runner, but she hadn’t swum since school and wasn’t too
keen on cycling, having never ridden in cleats before. It took her about eight
weeks to get the hang of them, which she did by cycling with her husband each
Sunday. The swimming side of things took off faster than she had expected,
though, largely helped by the Total Immersion course the squad did. “That
helped me gain confidence and taught me to swim faster with less effort, but my
first open water swim made me feel disorientated, which left me concerned for
the first leg of 70.3.”

 

THE BIG DAY

The day
before the race in Buffalo City (East London), the group went for an easy cycle,
but Sarah Jane developed a pounding headache and turned back. “I spent the rest
of the day in bed, took every vitamin tablet known to man, and slept all day
trying to recover. When I opened my eyes the next day, I felt strong and
prepared for what lay before me.” Fortunately race day produced perfect racing
weather, and she came out of the sea in 43:56, feeling exhilarated instead of
tired. However, she was scared of the bike leg, as she felt that she would only
just manage to beat the cut-off time. “I just prayed constantly that I wouldn’t
be one of the many athletes standing next to the road with a punctured tyre!”
she says.

 

“As I rode,
I kept the route map in mind and waited for that one massive hill to come. Then
to my surprise, I reached the end of the bike leg in 3:43 and could not believe
that the massive hill in my mind had never arrived.” That set her up
brilliantly for the run, and though the last 5km were especially hard, the
music was pumping and the supporters were cheering, which helped her come home
with a superb run time of 2:07 and a sub-7 finish time.

 

BIGGER AND BETTER

Since
then, Sarah Jane has completed a number of triathlon events, building on her
Dare to Tri training, and that saw her recently selected in her age category to
represent SA at the World Triathlon Champs in New Zealand in October. “The Dare
to Tri experience and completing Ironman 70.3 really has changed my life – you realise
what you are capable of. My family still can’t believe that I went from ‘Madame
Dough’ to international triathlete in a year!”

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